Learn what RIP software can do for screen and digital printers.
RIPs in T-shirt printing
Scott Fresener has been involved with screen printing since 1970. Today, Fresener says the challenge for RIP developers is keeping up with the changes in other technologies—the graphic programs and operating systems—that the software must integrate with to produce a high-quality output.
“RIPs don’t really get better; they just keep up with technology. When [graphics-program developers] bring out new software, guys like me cringe. We know they will dish out sloppy code. The RIP will choke, and the customer will blame us. RIPs have a pretty basic function—to make a cheap printer with no brains produce a thing of beauty—but RIP developers have to keep one step ahead of the latest and greatest software and operating systems,” he explains.
Changes in RIP
An additional challenge is keeping up with the latest and greatest in printers, a product line that seems to evolve even faster than the software side.
“Most RIPs work on Epson printers (Figure 1) and you know Epson, they aren’t happy if they can’t roll out a new printer every six months,” he says.
Fresener’s current product is called T-RIP (Figure 2). The Windows-based application is compatible with all versions of CorelDRAW, Adobe Illustrator, and Adobe Photoshop. It works with a variety of inkjet films and offers a complete workflow for film output. A free, 15-day trial version is available at www.T-BizNetwork.com.
At ErgoSoft, whose TexPrint RIP is optimized for high-end digital textile production, improving workflow is always a priority when they upgrade their software offerings.
“What we have been focusing on, and what we’ll continue to focus on, is automating work flows. Using the processing powers of computers with multiple gigs of RAM allocated to RIP servers, the user can drive many wide-format printers off of one RIP station,” says Jonathan Read, manager of North American sales for ErgoSoft.
High-quality output is obviously the biggest selling point of RIP software, but Read believes that user friendliness is one important way that his software distinguishes itself with some of the other products.
“The biggest thing is usability. If it’s too convoluted, it’s not usable. We’ve always had the mindset that if you make something simple, people will use it. So something as basic as re-linearization, which is critical to color consistency, we have a very streamlined work flow and customers can go in there and do re-linearization in a matter of minutes,” he notes.
Dan Reid, president of RPImaging and a color-management consultant, sees the integration of G7 into RIP software as a significant development. G7 is a print-calibration process recommended for sheet-fed printing, but it is also being used successfully in screen printing.
“Most of the improvements in recent years have been incorporating the G7 calibration method as part of the RIP-calibration routine. Also iterative color calibration has improved consistency in printing and color match to reference print processes like GRACoL and SWOP. Screen printers are slowly adopting the G7 method with success. Of course those with higher end clients and budgets for improvements are the first adopters,” Reid explains.
Reid’s company is a dealer for Caldera, Onyx, and EFI software. He believes that future upgrades will impact the use of color in direct-to-garment printing.
“Improvements on the horizon are better color measurement devices that record color with improved accuracy. The current crop of measurement devices does not measure optical brighteners accurately to predict how the substrate will shift color under different light sources,” he says.
In terms of future innovations in the ability to print film separations, Bob Drake doesn’t see much in store. This isn’t because the software is being edged out by other options, but because it is doing its job about as well as it possibly can.
Drake is the owner of Performance Screen Supply located in Manalapan, NJ, and is a dealer of AccuRIP software (Figure 3). While RIP software must keep up with new technologies in terms of compatibility, he believes that improvements in print quality have become almost immaterial as it applies to the needs of screen printers.
“Epson is coming out with new printers all the time, but the resolution these printers print at is so much higher than we’ll ever use or need, it’s really immaterial for screen printers. I just had a customer; I sold him an $89 Epson Workforce 1100 factory refurbished printer. He puts that together with the right ink, the RIP and the film, and he’s printing imagesetter-quality work. And printing beautiful film positives,” he says.
At this point in time, Drake doesn’t believe the screen printing industry is impacted by a digital divide when it comes to RIP software. Not only has it become more of a necessity than a luxury, but we’ve also entered the age where just about everyone entering the industry grew up in the computer generation, and have little problem adapting to new technologies
“As the old generation of screen printers move on, all of the new guys who get into it are up on computers. It’s very easy and we’re able to talk people through it. Set up takes just a few minutes and then they’re up and running,” he says.
If RIPs have indeed reached optimal performance, then software providers will need to find new ways to differentiate their products. The demand for RIP software is strong and many developers will be looking for a piece of the pie.
“RIP is my number one, fastest growing product segment. I’m shaking my head at how fast this market is growing. People are converting over to inkjets with RIPs at an amazing pace. A lot of that is because we finally have inexpensive, large-scale printers. That’s huge. Entry cost is the driving factor for the screen printing market. The large printing shops will always have the best and greatest stuff, but these small print shops—and there are tens of thousands of them out there—it’s all about how affordable it is to get this RIP software,” he says.
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