Graphics and design files are becoming more and more complex due to advancements in technology. To keep up with this, Print Service Providers or PSPs must find ways to improve efficiency, make use of these new printing technologies, and make sure they can keep up with the more challenging projects. One way of doing this is to make use of Raster Image Processor (RIP) software, a tool that can create a bitmap or raster image for printing. This software can help PSPs keep their workflow productive and efficient without damaging the print quality.
A Look at the Challenges
PSPs face a number of challenges on a daily basis. The first of these challenges is the fact that their equipment includes a variety of printers and other devices. Each of these machines is unique, even if they do the same basic function, due to differences in the manufacturers. Some printers may use custom RIP software, creating variations in the final printed product. All of this leads to difficulties in creating consistent prints.
Clients don’t send their print jobs in the same format, either, presenting another challenge. Even those that send files that were created in the same program, such as Adobe, may not have set up the files the same way. The in-house designer may have to take those files and convert them to another format, which can be difficult in some cases.
These challenges put pressure on the PSP’s printer operators and require them to have numerous skills. Because this position often sees high turnover, however, these operators may make mistakes or go through a learning period before they can deliver consistent results.
Dealing with Print Issues
To combat some of these challenges, especially when transparent elements are included in the image, print operators often convert the file to a TIFF image format. This flattens the layers of the design and creates transparent areas as required, but the resulting file is very large in size and isn’t scalable. On the other hand, vector files can also cause issues if transparent areas aren’t flattened or if fonts are missing. These files are generally smaller than TIFF images and can be scaled, however.
Workflow and Productivity
In order to be profitable, a PSP needs to be consistent and efficient. Being productive and keeping the workflow steady is difficult, which is where RIP software comes into play. While part of productivity is based on how quickly this software processes files and how fast the printers are, that’s not the only measurement of efficiency. Instead, a PSP needs to look at their overall process, starting with pre-production and ending with finishing, in order to determine where time and resources can be saved. The challenge is that as the PSP grows, it often ends up with a collection of various printers, RIP tools, and other equipment, making it difficult to be consistent across the board.
Breaking Down Workflow
RIP software can be used in each stage of a PSP’s workflow to help amplify the efficiency and productivity. The first stage, pre-production, involves preparing the file for printing on a wide-format printer. Here, operators use software to check fonts and color conversion, flatten any transparent layers, and much more. This stage is often focused on catching errors that could cause the print job to come out incorrect, resulting in running it again.
The software can be used to prepare jobs for all of the PSP’s printers that the operator oversees, maximizing equipment usage. It can also help improve predictability since the same rendering engine is used for all print jobs. Depending on the RIP software, it may even be possible to set the program to do some tasks automatically.
In production, the job is actually printed. Here, RIP software acts as a redundancy. Several different RIP programs can send information to a printer, so even if one RIP station is down, the printer is still in use. This prevents any time being lost.
In post-production, the print is cut, trimmed, and has any other finishings installed. RIP software can, again, help keep this process as efficient as possible by integrating with the cutters and other devices, increasing productivity and reducing waste.
RIP Productivity Benefits
RIP software has a number of productivity benefits:
- RIP software is easy to integrate into your workflow to easily produce cut files
- It provides for predictable and consistent quality by creating a single editing station and using the same rendering software for all of the printers a PSP operates, maximizing productivity and reducing the number of unexpected issues.
- RIP workstations can be scaled as needed and act independent from printers, allowing for maximized throughput, the ability to monitor all print jobs from all equipment, and allowing for faster performance through job automation.
- RIPs can be added as needed regardless of the number or type of printers, allowing PSPs to build a workflow that works for them.
Overall, PSPs can use RIP software to find bottlenecks in their workflow, view the status of any print job at any time, reduce the amount of materials and ink used, and lower the basic costs of each print job by removing as many errors and saving as much time and resources as possible. This will help improve their overall operational performance, allow the business to grow, and improve profits.
RIP software is a great investment for any PSP. The benefits it brings and the challenges it addresses will help printers grow and provide their clients with better quality prints in a shorter amount of time. If you’d like to learn more about RIP software solutions and how it could help your PSP, contact Gerber – MCT today.