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Agfa Offers Turnkey Poster-Printing Systems

(January 2003) posted on Mon Jan 06, 2003

Grand Sherpa and Shepa 24m make it easy to add new service


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For graphics companies and photo labs that want to offer large-format printing services without the hassle of researching hundreds of different combinations of printers, software, inks, and media, Agfa offers the Grand Sherpa and Sherpa 24m poster printing systems.

Grand Sherpa: Available in 50-, 64-, and 87-in. widths, the Grand Sherpa systems include a Mutoh-built, variable-drop-size inkjet printer and the Agfa Edition of Onyx PosterShop 5.6 print-management software. The software includes profiles for Agfa-supplied ink and the growing selection of AgfaJet media. Companies seeking to produce higher volumes of prints on more than one inkjet printer can do so with Onyx ProductionHouse software, which can RIP two PostScript and/or raster files at the same time and support up to four Agfa and non-Agfa printers simultaneously.

In the 6-color configuration, the Agfa Grand Sherpa prints CMYKcm inks. The 8-color configuration can run two sets of CMYK for fast throughput or switch between one set of dye CMYK and one set of pigmented CMYK inks for different graphic requirements. Prints can be output in resolutions of 360, 720 or 1440 dpi.

The 20.3-GB hard disk can store up to 16 jobs. The printer's firmware can produce up to 99 copies from a file.

The Agfa Sherpa 24m is a 24-in. printer that can output onto rolls or cut sheets of media. Although it uses seven ink cartridges like the Epson Stylus Pro that it resembles, the Agfa Sherpa 24m uses pigment-based inks and has a maximum resolution of 1440 dpi for faster throughput than Epson's 2880-dpi print mode. At Photokina, the Agfa Sherpa 24m was shown operating as a companion to an Agfa d-lab.2 mini-lab"?providing quick enlargements on canvas and other media to accompany the smaller prints being processed on the d-lab.2 photo imager.

At a recent International Poster Printing Forum at Agfa headquarters in Morstel, Belgium, Agfa executives called attention to the many rapid, simultaneous advances occurring in printhead technologies, media coatings, ink configurations, and screening technology. Under these circumstances, they believe business owners seeking a hassle-free way to expand their printing services would prefer to rely on a company such as Agfa that has the expertise to integrate all of the fast-changing technologies into a fully functional system backed by one-source technical support.

Willy Van Dromme, Agfa's marketing director for large-format digital printing notes that the company's entry into the poster-printing arena comes only after Agfa has mastered one of the most technically demanding applications of wide-format inkjet printing"?color-accurate proofing. Agfa's Sherpa was among the first inkjet proofing systems on the market and has been consistently refined to keep pace with user-requested innovations. For example, Agfa Quality Management System software works in tandem with a spectrophotometer to ensure consistent color-reproduction from multiple or remote Sherpas. In 2001, Agfa introduced technology to make it possible for its proofer to reproduce the rosette halftone pattern. According to Van Dromme, Agfa's team of software engineers continue to research and refine new screening patterns to optimize changing inkjet technology.

Deborah Hutcheson, Agfa senior product marketing manager for color systems and workflow graphic systems, is pleased with how quickly Sherpa proofers have been adopted in the U.S, and notes that many current users of Agfa Sherpa proofing systems are now interested in producing posters and other types of graphics as well.

Another complementary strength that Agfa brings to the table is its knowledge of photographic processing. As a long-time supplier of photographic film and papers, Agfa coats its own media. For poster-printing requirements, the AgfaJet line of media now includes 16 different products, including canvas, art paper, opaque and clear films, vinyl, poster papers, and photograde papers. Agfa's new Universal Instant Dry Photograde Paper is a heavyweight, resin-coated paper with a nanoporous receptive coating that makes prints dry enough for lamination almost instantly.

A robust, media R&D effort appears to be underway, with hints that Agfa's third-generation inkjet media will add a new level of functionality"?perhaps in the area of image permanence. Agfa has always been known for its strong commitment to technical support and educational resources. Digital photographers or photo labs involved in inkjet-photo reproduction for commercial printing applications might want to check out Agfa's offerings. The company is also active in developing workflow software that supports input-to-output productivity so that various digital-output technologies don't end up being "islands of automation." (Agfa: www.agfa.com)


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