Six RIP companies address trends in workflow, scalability, the Cloud, integration with other tools, and much more.
GMG: Yes. There’s a tendency for real workflow systems to work with MIS and Web-to-print systems, communicating either with XML data or true JDF. Some RIPs offer connectivity as well, but since they don’t work in a centralized way, this is difficult to use since you’ll need a different entry point for the XML/JDF, depending on which printer you want to address. And the exact goal of XML/JDF is full automation.
SAi: RIP workflow software can work better with front-end business and management tools when those tools have incorporated JDF communication standards. In many cases, print providers only need to upgrade their front-end software in order to take advantage of JDF-connectivity capabilities their RIP software already has. Web-to-print workflows have drastically improved between the front-end business tools and RIP software.
Xitron: RIPs and workflows are playing better upstream and downstream. However, full integration and communication is expensive – it’s simply not affordable for every shop. Serious ROI groundwork is necessary to establish the overall value of that level of integration.
And, similarly, are RIPs “playing better” with finishing tools and solutions?
Onyx: There are a few different ways that RIPs are integrating better with finishing solutions. As finishing solutions get smarter, additional control from RIPs can make the finishing workflow more efficient. We’re seeing a greater ability to communicate about media and print setup information throughout the entire workflow, allowing for automation in critical settings such as knife options and media usage for finishing. And there have also been improvements in approaches to nesting – allowing operators to gang jobs together that need finishing, which saves valuable production time.
SAi: Most RIP vendors have recently added features that make cutting and finishing faster and easier. These include barcodes for more automated contour cutting, weld marks for vinyl welding, and nesting marks for automatic sheet cutters. But print providers can lose out on some of these profit-generating features if they’re not running the latest version of software.
GMG: RIPs are increasingly connecting to finishing, such as cutting. However, a lot of print service providers still create the cutting files in their prepress applications because of the fact that different RIPs process cutting guides in a different way.
Wasatch: A RIP is much more than getting the right color – there are tools that make it possible to do more than just print. This can include screen printing, contour cutting, variable-data printing, label printing, or dye sublimation. Having the right tools gives the user endless possibilities.
Caldera: Finishing is the current bottleneck of a print production workflow. It’s very rare to see a finishing device able to provide any information to an external software application. Cutting machines, however, are definitely an exception.
Q: Finally, anything else to add about the future of RIPs and workflow? Where are we headed in this marketplace?
Onyx: One thing is clear – print service providers need tools that make them more profitable. In the coming years, you will see workflow solutions, including RIP software, become increasingly more critical to meeting customer demands and producing the high quality output customers need.
SAi: The RIP marketplace is headed for lower prices, as printer manufacturers bundle more powerful solutions with their printers. Cost-savvy print providers will be able to take advantage of this trend and get full-featured products by moving to subscription software. Here at SAi, we’re heavily investing in mobile and tablet technologies that work with RIP and workflow software, primarily to bring new business to print providers. As we combine our Cloud-enabled platform with mobile-app capabilities, print providers will be able to capture print business in new ways. RIP and workflow software is moving beyond production productivity.
GMG: RIPS will be converted into a process. More and more, you will see integrated workflow systems with automation.
Xitron: In many ways, the answer to that will be driven by the output devices developed and the applications for which they’ll be used. For example, as high-speed inkjet begins to encroach on commercial and digital applications, RIPs and workflows will evolve to meet the special requirements of these new environments just as they did during the transition from film to CtP years ago.