By Dean Derhak, Product Director, SAi
At a recent tradeshow, I heard a suggestion that the perceived value of both the standard RIP, as well as color management software solutions, may already be diminishing. As a software provider, this got my attention, but it didn’t set alarm bells ringing or come as a huge shock. If you wonder why I’m not panicking, consider this: one or two suppliers of large format inkjet hardware have already started to become self-sufficient by incorporating software into the printer technology and equipping their latest devices with their own ICC profiles. Not only are they managing and certifying the color profiling themselves, but their users simply download those ICC profiles from the cloud and they appear in the RIP software – easy. That’s the sound of a not-so-far-away death knell ringing for those RIP software providers whose main offering is focused solely on color management and halftone processing.
What’s more, for print devices that don’t yet feature RIP software already ‘absorbed’ within the machine itself, RIP software packages are typically supplied in-the-box. This means that most users have become accustomed to –and satisfied with – the basic level of functionality offered by such solutions. Color software and RIP providers will likely concede that this doesn’t always make it easy to sell higher performance solutions when customers already have something they perceive as being quite adequate bundled with the machine. What’s more, any software provider can now offer good color quality and fast RIP speeds, so the previously unique selling points are no longer unique.
Keeping the handicap down
Basically, as any good golfer will attest, you need more than just a nine-iron in the golf bag if you’re going to stay in the game. In the same way, those RIP software providers with a more all-round proposition, not solely dependent on colour or RIP speed, stand a far greater chance of remaining here for the long-haul.
By focusing more on job preparation and increased functionality at the pre-printing stage, these companies strengthen their products against the aforementioned color management predicament, while also readying themselves for time when there will no longer be a need for RIP software. In the case of the latter, the fact that some within the industry predict this coming within five years, must already be causing some providers a few sleepless nights.
Fortunately, opportunities still exist for RIP software providers who choose not to stand still. For these companies, varying one’s offering, as well as predicting and ultimately catering for the more varied needs – both current and future – of large format/sign making users, is vital. A forward-thinking few, having already anticipated what the future holds, have begun to focus their efforts on powerful, feature-rich packages that fully address users’ needs in areas like job preparation, design and finishing options.
Do more with less to increase capability and enhance workflow
Indeed, if you’re a sign making business or large format printer, I would recommend a quick look at what the market has to offer. Ideally, you want to go for RIP software that allows you to do more within the same application, while also integrating easily with other hardware like a CNC router or large format cutter, for example.
Some RIP software packages, while seemingly stacked with features, only concentrate on getting a job printed, which limits its overall capability. Conversely, our own SAi FlexiSIGN-Pro software offers a complete all-in-one solution for design and output of vinyl cut and digital print graphics. As such, it maximizes productivity by linking the whole sign making workflow – from the front-end design, job preparation, editing, vectorization and RIP to vinyl cutting, printing and print-and-cut. Even creation of custom ICC profiles and integration to our CNC machining software for 3D signs, is achievable.
This capability offers fewer steps, especially at the job preparation stage, eliminating the need for plug-ins to Illustrator or CorelDraw and effectively operating as a more automated digital front-end.
For sign and print businesses, this is particularly useful when it comes to print-and-cut workflow, as it grants them the means to design multiple contour cut lines in any vector or bitmap design and create accurate print-and-cut jobs from a single application. Such functionality is critical in sign making and large format applications, that typically use a lot of vinyl –such as vehicle applications or traditional signs, but is similarly important for POS/POP print jobs using cardboard.
Conversely, certain printing workflows typically use an additional InDesign or Illustrator package to prepare their jobs, before going to the RIP. The same is true of cutting, in that operators will likely use a plug-in software to cut from Illustrator or Corel, which is less productive. Ultimately, the workflow becomesdisjointed and scattered, impacting negatively on efficiency.
As a sign or print maker, when you have the versatility to undertake a range of tasks through one single software application and have that software operate in conjunction with your printer, router and cutter, then you enjoy a seamless and fluid throughput. Jobs get done faster and more easily and you’re ready to start the next one quicker, so you and your customers are smiling.
Those software providers that deliver these advantages to users via all-embracing packages are bolstering their long-term survival and increasing their competitiveness – while also enhancing the capability of their users to work more efficiently and effectively. And if everyone laughs their way to the nineteenth-hole, then it must be good news all round.