By Zac Bolan
By Zac Bolan
Belgium continues to be a hotspot for printing and imaging software development, which was on full display in late March as some of the industry’s most-powerful companies previewed their drupa 2016 technologies in Bruges (originally published in PrintAction‘s May 2016 Issue.)
For a country only slightly larger than the Greater Toronto Area, Belgium punches well above its weight class when it comes to the graphic arts. Widely know for waffles, chocolate and strong beer, Belgium is also the breeding ground for significant imaging software technologies that touch all corners of the printing industry.
Once considered a minor attraction at drupa, software has become a major draw at the now triennial print gathering, largely based on its pure Return On Investment power. In the run up to drupa 2016, several companies with Belgian ties gathered this March in scenic Bruges to showcase some of their latest technologies, and roll out their drupa 2016 announcements.
Esko has deep roots in the Belgian prepress world. Formed in 2002 through a merger between Ghent-based Barco Graphics and Denmark’s Purup Eskofot, the company continues to grow and strategically join forces with other commercial print and packaging prepress companies such as Artwork Systems and Enfocus. Now operating within the Danaher group of companies, Esko provides one of the leading print and packaging prepress workflow solutions available in the market place.
At the Bruges event, Esko unveiled its drupa plans which revolve around software solutions to support its “Packaging Simplified” mantra. Through extensive surveys, Esko R&D deduced its customers were facing shorter run lengths with greater numbers of print jobs, higher quality demands and an operator skills gap. To address those needs, Esko will be launching a major re-imagining of its production suite under the Esko Software Platform umbrella at drupa.
Aside from improving the user experience across all applications, Esko’s new platform promises enhanced content management capabilities and 3D viewing support in new modules for WebCenter – an online packaging project management solution. Additionally, Esko will be introducing ArtPro+, a platform independent native PDF editor for prepress.
Perhaps the more significant development of the Esko Software Platform is new flexible licensing and deployment options. Users can opt for traditional licensing or subscription models, choosing to deploy solutions on-site or in the cloud.
Enfocus Switch Appstore
In addition to showcasing the latest Pitstop technologies at drupa 2016, Esko partner company Enfocus will be promoting its new Switch Appstore, launched on February 25, 2016, to coincide with the recent release of Switch 13. The latest version of the popular Enfocus automation and modular DIY workflow application now supports Apps, modules, plug-ins and scripts created by an approved cadre of developers, and available through an Appstore.
“I am a huge believer in co-creation business models and building environments where companies can work together,” explains Fabian Prudhomme, Enfocus VP. “That’s what we’ve done with the Switch Appstore.
“Now people who have put a lot of effort into developing configurators, scripts, or Switch-based solutions for one or two of their customers have a platform where they can open their portfolio of solutions to the entire world and benefit other customers. Enfocus tests all the apps on different platforms, and different OSs because we want to guarantee the quality.”
Prudhomme explains all of the apps are subscription-based, so users pay annually based on prices set in agreement with the app developer. As a result, the apps will range in price depending on their complexity. He expects some simple scripts might cost between $20 or $50 a year and very complex scripts might cost hundreds of dollars per year.
“By drupa we hope to have 40 to 50 apps in the store and up to 100 by the end of the year,” says Prudhomme. “And interestingly, we’ve seen a huge jump in Switch registrations since the launch of the Appstore.”
A number of other enhancements are included in Switch 13 such as support for web based messages, allowing users to view log messages remotely. With the new Switch WebServer component users can connect to the Switch Server through a web browser. Additionally, Switch 13 sports an improved user interface – leaving the legacy Windows 95 look behind.
“Another major announcement at drupa is our new PDF Review module for Switch – a product developed jointly with Chili Publish,” adds Prudhomme. “We have incorporated Chili rendro into PDF Review for accurate PDF streaming capability, to which we’ve added our PDF review tools because our customers are moving towards an online work environment. PDF Review will allow users to open a PDF online, select objects, inspect, analyze and approve PDF files before sending the file to whatever next step the workflow dictates.”
Chili Publisher and rendro
“Enfocus is our first official OEM agreement,” explained Geer Fransen, rendro product manager. “While we are initially focusing on graphic arts applications, we see great potential for rendro outside that market. For example, the governments of the European Union want to take all their documents online using the PDF/A standard. Similar things are happening in North America. Also, it was striking to see the results of the Ghent PDF workgroup study showing how little of the PDF specification is supported properly. We see rendro as a solution for PDF accuracy moving into government and education markets.”
Also debuting at drupa, the latest release of Chili’s popular B2B online editing solution – Chili Publisher. You might not immediately recognize the product name because Chili Publisher provides the backend DTP tools for many online print and publishing portals. Publisher 5.0 brings enhanced capabilities to browser-base designers such as the ability to convert and work with Adobe InDesign or Illustrator documents, 3D viewing capability for packaging and labels, support for Chinese, Korean and Indonesian documents and TrueType fonts.
X-Rite and Pantone
Recognizing the global shortage of hues and shades, Pantone will be unveiling 112 new ways for designers to drive pressmen crazy at this year’s drupa. With the new shades, the Pantone Plus Series tops out at 1,867 colours – providing the design community with the most comprehensive palette of colours available for creating mood or protecting brand.
On a more online note, Pantone will be showcasing the PantoneLIVE Private Cloud at this year’s show. The Private Cloud is a secure, online space for designers, commercial printers and packaging converters to accommodate and share colour libraries across the graphic supply chain. As a part of the PantoneLIVE ecosystem, this should help printers and converters deliver more consistent colour to their shared client. Rationalization Service, another new addition to PantoneLIVE, analyzes and consolidates colour libraries to eliminate duplicates and improve consistency.
Cerm produces business management software for narrow web printers (labels), and is a very focused company with a niche mandate – one they perform very well. However, when company was acquired by Heidelberg in 2011, their software was rebranded for the offset market as Prinect Business Manager, an integrated part of the Prinect Software Suite. Though tightly incorporated with Heidelberg, CERM continues to evolve its narrow web product under its own brand.
At drupa Cerm will be showcasing the fruits of their collaboration with a new product for sheet-fed offset label printers in the form of an automated ganging function. The Cerm MIS and Prinect Prepress will conspire together to calculate the best possible imposition for Wet Glue Labels on press.
You’ll find Cerm partnering with a number of companies besides Heidelberg at drupa, including Esko, Chili Publish, Gallus, HP and Xeikon to name a few. Through this community engagement, Cerm hopes to demonstrate their solution goes far beyond traditional MIS functions by driving complete automation of narrow web printing workflows.
It used to be all about the iron back in the halcyon days of drupa past! But through the years, graphics has become as much about technology, connectivity and automation as it was about ink on paper. drupa has evolved to a triennial schedule to keep pace with these advances and has emerged as the pre-eminent showcase for innovations in MIS, workflow and online tools.