Protecting your software investment with virtual machines
Virtual machines are nothing new, and out of necessity I was an early adopter of the technology. While working in prepress and later in software development a few years back, it was essential for me to have ready access to the Windows environment. Initially, this meant hauling around two laptops in my bulging computer bag, as early operating-system emulators for the Mac were sluggish and limited in function. All that changed when I discovered an early version of Parallels Desktop. With Parallels I was finally able to ditch the ThinkPad and effectively run Windows XP on my MacBook Pro.
For the uninitiated, virtual machines (VM) are complete computing environments including operating system, software and user documents/files contained in a single disk image. With a software emulator such as Parallels Desktop, an appropriately configured host computer can run a VM and its applications alongside host-native applications.
When I reviewed Parallels Desktop 8 (PrintAction, February 2013), I had just made the transition to a new MacBook Air with a Solid State Drive (SSD). The differences in speed between the SSD and a conventional hard drive is remarkable, making a virtual machine respond just like a hardware-based Windows workstation. Suffice it to say that the SSD completely changed the way I used virtual machines and put Parallels Desktop on my daily use list.
Released in September 2013, Parallels Desktop 9 improves an already robust hardware emulator with a host of new features, including: Support for Windows 8; Thunderbolt and Firewire device access; multi-monitor settings remembered; iCloud, SkyDrive and Dropbox sync; and an enhanced wizard making it considerably easier to setup a new virtual machine.
The biggest reason to upgrade is speed, however, as Parallels Desktop 9 runs noticeably faster than version 8. Parallels claims up to 40 percent better disk performance in Desktop 9 in addition to faster start-up, shutdown and suspend times. While I often take marketing claims of this nature with a grain of salt, this one seems to stand true. My virtual machines were significantly speedier after migrating to Desktop 9.
Of course, your mileage will vary based on the configuration of your host computer. To be effective, virtual machines need to live on a speedy machine such as a late model iMac, MacBook Pro or Air. While the stated memory requirements for Desktop 9 start at 2GB, users will find that more is better in this department, as a sizable block of memory must be assigned to the virtual machine OS. My current MacBook Air has 8GB RAM which is more than adequate for Parallels Desktop 9 – but my next Mac will have at least 16GB RAM or more, if available. Likewise, you do not need an SSD to run Desktop 9, but your user experience will improve dramatically if you do. Fortunately, SSD prices are coming down as more manufacturers include them in new machines and aftermarket upgrade drives become commonplace.
Alongside Desktop 9, Parallels launched Parallels Access, an iOS App enabling users to access and run applications from their Mac and VM on an iPad. Parallels Access is available on an annual subscription basis.
Why do you need a virtual machine?
You would be forgiven to think that the only reason to run a virtual machine on your desktop is to get Windows running on your Mac. After all, Parallel’s Website and packaging both scream “RUN WINDOWS ON YOUR MAC” in large red print. What many do not realize, however, is that Parallels Desktop can accommodate a wide range of 32-bit and 64-bit Guest Operating Systems including Linux, Solaris and every flavour of Windows ever devised, as well as legacy Mac OS X operating systems back to OS X 10.5 Leopard Server.
So why would you want to run an older version of Mac OS X as a virtual machine on your Mac? Simple – protecting your legacy software investment. As prepress departments deal with a wide range of clients and an even wider range of source files, it is important to maintain older versions of production critical applications such as Adobe Creative Suite and QuarkXPress. Many prepress pros concurrently keep multiple generations of these applications on their workstations so they can work with customer files in the specific version in which they were created – thus avoiding text reflow and other potential file problems.
Also, with each new Mac OS X iteration comes new features and enhancements enticing users to upgrade. These new capabilities often come at a price, however, as older applications may no longer work as effectively – or at all – with the latest Mac OS X. By building a bespoke virtual machine for each major version of the Mac OS users can install and run older applications in the environment they were designed for. For example, I currently run a Mac OS X 10.7 (Lion) VM for Adobe Creative Suite 5.5 and an OS X 10.8 (Mountain Lion) VM for Creative Suite 6. These VMs can either run on the host computer in their own window, in full-screen mode, or in their applications side-by-side with host applications using Parallel’s Coherence mode.
Creating a Mac OS X VM is a relatively easy process with Parallels Desktop 9. After launching Desktop 9, select ‘New’ under the File menu and the Wizard will walk you through the steps. Assuming you acquired your Mac OS upgrades through the App Store, your older operating system installers will be available under the ‘Purchases’ menu and available for download. For Mac OS X installs before version 10.6 (Lion), you will need to find your original installer DVD. Once you have created and are running your VM, install and register your legacy software as you would on any Mac.
Another major advantage of virtual machines is the ease in which they can be backed up and duplicated. Users need only copy the Parallels disk image to another drive for backup, or to another Mac with Parallels installed to use the virtual machine elsewhere.
Considering Adobe’s recent decision to stop selling perpetual Creative Suite licenses it seems prudent to ensure you will always have access to your last ‘owned’ version of Creative Suite should you decide to work outside of the Creative Cloud. Housing your second CS6 install in a Mountain Lion VM, for example, is one way to ensure you will always have access to Photoshop, regardless of how Mac OS and Apple hardware evolve.
Zac Bolan’s blog: blog.softcircus.com
The Interpack 2014 tradeshow took place from May 8 to May 14, 2014, at the Düsseldorf fair grounds, the same sprawling location that hosts the drupa tradeshow every four years. According to Interpack, this year’s exhibition attracted 175,000 visitors and approximately 2,700 exhibitors. The main sector trends, again according to Interpack, are resource efficiency for plant and machinery, as well as for packaging material usage, quality and safety to guarantee perfect and counterfeit-proof finished products (especially in such touchy segments as food/beverage and pharmaceuticals), diversity and flexibility for an ever wider range, and shorter product cycles.
The primary trend of shorter product cycles in packaging was emphasized by many exhibitors, most notably Esko. It was also a focal point for many exhibiting print companies that, in addition to the many machine manufacturers, demonstrated how their equipment can accommodate a sudden change in the packaging requirements to quickly build a new product. This can be done through a modular set up of the machine or an intelligent control logic system that is able to fill containers of different sizes.
Highlights and vignettes
Packaging is much more than just the design of the package. Manufacturers and designers alike must also consider variables like what type of material is being used, types of sleeves that go over the package, the stability of the package, and what kind of weight needs to be protected and transported.
Flexographic printing is the dominant process currently being used for producing all kinds of labels, sleeves and other wrappings. Paper bags are also printed with this technology. A Swiss print company at Interpack showcased the same design printed digital, HD flexo and gravure. At a first glance, the prints looked very similar in colour and appearance. Only a closer look revealed differences between the printing processes especially in the highlights and vignettes.
Hewlett-Packard made a big splash by exhibiting new three digital printing machines that are aimed at the packaging industry. HP showed its Indigo 20000 and 30000 devices, while also debuting the HP Scitex 15000 press. The HP 20000 press is aimed at the label printing market with a web width of 30 inches. The workflow for controlling the HP 20000 is powered by Esko technology. The HP 20000 can be used for printing flexible packaging, labels and shrink sleeves with a maximum repeat length of 44 inches. Printing materials can include film, paper and aluminum. The HP 20000 features seven imaging stations that can be used for printing even opaque white. The well-known personalized Coke campaign was printed on an HP 20000.
Esko has teamed up with HP in regards to the workflow and converting of spot colours to extended gamut printing using CMYK plus O, G and V. The Esko software shows how far, in ∆E, the converted colours are from the original Pantone colour when four, five, six or seven colours are used to simulate the brand colour. Through the addition of either orange, and/or green and/or violet, the ∆E will get less, meaning the colour is closer to the original. Esko is also supplying its MIS software to HP, making it possible to have short turnaround times from when the job enters the print company until it is printed and ready for delivery.
The HP 30000 is designed for printing folding cartons with offset matching print quality. The maximum sheet width is 29.5 inches and prints on sheets of carton. The press can print on paperboard, metallized board and plastics. Like the Indigo 20000, the 30000 also features up to seven colour print stations which make it possible to achieve brand colours through dedicated Pantone inks or through HP’s IndiChrome technology that uses four, six or seven colours for on-press brand colour emulation. The maximum board thickness is 24 pt. It is even possible to add an inline coater for UV and water-based coatings. The Indigo technology makes it possible to print VDP cartons. This was also shown during the press demonstration at the tradeshow.
The third HP press shown was the Scitex 15000 for corrugated board printing. This inkjet press can print four boards at the same time. At Interpack, the imaging giant showed the printing of boxes for big screen LED TVs.
This very interesting demonstration of technology continues the momentum HP showed at drupa 2012. Although the print speeds are not that of offset and flexographic printing presses, it enables print companies to serve the quick turnaround market. I predict even more innovative solutions will be shown by HP at drupa 2016.
Bioplastics, boxes and pouches
QuickLabel Systems of the United States showed its Kiaro! Printer, a small, tabletop on-demand, roll-fed label system based on inkjet technology. It comes with Windows software that can also do VDP. Depending on the model you buy, Kiaro! can print with up to an eight-inch web-width at 40 feet per minute and at 1,200-dpi resolution. The maximum repeat length is 17.92 inches.
I found this product quite impressive, since it is an affordable solution for quick turnaround, short-run label production that has no make-ready and is perfect for small businesses that do not need large quantities of labels.
At Interpack 2011, bioplastics were an interesting trend, which I wrote about in PrintAction June 2011. At the time, this was a little side exhibition of Interpack squeezed into part of one hall. At the 2014 event, however, many suppliers showed materials made from bioplastics. Personally, I found it very interesting to see a coffee pod made completely from bioplastic. This means that you can throw the coffee pod directly into the kitchen garbage after brewing your single-serve coffee. The pod composts in 90 days.
It is a little know fact that the currently manufactured coffee pods for the various single-serve coffee machine pose quite a problem in the recycling stream, since they can not be properly recycled.
Kolbus, a German company with sales offices in Canada, showed an interesting machine configuration that manufactures high-quality boxes with magnetic closure. The inside has a stable tray that protects the packaged product. The stand had a production line set up that inserted the magnets, secured them with tape, flipped the boxes over, scored the preprinted cover and then inserted the box. Interestingly enough, the outside of the box was printed digitally.
The company can also make various angled cuts into the box lid for 90, 130, 180 and multi-angle cuts to wrap the lid of the box around a round object. These boxes are designed for packaging high-quality items to give them a touch of luxury.
Pouches made for all kinds of purposes were also a dominant part of the packaging options highlighted at Interpack. These pouches today can hold a vast array of liquids from water and juices to baby food and soups to motor oil. The important thing is that the pouch is well made, the seams are properly formed and sealed, and the correct spout for dispensing the product has been inserted at the top.
Food materials and footprints
Interpack’s Halls 1 to 4 held all kinds of machinery for the production of food, mostly for grinding cocoa and chocolate manufacturing (hollow figure manufacturing), but also for candy and gum manufacturing. Many companies showed machines for the manufacturing of wafers and ice cream cones. These were halls were you could get many edible samples. I wasn’t quite sure what these machines had to do with packaging, but after getting through these food items, machines for packaging freshly made food items were shown.
Throughout the show it was clear that the traditional materials used to create packaging like PE, PS, PET are now available in all kinds of shapes and sizes. The trend is to use the material more wisely, meaning less of it and have the shapes more friendly/economic for stacking on skids, meaning less trucks are needed to transport the same amount of packages making the packaging product more sustainable. The use of less packaging and less material to create a smaller carbon footprint was a general trend of Interpack.
Recyclability was also a big topic weaving its way through the various exhibits. The special metal packaging plaza showcased not only the versatility of metal packaging, but stressed also the point that metal packaging can be recycled over and over again. Many high-quality metal packages were shown.
All of the wonderful packaging technology at Interpack spoke very little about one thing, all of these labels, wraps and special products need to be printed somehow. A few print companies were present at the tradeshow and showcased their high-quality print products using mainly the flexographic print process. Some print companies combined the flexographic printing presses with digital printing or rotogravure printing.
Like drupa, the Interpack tradeshow is a very interesting exhibition of printing potential, with regards to the protection of the product and the message it gives to the customer. Relative to commercial printing, short-run and quick turnaround technology finally seems to be a key focus for the packaging industry. This new focus of technology will surely disrupt the market, as there remains significant demand for printing labels, foils, cardboard and corrugated board.
Earlier this year, Adobe unleashed the first major upgrade to its Creative Cloud applications since the Suite launched in May 2013. While Photoshop CC enhancements such as support for 3D printing, perspective warp tools and linked smart objects grabbed the spotlight; new features were also added to both Illustrator and InDesign applications.
Illustrator has been around forever, at least when measuring time on the digital design and prepress scale. Since version 1.0, Illustrator has nudged virtually all competitors to the sidelines, claiming the de-facto crown of vector editing applications. If you peel away all the fancy Adobe branding, the latest Illustrator iteration stands at version 17.1 – truly venerable in the here-today, gone-tomorrow world of software. So after 16 major upgrades, what could be left for Adobe to improve?
Apparently, Adobe can teach an old vector editor a few new tricks! According to Adobe, the latest Illustrator brings new features derived from user feedback and requests. The new Live Corners feature enables designers to significantly alter corners of both paths and closed shapes either by adjusting a Live Corners widget or entering values into the Corners dialogue box.
When selecting a corner point with the direct selection tool in Illustrator CC, users now see what looks like a small radio button just below the selected corner. This is the Live Corners widget and when dragged away from the corner adds curvature to the angle. Users can also click and drag over a range of corners or an entire closed shape, click any of the Live Corner widgets and apply curvature to all the selected corners at once. Double-clicking any of the widgets brings up the Corner dialogue where specific corner treatments, rounding styles and radius settings can be entered. The new Live Corner tool works so intuitively and effortlessly that any level Illustrator buff should be able to master it in minutes.
Adobe introduces a completely re-vamped Pencil Tool in the latest Illustrator CC that enables freehand sketchers to draw better paths with smooth curves and straight lines using either mouse, track-pad or drawing tablet. First of all, let me say that I’m no artist, but after adjusting the Pencil Tool Options I was able to use a Wacom tablet and stylus to draw smooth two-point curves and trace relatively complex shapes. There are not many settings in the Pencil Tool Options dialogue: Users can adjust a slider to make the Pencil more accurate to the path drawn or smoothed by Illustrator’s graphics engine – that’s it.
The Pencil Tool, however, does allow the user to intuitively continue paths by hovering over an endpoint before drawing, or closing a path by drawing near the starting point, then releasing the mouse button. The new Path Segment Reshape tool enables users to easily reshape any path without selecting it first or manipulating Bezier handles. Just choose the Anchor Point Tool (a part of the Pen Tool subset) and hover over any path segment – the Anchor Point cursor becomes the Path Segment Reshape cursor and the user clicks and drags to bend or reshape any path segment. Moreover, Illustrator CC sports perspective-drawing improvements enabling designers to easily adjust the vanishing point and horizon line of a drawing by manipulating the underlying grid.
Rounding out the new enhancements, Adobe finally gives designers the ability to build custom tool panels and save a backup copy of preferences, workspaces and presets that can be shared with other Illustrator users within a workgroup – a long-overdue enhancement in my opinion.
Many of the aforementioned Illustrator amendments can benefit both print designers and prepress pros, however, virtually all of the updates to InDesign are targeting the ePublisher whether they build EPUB, interactive PDF or Adobe Digital Publishing Suite (DPS) projects. For example, InDesign CC offers bespoke tools for creating, editing and managing hyperlinks in an interactive document–to the point of creating character styles to accommodate them! Hyperlinks can be applied to both text and images and validated through the Hyperlinks panel. The new InDesign also supports EPUB 3.0 features such as pop-up footnotes, better hyperlink management and improved multi-lingual support.
Another new InDesign function facilitates automatic access to Adobe Typekit fonts – when opening a document using fonts not active in your system, the user is immediately offered the option of accessing fonts from the Typekit collection. While this feature might benefit designers with small font collections, it could cause problems for prepress operators who generally only use fonts provided by their customer when working on files. I have been working with InDesign CC since initial launch and really appreciate the ability to set the interface colour theme to match other CC applications such as Photoshop. However, I’ve noticed a few problems when working with legacy files created in older versions of InDesign.
For example, I have seen spot colours created in InDesign CS5.5 mysteriously change their overprint settings when opened with InDesign CC – the result not showing up until inkjet proofing, or worse, on press! Hopefully this and other bugs have been addressed in this latest update.
All the rest
Adobe augments other Creative Cloud applications in this update including Muse, its approachable Web design tool aimed at Illustrator and InDesign users. Muse differs from Adobe Dreamweaver in that it enables visual designers to build attractive websites within a familiar interface and without learning to write code. This makes Muse invaluable for print designers looking to expand their services; however, the short learning curve Muse provides comes at a price. Sites built with Muse cannot be directly imported into Dreamweaver when more powerful Website architecture is needed.
Adobe has done a great job of eliminating the upgrade dilemma for many users because Creative Cloud is only available on a subscription basis. However, while CC customers no longer need to weigh new features against the cost of upgrading, Adobe is leaving many legacy CS6 license owners behind. Not everyone can justify the ongoing expense for a vast suite of software they will never own just to access one or two applications they actually need to generate revenue. I suspect many will stick with the CS6 they own until Adobe offers a wider range of licensing alternatives.
Zac Bolan’s blog: blog.softcircus.com
In the biggest single upgrade since the launch of the Creative Cloud, Adobe recently introduced more than 20 new features to Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign. Subscribers also gain access to Typekit – more than 900 desktop fonts – from within Creative Cloud or any other desktop app. But for now, let’s talk about everyone’s favourite image editor, Photoshop, and its multi-dimensional new feature.
While Photoshop has enabled limited 3D design capability since CS5 Extended version; the images produced were always intended for 2D reproduction – that is until now. With Photoshop CC, users can work with a variety of 3D modeling formats, such as Google Earth KMZ, Wavefront OBJ and JPEG Stereo just to name a few. Once open in Photoshop’s new 3D workspace, the model can be scaled and rotated for viewing at any angle. Users are also able to apply textures and colours in addition to altering the object’s surface relief.
Once the model rendering is complete, Photoshop CC directly supports printing to a selection of consumer 3D printers from MakerBot, 3D Systems and Zcorp, as well as upload to Shapeways.com, an online 3D printing service. When printing to a supported printer, users can set the level of detail, size, scale and surface detail of the model. Photoshop CC also offers the option to automatically generate removable scaffolding to support and reinforce the model while it is being printed. As well, users are capable of controlling printer functions such as pre-heating, material selection and estimating print time. Before printing, Photoshop CC will analyze and simplify the model to match the selected printer’s capabilities, then re-render if necessary.
While many consider 3D printing a niche market for product prototyping and engineering, it became apparent at this year’s International CES exhibition, held in Las Vegas, that 3D printing is poised to go mainstream in the very near future. In the CES 2014 3D Printing TechZone, 28 exhibitors demonstrated a wide range of 3D printers and scanners targeting every price-point. Both major players and crowd-funded startups vied for home, hobbyist and educational 3D printing markets with innovative and inexpensive 3D printers, starting at around $500. Expect to see many of these 3D printers on the shelves as early as Spring 2014.
For that reason it seems Adobe hopes to position Photoshop CC as the go-to tool for 3D model design, finishing and production in a bid to replicate their successful democratization of conventional print. Whether or not 3D printing becomes as pervasive as desktop publishing remains to be seen, but a Credit Suisse research team recently projected 357 percent growth in the 3D printing market by 2016 – largely due to pro-sumers and educators getting on the bandwagon.
Adobe incorporates a robust Perspective Warp tool into the latest Photoshop. At first glance you might think it is just another variation of Puppet Warp or the many Transform tools already provided, but you’d be wrong. Perspective Warp provides a simple workflow for repositioning the vanishing point or manipulating the perspective of an imported element to match the base image. It can also be used to correct perspective problems created by bad camera angles while keeping lines straight.
The user first converts the layer containing the element to be altered into a Smart Object, allowing for changes and edits later on. After selecting Perspective Warp > Layout, the user drags a ‘quad’ to define the perspective plane of the element’s foreground, then a second quad to define the vanishing point. Once defined, the user selects > Warp and is able to change the perspective of the element without drastic distortion. Users can then choose to automatically straighten horizontal, vertical or both axes simultaneously. If used prudently, the end result can be a pleasingly realistic shift in perspective.
Linked Smart Objects
In a bid to improve collaborative design workflows, Adobe introduces Linked Smart Objects in this iteration of Photoshop CC. Photoshop has long had the ability to embed Smart Objects in PSD files that users could transform in a variety of ways without affecting the original data. However, embedded data bloats the size of the working file significantly. Also, if one designer in a workgroup modifies a logo embedded in several PSD files, other designers would have to track down and re-import every instance of that Embedded Smart Object.
With Linked Smart Objects, Photoshop CC now deals with imported elements in much the same manner as InDesign – the file data is stored externally with a flattened preview stored in the PSD file. Now when a designer edits the file referenced by a Linked Smart Object, the changes can automatically flow into any Photoshop documents containing it.
Faster and better
What would a Photoshop upgrade be without a performance boost and a few time-saving enhancements? Photoshop CC delivers speed with the next generation of the Mercury Graphics Engine – using Open CL to harness the rendering capabilities of the powerful graphics processors found in most current computers. The result is responsive and fluid performance when using processor-crunching tools such as Liquify and Puppet Warp on very large images.
The workflow enhancements, while subtle, can be timesavers. For example I routinely use a few clicks to convert PSD file backgrounds into a Layers. Photoshop CC now enables this action with one click. Also, colours used recently can be selected in the Swatches panel and users can set the background colour when creating a new file. While none of these enhancements are particularly exciting on their own, they do improve the user-experience and increase productivity.
Worth the upgrade?
This is the part of the software review where I would normally weigh the new features against the cost of upgrading and make my recommendations. The 3D printing feature, while cool, is not for the graphic arts world – at least, not yet. While the Linked Smart Objects speed boost and productivity enhancements would be useful in conventional print environments, they might not warrant shelling out for a paid version upgrade, were one available.
Given Adobe’s new Creative Cloud model, however, this discussion is moot: Either you subscribe and get these new features regardless of whether you want them, or you do not. You cannot buy an upgrade at any price. Adobe has successfully completed its transition from a company focused on developing and selling cutting-edge software to a provider of software-as-a-service.
Zac Bolan’s blog: blog.softcircus.com
Hallelujah! – There is finally a clear and elegant solution for the ever-present problem of doing a press-to-proof match, or doing a press check and matching a proof in the viewing booth. Most printing papers today contain optical brightening agents whose fluorescence causes the printed sample to look bluer and brighter, which is good, but then the colours do not always match the proof.
Ultraviolet (UV) radiation in a light source can hit the paper causing it to fluorescence and change colour. This UV-induced colour shift has been difficult to control causing headaches in prepress, in the pressroom and with light booth and measuring instrument suppliers. But wait – the whole industry can now breathe a sigh of relief. A new standard called ISO 13655 has recently clarified UV-included and UV-excluded measurement modes for spectrophotometers, which is likely to improve inter-instrument agreement, especially when measuring press sheets containing fluorescent brightening agents.
To avail of this new standard you have to update your equipment – you need to buy the new X-Rite eXact or i1Pro2 or the Techkon SpectroDens; and you need to put new lamps in your GTI or JUST Normlicht viewing booth. The cost of updating technology is burdensome, but any such financial pain is ultimately superseded by recent changes that allow us to now banish colour-matching woes that have plagued the industry for many, many years.
In the printing industry, one of the major considerations is the ability to deliver accurate and consistent colour to the customer. Colour matching is done using instrumentation via a process known as “printing to the numbers”. The numbers in this context are usually L*a*b* values that are measured and monitored via the use of a measuring instrument. One challenge with instrumentation has been that the UV component in the measuring illuminant of different instruments can be different, which causes different instruments to give different readings for the same sample. If the paper or ink exhibit fluorescent behaviour, then we have typically seen variations between measurement devices when measuring the same press sheet – and this causes much head scratching.
At the moment, the UV component in the light source of an instrument is not stipulated so that different devices can have different amounts of energy in the UV which lead to different measurement readings of the same sample. This means that if you used the X-Rite i1Pro instrument to make an ICC colour profile, but press side you used an X-Rite 530 handheld spectrophotometer, the press sheet and contract colour proof may not match despite full and correct application of a colour management process. Instruments up until now were not carefully regulated in the UV part of the spectrum – so different instrument families had different lamp characteristics and differing amounts of UV in their devices. As more and more printing papers started to include optical brightening agents to increase their brightness, we started to see problems which caused endless headaches in the field.
The UV in a measuring instrument represents the classic case of the observer causing an effect in the experiment that they are trying to observe because the light used to measure the sample is itself influencing the measurement. In the case of samples containing optical brightening agents (OBA), UV from the measuring light is absorbed and emitted in the blue part of the spectrum, so we are no longer independently measuring the sample because the light used to probe the characteristics of the sample is changing the sample’s characteristics. When OBAs are present, the sample’s reflectance will change with the amount of UV in the measuring instrument and different instruments from different manufacturers will compute different spectral data for the same sample.
In a simple experiment, the IDEAlliance Control Strip was printed on Epson Photo Paper and the white patch was measured using different instrument configurations. The different instruments produced varied results. The peak in the blue part of the spectrum (around 400 to 450 nm) changes depending on the amount of UV light in the measuring instrument – the more UV light in the device, the higher the peak in the blue. This difference is most evident in the white patch, but is expected to affect all colours in the control strip to a greater or less extent. We get different readings depending on the instrument used, this understandably causes problems – which reading is correct and which reading is seen by the customer in the viewing booth during the press check?
The new standard
There is an updated ISO Standard called ISO 13655:2009 graphic technology, spectral measurement and colorimetric computation for graphic arts images. This ISO standard specifies the illuminant (UV) characteristics when using an instrument to measure printed samples. A number of new devices incorporating ISO 13655 have been recently released by major suppliers, as well as a number of light booth fixtures. ISO 13655 clarifies the different UV included and UV excluded measurement options. There are now four clear and well-defined measurement modes defined as M0, M1, M2, and M3.
M0 is known as a “legacy” mode and is a standard that represents the majority of measuring instruments currently in the field today. It is directed to instruments that use an unfiltered gas-filled tungsten lamp to illuminate the sample being measured. Prior to LED-based devices, the tungsten bulb based device was the primary type of device on the market. The light contained within the instrument may approximate Illuminant A. It should be noted that in this mode the light is neither UV filtered nor polarized, and also the UV component can be very weak. In general, the M0 mode is a catch-all mode so that legacy devices can be characterized within the new ISO standard. An M0 instrument can safely be used for process control applications as it can make very reliable, repeatable measurements, but it cannot be used in situations where it is necessary to exchange information or seek correlation with other measurement scenarios because an M0 instrument may not read the same as another instrument that is measuring the same sample.
M1 is known as the “D50 mode” or “UV included” mode. A major difference (and improvement) over earlier specifications is that the amount of energy in the UV and visible wavelengths is now specified. The light source in the instrument must match CIE Standard Illuminant D50. It is useful to remember that D50 is simply a spectral curve and there may be different ways to elicit a D50 response. Generally speaking, there are two methods to achieve conformance to condition M1 – we describe these as physical (using a tailored, customized source and or imaging apparatus, as employed in the X-Rite eXact) and mathematical (using a mathematical function to approximate the required spectral power distribution, as used in the Konica-Minolta FD-7).
M2 is defined as a “UV-cut” mode. ISO 13655 states, “To exclude variations in measurement results between instruments due to fluorescence of optical brightening agents… the spectral power distribution of the measurement source… shall only contain substantial radiation power in the wavelength range above 400 nm.” How is this mode used in practice?
There will be times when a customer will request a print to be measured using M2 because the lighting used to display the job is expected to be free of UV content. A museum is an example of one of the major places that uses UV-free lighting. In colour management circles OBA induced colour shifts were often dealt with by removing UV light from both the measuring system and the viewing conditions. Now with the new standard we have a specific definition for “UV-cut” and the wavelength at which it happens. Note that the rest of the illuminant spectral power distribution for M2 is not specified – it does not have to be, as in this spectral range we are in a situation where the instrument illuminant does not interact with the specimen or change the emission characteristics, so it is not necessary to define the spectral power distribution of the source from 400 to 700 nm and a measuring instrument can simply compute the spectrum of the sample in this range.
M3 is a polarizing mode and consists of UV-cut up until 400 nm and then a polarizing filter is applied to the remaining wavelengths. As above, the illuminant spectral power distribution from 400 to 700 nm for M3 is not specified – it does not have to be, as in this spectral range we are in a situation again where the instrument illuminant does not interact with the specimen. The main use of M3 is to limit or completely remove surface reflections.
In the offset printing industry, the customer pays for the final dry product. One of the main concerns is that the press sheets come off the press wet and as they dry the density of the ink drops. The M3 mode can aid printers in cutting the surface gloss from wet inks, and if drying is primarily represented by a change in surface gloss then by removing the gloss we may have a better prediction of the final expected dry density. Because of the polarizing filter the measured density values using M3, may be different to the density achieved from the other modes. In fact, in any measurement we see that each mode (M0-M3) can produce a very different spectral response and thus any computed metrics (CIELAB, CIEYxy, density) can be different for each measurement mode.
Measuring and viewing
The instrument manufacturers have responded to ISO 13655 with the introduction of a suite of devices that all meet the M0 - M3 measurement modes. Konica-Minolta Sensing has entered the prepress market with the FD-7 spectrophotometer and a paired automatic chart reading table called the ColorScout A+. The device also measures ambient lighting – a feature not found in other similar devices. Techkon released the SpectroDens, which can be used in spot mode but also uniquely has four wheels allowing the user to roll it over control patches. Techkon also has two clever iPhone apps: iRegister Pro can be used to measure the register on a press sheet and the ColorCatcher app can measure the L*a*b* of a sample. You can use your iPhone as a measuring instrument! Note that both the iPhone apps require a small kit costing around $100.
We note that market leader X-Rite of Grand Rapids, Michigan, offers us the eXact for the pressroom and a new version of the i1Pro called the i1Pro2 for colour management users. It is important to note that neither the chart reader iSis device or the press-side IntelliTrax scanning system is compliant with the new standard and neither can be retrofitted to comply with the new standard. Users can, however, adapt their i1iO table to accommodate the new i1Pro2. When buying an instrument or upgrading your system, make sure you are using an instrument from the above list that is ISO 13655 compliant.
The clarification for illuminant in measuring instruments (ISO 13655) is accompanied by a similar clarification in the standard for viewing booths called ISO 3664. Via the updated viewing booth standard, emphasis has turned to requiring a closer simulation of Illuminant D50 thus clarifying the amount of UV illumination in the viewing booth too. The new viewing booth standard refers to issues such as excluding stray light and that the walls of the booth should be a type of neutral gray, but in the current context, ISO 3664 has called for tighter tolerances on the quality of the light source to ensure that it closely matches the D50 (M1) curve especially in the UV spectrum.
In terms of light booths, two major manufacturers in GTI and JUST Normlicht have had new light fixtures available for a couple of years now. All users should check with their representative or on the supplier Website to ensure they have ISO 13655/3664 compliant lighting.
We are at a truly exciting juncture in colour management systems – finally we have a clear specification for the UV component in both the viewing booth and the measuring instrument. Together, these systems are able to deal with the challenges of OBA-induced colour changes that have plagued our industry for a long time. If a viewing booth is fitted with the new light sources and we use a new measuring instrument in M1 mode, then visual appraisal of press sheets and contract colour proofs will always be in agreement.
Measuring instruments are supposed to provide a reliable and robust method for colour measurement. Unfortunately, in the case of UV and OBAs there has been considerable confusion and lack of inter-instrument agreement. The new ISO 13655 standard for instruments and ISO 3664 standard for viewing booths will greatly reduce the colour matching problems currently faced in the field.
Dr. Abhay Sharma is a professor at Ryerson University’s School of Graphic Communications Management. Dr. Sharma is active in print media research and recently coordinated the IDEAlliance Wide/Grand Format Inkjet RoundUP study. He can be reached at
After Benny Landa and the introduction of the nanographic printing process, the biggest attraction circling the print industry is arguably 3D printing. At the recent Graphics Canada tradeshow, I found it quite interesting to see 3D printers for the first time with my own eyes and being able to hold products in my hands after they were made on the devices at the show. The 3D printers on display included a small single colour device retailing for about $2,500 and a two-colour device for around $4,000. As with the aging path of any new technology, prices will most likely come down as more devices find their way into the market.
The arrival of 3D printing spread across the public’s consciousness earlier this year when the plans for producing a gun using 3D technology were made available on the Internet. The only metal part was the pin used to fire the bullet. Frightening scenarios were painted about the consequences of allowing anyone with access to a 3D printer to produce such a gun, because – among a raft of grizzly schemes – the plastic parts would not be detected by conventional airport security scans. After a deluge of online protest, the person who posted the plans for the gun removed the files, but as we all know they were probably copied countless times and still readily available.
The technology of 3D printing, however, is touted as the next great thing in customer service. If you need a part for anything, just 3D print it and you can repair whatever is broken. It has also been suggested that 3D printers will make extensive toolkits obsolete, since you can produce the tool that you need right there, assuming you have a 3D printer in your home or workshop. The relatively inexpensive 3D printers use molten plastic to create the objects, others, more expensive ones, employ metal powder which will be hardened through the application of a laser beam or electron beam.
High-quality 3D printing is achieved with stereolithography. It is a polymer-based process. A laser beam is directed at a bed of liquid resin and the energy from the laser causes a thin layer to harden. The laser is directed by a small movable mirror across the whole manufacturing table. The hardened material is attached to a platform that moves away from the bed of molten resin. A good animation of this process can be seen at formlabs.com/products/our-printer. 3D printers using this technology will come down in price, because some patents in regards to the technology will expire in 2014. This technology deposits layers that are 25 micrometres thick, while the molten plastic deposit method creates layers of about 100 micrometers.
It was also suggested that 3D printers should be on board of future space explorations to lower the weight of items, i.e. toolboxes, that need to be brought on the trip into space for any kind of repairs. That would leave more room for the payload that is transported into space. Artists have also discovered 3D printing as an art form. One of them is using a special technique to 3D print objects into sand, by injecting it with a special polymer, which bonds the sand particles together and hardens when it comes in contact with air. Once the printing process is complete the object gets carefully dug out of the sand. Any remaining loose sand is washed away with water.
The possibilities for printing 3D objects are endless. At the Graphics Canada trade show I had a soft silicone model of a human heart in my hands and it was printed from actual MRI images of someone’s heart. I found this simply amazing. Aside from all the great and astounding things that can be established using 3D print technology one still needs to ask oneself the following question: Is 3D printing printing or is it manufacturing?
You could make the argument that printing also deposits something, although a rather thin film of ink, onto a substrate. 3D printing also deposits material, but in much thicker layers. Printing is also quite often called highly customized manufacturing. Each job is unique and sometimes very intricate techniques are used to create the product the customer desires. This was clearly visible in some of the pieces that were entered into the Canadian Printing Awards competition. Printing is quite often used to create many copies of the same product, just like in mass manufacturing. So you can twist and turn it anyway but it starts to get a bit difficult and not very well defined.
Let’s have a look at Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary for the definition of printing: The process of producing books, magazines, etc. by using machinery the act or process of printing a set number of copies of a book at one time handwriting that uses separate letters that do not join together.
Now let’s have a look at manufacturing in Merriam-Webster’s dictionary: The process of making products especially with machines in factories.
The definition of manufacturing might need some updating in regards to the word factories, when 3D printers are more and more available to the general public.
I thought about this discussion for some time and what could be the distinguishing factor to call 3D printing a printing process or more traditional manufacturing process. In my opinion the distinction comes in regards to the fact the printing always involves images and text and in the conveying of information, regardless of what the information is.
3D printing, in my opinion, resembles a more traditional manufacturing process. The reason for this conclusion came in the form of an air nozzle that was shown to me at Graphics Canada. It is the nozzle that is above every seat in an airplane. These nozzles are now made using 3D printing and 3D printing has simplified the process, since no molds are needed to create the separate parts and then have them assembled. The nozzle is manufactured in one step with a 3D printer.
A recent article from InkWorld by Rodman Publishing states that Messe Düsseldorf, the organization that hosts the drupa and Interpack and many other tradeshows on the Düsseldorf fairgrounds, launched the 3D fab+print during the K 2013 trade show, the tradeshow for plastics and rubber. Shows and exhibitions related to 3D fab+print will be co-located with seven tradeshows and one of is drupa, which will run from May 31 to June 10, 2016.
There are many manufacturers of 3D printing equipment and, just as in the printing world, there are devices for home use, professionals and industrial scale applications. MakerBot is a well-known American manufacturer of 3D printing. A visit to the company’s Website shows that they have three stores in the United States and all 48 Microsoft stores in the U.S. have MakerBot systems installed. The next time you travel to the U.S., look up if there is a Microsoft store in the city you are visiting. You can have a look at the MakerBot 3D printing and probably for a minimal fee have a product made right there on the spot.
3D Systems is a leader in the consumer sector and Stratasys is, according to InkWorld magazine, the world leader in the professional sector. Stratasys offers up to 150 different types of photopolymers and thermoplastics – the largest selection of materials for 3D printing.
The leader for industrial applications using laser-sintering technology is EOS GmbH from Germany and its customers include well-know names like MTU (a manufacturer of large diesel engines and complete propulsion system), EADS (European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company), Daimler and BMW. These companies already use 3D printing in their production lines.
Regardless of the material and fusing technology being used in 3D printing, it must be considered as additive manufacturing. The object is built layer upon layer and the thickness of the layer varies with the deposit and fusing method that is used. The fusing method can incorporate chemical and/or physical processes, precipitation curing and/or melting. These fusing methods currently allow the use of materials like artificial resins, plastics, metals and ceramics in powder form and paper. They use methods like selective laser melting, electron beam melting of metals, selective laser sintering for plastics, stereolithography, digital light processing, polyjet modeling for photopolymers and fused deposition modeling for thermoplastics (FDM). FDM is most popular method for 3D printing.
3D printing is already used a lot more than one would think in a range of production and manufacturing environments. I think this alone settles the debate whether it is akin to printing or a more traditional production process. Malcom Keif from CalPoly University in San Louis Obispo predicts that 3D printers will invade the office like the copy machine has.
Over time, these devices will become more sophisticated and there will be different levels of sophistication with machines, again depending on if the end-use is for consumers, professionals or industrial companies. 3D printing will be part of the manufacturing world and we have not seen the end of the development yet. Au contraire, we are at the beginning of this oddly quiet manufacturing revolution.
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DIA Meeting - What Print Buyers Want
October 24, 2018
Digital Packaging Summit 2018
November 5-7, 2018
November 5-7, 2018
Canadian Printing Awards
November 8, 2018
IS&T Color and Imaging Conference 2018
November 12-16, 2018
Graphics Canada 2019
April 11-13, 2019