What To Consider When Choosing A Digital Front-End For Variable Data Printing

Printing can be a very time consuming process, depending on how long the processing time for the RIP is before the press starts printing the job. If the job being done is one where every page is the same, it really doesn’t matter if it takes up to 30 minutes for the RIP to process before the press starts rolling.

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Several factors in the process of creating jobs in variable data printing can have effects on the overall throughput of the job. The press can make up for the delay by churning out thousand copies of the every hour. But if the job being done is variable data printing (VDP), such a delay in printing each page will have a huge effect on the productivity, as the lag time will hugely delay the job. The factors can be from the user friendliness of the software used in authoring the job, to the precision of the construction of the job to be printed. If a job contains live transparency effects or include high resolution images, they can also affect the overall throughput. Static printing and variable data printing have the same good practices and operational guidelines. This is to be noted as the conversion of RGB to CMYK or processing of high resolution images can cause serious delays when they become necessary in making every impression.

When choosing the VDP ‘language’ to use in passing the job to the DFE/RIP, there are generally two categories of options available. There is the option of using older formats of VDP language, or the newer open formats. Older formats of VDP language are not flexible; they are most times vendor specific and restrict artistic design freedom. A plus for them is that they offer very reliable printing, especially if the features to be used are explicitly supported by the RIP hardware being used.

The newer formats on the other hand are more open and less restrictive. Languages like PPML offers support for live transparency effects to a degree. This allows the features of static printing to be used in variable data printing. They are termed open because they offer more productivity and design freedom without unnecessary lag time. There are several properties of DFE and its attendant software that can greatly influence productivity, apart from just the optimization of VDP jobs for printing. The user friendliness of the software being used to set up the job and control the printing process, with the support of necessary variable data printing file formats are important attributes of DFE.

The need for extra training of the operator can be eliminated in most digital shops if they make use of tools that can work for both variable data printing and static printing. Since most digital printing shops offers both VDP and static printing, having tools that work for both printing types and operators that can work with the perfectly will reduce the chances of errors and wastage. Identification of key job information like number of pages, number of database, number of pages per record and overall number of pages to be printed will help with the identification, monitoring and troubleshooting of jobs. Also, making use of tools that have automated workflow will ease the stress of printing and reduce the margin for errors.

Making use of pre-flighting tools to proof the output files can nip potential trouble in the bud. Most software that creates VDP files carry out checks to ensure that all the needed files are bundled in the print file. But due to the long time it takes to process large print files, problems might not be identified till the printing starts. Errors such as missing fonts, hairlines, inaccurate image resolution and spot or RGB colors are checked for by pre-flighting tools. This will reduce the time wasted from sending the job out to the printer and the time taken to process a wrong file. Printer issues like paper jams and problems in finishing can be troubleshot when there if a job header information with the necessary information for each job. Getting production back can be done quickly without wasting of time and raw materials, as only printed sheets with problems will need to be reprinted.

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