By Lisa Guerriero
Digital printing is inherently technology driven. Advancements in automation further celebrate industry growth, allowing more applications to be created digitally and enabling higher productivity.
Print service providers (PSPs) embrace software as a means of improving efficiency. RIPs, Web to print, and color management are part of a PSP’s arsenal. Design and layout software is a key component to keeping work in house, limiting expenses, and facilitating workflow.
Increasingly, software tools meet the design needs of specific print environments. Standalone and plug-in options that integrate with other print processes are available, ensuring quality and speed.
Software solutions exist for numerous PSP applications, including packaging and prototypes, wall graphics, labels, and point of purchase (POP) standees. They bridge the gap between the customer’s vision, the PSP’s plan for realizing the graphics, and the reality of the print. Design tools help fulfill output expectations with minimal waste and maximum efficiency.
Packaging and Prototypes
Packaging is a growth segment. Printer advancements make it more efficient to produce short runs and prototypes digitally, while the demand for personalized and variable printing pushes more jobs to digital.
It’s a natural transition for print providers who are already working with rigid substrates or labels, but one that presents challenges, admits Larry Moore, VP – partner programs, North America, Esko. “Many of these companies are not packaging experts,” he observes.
Software for 3D applications, including packaging, address this learning curve head on. Solutions like Esko’s ArtiosCAD and Digital Graphic Systems Inc. (DGS) KASEMAKE provide extensive template libraries, allowing print providers with limited experience to create a structural design.
“Once the parameters are entered in a specific template, the software automatically takes care of all the structural design and calculations, even taking into consideration the thickness and type of substrate used,” explains Roberto Rodriguez, president, DGS.
The print provider can also place graphics on the design, creating a virtual 3D file. It allows the PSP to get a clearer sense of how the graphics will be laid out and lined up, before the expense of a physical prototype.
In addition to benefiting the PSP, it enables “review and approval by brand owners before production begins,” notes Moore. In Esko’s case, Esko Studio integrates with Adobe System Incorporated’s Illustrator to achieve this result.
KASEMAKE includes a free animation module that can be used for all structural designs, giving PSPs an additional tool for presenting work to clients.
Both vendors offer finishing equipment and workflow software. They suggest design software works hand-in-hand with the other components, as part of a comprehensive solution. It accelerates return on investment by minimizing the learning curve and allowing PSPs to quickly delve into new applications and jobs.
Similar to packaging, visualization is a benefit of wallcovering software solutions. The difference is that wall graphics are often co-created with clients, so demonstrating the end result is critical to job success. “For decoration projects, it is a common challenge to understand what’s in consumers’ heads. It’s often difficult for them to imagine how designs could fit into the space with the real furniture, doors, and windows,” observes Mar Lezcano, HP WallArt solution product manager, Hewlett-Packard (HP).
Whether a PSP creates the wall graphics independently or in conjunction with the client, the ability to show a true-to-life, detailed digital rendering reduces approval wait times and limits design rejections.
SA International’s (SAi’s) FlexiDESIGNER utilizes a step-and-repeat tool that duplicates objects and organizes them proportionately within a space. It “makes it easy for PSPs to quickly design wallcovering patterns of any size,” explains Dean Derhak, product director, SAi. Clients don’t have to wait for the design to be built to picture how a pattern will look spread across a wall.
Vendors emphasize the role of integration in delivering quality wall graphics as well as efficient workflows.
“Once a project is approved, a print-ready PDF with all the tiling and cutting marks required is automatically generated. From layout to creation to print, HP WallArt makes the whole process simple,” says Lezcano.
FlexiDESIGNER offers workflow integration with numerous RIPs to ensure color profiles and spot colors match between design and wallcovering production.
Label design software focuses on streamlining tedious processes that often create unnecessary costs due to waste.
“Manually designing labels with a series of numbers, images, or barcodes can be very time consuming and prone to errors,” points out Derhak.
SAi FlexiDESIGNER addresses the problem with variable data label applications through a serialization tool. It generates a series of labels with automatically changed data, including serial numbers, images, text, barcodes, or quick response codes. The variable data fields can be populated with automatic increments or a list extracted from a text file.
ArtiosCAD works with Esko Plato to lay out a design and maximize the sheet. The software also enables placing a graphic on a product to create a virtual proof or product illustration.
“ArtiosCAD lends itself well to creating custom designed shapes of one-up designs, using the die line as a secure layer in Adobe Illustrator, where it can be aligned and registered with graphics,” says Moore.
He suggests wine and spirits labels as an emerging, niche market. Many brands use paper-thin labels with a custom appliqué look, which were once glued onto the bottle.
“Today, with digital presses, pressure-sensitive materials are often used. With a digital workflow, the appliqué can be designed and output much easier and faster,” explains Moore.
DGS’ KASEMAKE solution uses the same tools for POP standees as for other structural designs like packaging, including templates, parameter input, and calculations. The company also offers an extra library for creating POP and trade show displays. Available as a free download, the additional elements primarily utilize foamboard and honeycomb board.
Rodriguez suggests that producing 2D graphics is so competitive that PSPs are limited to the price per square foot established by the market.
“With the ability to create 3D structural elements, any PSP—small or large—has access to a new world of applications that can be sold by the unit and based on the functionality of each application,” he says.
PSPs can use ArtiosCAD and Esko Studio tools to design and layout POP standees and other 3D components. The library includes templates and tools for creating end aisle, shelf, and standalone displays.
“This is the type of work where a PSP can really differentiate itself from a competitor and charge more for the value-add 3D expertise,” suggests Moore.
Posters and Banners
Graphic design and layout software is also well suited to traditional 2D applications like posters and banners.
Adobe Creative Suite, CorelDRAW, and QuarkXPress are tools for designing wide format graphics, including posters and banners. Each offers an assortment of features for producing and editing content.
Workflow tools and compatibility are key to a print provider’s design success.
PSPs “never know what file format their customer will use, and need to be able to work with anything. CorelDRAW has over 100 import/export formats,” notes Gerard Metrailler, VP, products, graphics and productivity, Corel Corporation.
In addition, “QuarkXPress also includes a built-in pre-flight feature—Job Jackets—that can identify potential output issues early in the design process. When your layout is ready to go, easy-to-use presets for print-ready PDFs make sure output will go without a hitch, including verified PDF/X-4 output,” says Matthias Gilke, global senior marketing manager, Quark Software Inc.
Canon U.S.A., Inc.’s PosterArtist is user friendly and designed for 2D applications like posters and banners. It offers numerous templates that are broken into segments—including business, education, restaurants, and special events—so users can locate the template best suited to their job.
As with other vendors, compatibility is important for PosterArtist. Page Capture allows the user to send Word documents, PowerPoint presentations, or graphs in Excel spreadsheets directly into the design.
The new Applications Tools available in ONYX 12, recently launched by ONYX Graphics, make it useful for designing posters, banners, and pop-up stands. “The new Bleed function adds borders to create pole pocket trim for banners or top/bottom extensions for pop-up stands, without the need to redesign the original artwork. New Grommet and Mark placement tools help create banners that are ready for finishing—no more need for manual measuring to find the center of the banner,” shares Bryan Manwaring, director of product management, ONYX.
Tools for New Ventures
Targeted software solutions allow a PSP to expand services by minimizing the learning curve for new applications, including packaging and prototypes, wall graphics, labels, and POP displays. These solutions help PSPs transform graphic elements from simple artwork to custom-made prints.
Sep2015, Digital Output