When speaking with prospects and customers about their RIP and workflow needs, I’m often surprised to find out just how many different RIPs are in use at their shops. I usually find this out when asking about other output devices if other output devices are running alongside their computer-to-plate imager. Their responses run the gamut from old HP and Epson proofers to DI style presses, to brand new digital inkjet presses. In almost every case, there are dedicated RIPs in front of each unit, which means there’s a lot of software that gets neglected when new versions are released. It also means there is plenty of room for problems.
Why? Interpretive differences, additional upgrade expense, and separate maintenance costs, to name a few. Plus, it can be a burden on prepress operators when they have to learn and remember how various settings are applied in five or six different pieces of software. Honestly, I have to give them credit for keeping it all straight.
The silly part is, it doesn’t necessarily have to work this way. One of the advantages of working in a Harlequin RIP environment is that the same RIP can often drive several devices at once thanks to “plug-in” technology. Using the Navigator RIP as an example, you can drive your CTP engine through a USB interface or by delivering one-bit TIFF files to the CTP’s TIFF catcher and at the same time use an Epson “plug-in” to drive a proofing device.
Further, there is a plug-in to drive OKI engines for short run color applications, a DI plug-in that will drive almost all of the direct imaging presses available, and plug-ins to drive virtually all of the Memjet-based inkjet printers based on the popular AstroJet M1. There’s even a way to drive devices for which a direct plug-in isn’t available. It’s called Raster PDF and it allows you to RIP jobs into a PDF file that doesn’t need to be re-interpreted by whatever device you’re printing to.
The bottom line is, if you can feed all your work through a single RIP/workflow then you only have one that you need to keep current. Interpretive differences disappear, maintenance costs are reduced, and the training curve for prepress employees is greatly lessened.