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Cheers to your RIP! Wait, what’s a RIP?

Updated: Apr 23, 2020

I was all set to write about a topic that doesn’t get explained enough - or at least comprehensively enough – and my friend Martin Bailey at Global Graphics managed to beat me to it. Martin and I both get asked all too often, “What does a RIP do?” You can see how friends and acquaintances might ask us that in the context of the following:

Them: “What do you do for a living?”

Us: “Our company makes RIP software”

Them: “RIP? What does a RIP do?”

Us: “Sit down. You’re going to need a beer.”

But you’d be surprised how often the question comes up when talking to customers about their prepress workflows and CTP engines. To many, a RIP’s purpose is a mystery. For Martin’s excellent musing, click here: That way I won’t be plagiarizing.

Providing you read and understood his explanation, there’s a little bit to add from the Xitron side. First, there’s prepress workflow, which may perform several functions prior to a job being RIPed. Prepress workflows are generally designed to automate several tasks that, for years, were manual steps performed by prepress operators. These include checking the job files for errors, verifying the right fonts are included, mapping ink colors to the proper plates, or constructing the proper imposition (arranging the pages to minimize waste and speed the process of printing, cutting, and binding). A good workflow like Xitron’s Navigator Server software does all these things automatically (mostly) so operators have more time to push more jobs out to press.

Second, after RIPing, there’s the actual communication of the raster data to the CTP engine, or what Martin generically refers to as the marking device. For the last twenty years or so, Xitron’s engineers have developed the means for Harlequin RIPs to “speak” to CTP systems; not an easy task as they all speak different languages. By pairing a RIP plug-in, or translator, with a Xitron interface that speaks the CTP engine’s communication language, the Harlequin RIP can drive almost any CTP engine available.

Now that you know what a RIP does, you’ll probably have different questions for Martin and me next time you see us. We can still have that beer though. I think Martin will insist on it.

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