The Latest on Variable Data Printing

The Latest on Variable Data Printing

From Carmelo Diaz, for About.com

Digital color printing is becoming synonymous with Variable Data Printing (VDP). There’s no doubt about it, VDP has become the focal point of income generation for commercial printers. In theory, VDP allows for printing customized promotional materials that could possibly double or even triple response rates.The idea of personalized printing is amazing for commercial printers, may they be small or large businesses, that VDP is constantly a topic of conversation in the printing industry. And thanks to digital equipment manufacturers, software developers, database visionaries, etc. etc., VDP is finding some significant success. Many companies are now adopting strategies to help VDP become more popular even with the smaller industries. They are developing significant dents in technology and infrastructure to support VDP and provide software to make it work as easily as most of the other desktop applications. We in the industry expect to see significant advances still in years to come.

At present, here are some innovations and trends to help boost VDP in the world of digital printing.

Print Servers for VDP Only

Companies such as Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Creo, and EFI are building print servers around VDP. Such servers feature many functions specialized in producing one-off pieces with 100 percent variable data. RIPs are now able to operate fast enough to feed data to a print engine to produce VDP.EFI offers a complete VDP solution that includes Fiery FreeForm, PPML plus legacy languages, PageFlex Persona, PrintShop Mail-Fiery versions, and the new Fiery Q4000 color server. This color server integrates consistent color, network connectivity, centralized management, and a PDF-based workflow. A data center package connects to IBM mainframes or AS/400s while production features allow mixing of media, insertion of blank pages, subset finishing, such as stapling, sorting and collating, and tab printing and insertion of up to 40 tabs.

As part of their continuous service in promoting the development of VDP, EFI is also working with many companies to open up VDP possibilities for mid-range print engines from around 11ppm and to high-end and full production print engines of 25 ppm and up.

Software Solutions

Many software companies are now offering packages that help make VDP easier for users. They have Incorporated PPML to their packages as an open source solution to VDP. The companies include: Banta Integrated Media with DesignMerge 4.0; Creo and the Darwin Desktop authoring tool; Exstream Software with Dialogue; GMC Software with a suite of GMC PrintNet personalization software; IBM with AFP workflow for complex variable content documents; Printsoft with tools to create personalized documents and messages for print, email, fax, Internet, XML, and SMS; Xeikon with the new IntelliStream data workflow; Atlas Software’s PrintShop Mail that supports all major RIP technologies; and Think 121.com.These software companies formed a number of alliances and partnerships with major equipment manufacturers such as IBM, Oce, Xerox, HP Indigo, Canon, Ricoh, Xeikon, VersaMark, NexPress, itachi Koki, Man Roland, and Epson. While most software providers support open standards through PPML, they also support formats such as VIPP, VPS, FreeForm, PrintStreamer, PDF, PostScript, and XML.

This software, as well as more in development, cover a spectrum of applications, from desktop, lower volume, simple jobs that tend to be designed and printed quickly to complex, automated mainframe-based jobs that require extensive setup and operate with hands-off precision. Desktop applications are sometimes used to set up testing models for higher volume jobs, and some desktop applications will also handle large volume jobs.

From desktop jobs through complex jobs, Persona from PageFlex allows the user to design documents, including images, from scratch using standard GUI tool that support common design functions such as leading, kerning, justification, and hyphenation. The user can import Quark and PageMaker files and allow for changing window sizes for text, photos, and illustrations. Persona stores and reuses variable elements to maximize RIP speed to drive the printer at its rated engine speed. A librarian tool enables users to enter metadata for selecting rules to drive variable data as well as manage text and data. Jobs can be reviewed easily and, because it supports PPML, Persona works with many different print engines and servers.

Read on for the role of Print Devices in variable data printing.

Print Devices

Several four-color digital devices fit the bill for high-speed production. The Xerox DocuColor iGen3 is a sheet-fed printer that is just rolling off the line and promises better VDP printing. The DocuColor 6060 runs 60 ppm on 75- to 135-gsm stock with an 8,000-page capacity and three RIPs: Xerox DocuSP, Creo Spire, and EFI EXP6000. The Heidelberg NexPress 2100 has sold fewer than 200 presses but, because Heidelberg has a strong foothold in the commercial print market, it will sell many more to commercial printers. Running at 70 ppm and on a variety of substrates, the NexPress handles 100 percent variable data through the first PDF/PJTF implemented NexStation front end.Known for high-speed B&W machines, the Oce CPS700, a new seven-color machine that runs at 25 ppm in either simplex or duplex modes, can RIP and print at the same time. A new mono-layered system, which requires less heat to set toner to the page, prints the “look and feel” of 400 x 1600 dpi and doesn’t curl or distort the paper. Due to its quality, the CPS700 is expected to replace some faster machines in the VDP market.

Although it has a 300 dpi, the VersaMark Vantage produces 708 ppm, with a low operating cost. Its parent, Scitex Digital Printing, is working on a higher resolution print engine for printing utility bills, bank statements, and other high-volume consumer documents at high speeds for pennies per page. Experts expect this technology to be adapted by transaction printers to add marketing capabilities to their businesses.

The new HP Indigo line is the broadest in the market, with both six- and seven-color offerings with 800 dpi and up to 52 feet per minute production speeds. Additionally, some smaller digital printers from Canon, Epson, Konica, Hewlett-Packard, Toshiba, and Ricoh will handle variable data, and networking them can produce high-volume jobs. No matter how one dices resolution, speed and adaptability, digital-printing devices are ready to handle VDP.

For comments and questions about the article you may contact The Rush Printing Services Moderator at 888 888 4211 or visit http://www.rushprintingservices.com

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