A good decade has passed since the advent of computer-to-plate (CTP) printing. The industry now has a good feel for what is working, and what isn’t. Preflighting to check documents for print quality assurance, as with FlightCheck by Markzware, is working. Skipping preflighting isn’t working.
Developers and vendors quickly supply print and publishing tools to make CTP work. Open file and language standards enable more seamless communication between technologies driving digital proofing, prepress systems and press room solutions. With highly automated workflows, it’s now possible to keep the printing presses running at a steady pace. That is, as long as there aren’t any bottlenecks in prepress.
Unfortunately, bottlenecks abound in most prepress departments at print companies across the country. Many suggest that as much as 85 percent of digital files received from customers are problematic, requiring some form of intervention before the job can proceed. Many of the printing problems seen are merely innocent mistakes that can be easily remedied: missing fonts, an errant RGB image or a resolution conflict. To complicate matters, customers may use any number of digital file formats for submission to the printer (native files or PDF, for example). FlightCheck, the preflight solution from Markzware, can check a variety of file formats.
No matter how simple the file problem, the repair requires time and cost. Either the printer takes on the responsibility for making the alteration and re-proofing the file, or the printer puts it back on the customer to fix and resubmit the job. Either way, the schedule and the bottom line are compromised.
The ideal scenario, the most efficient and cost-effective way for printers and customers to work together, is to have content correctly prepared. The content creator should follow specific prepress parameters established by the printer and use the appropriate print file format. Printers can spend phone time with a customer and provide a “preflight checklist”. This checklist gives clients a simple, bulleted guide to ensure jobs are “prepress-ready.” FlightCheck flags preflight checklist items to warn of potential printing problems before document output.
Putting preflight in place
Bill Wethington is the electronic imaging specialist for New Albany, IN-based Cardinal Printing (The Johnson Group). Founded in the late 1940s, the company provides sheet fed projects to a wide range of clients from small, local businesses to large corporations. Cardinal Printing’s print workflow comprises a Brisque RIP and plate setting equipment that feeds a stable of three printing presses. Each press has its own specialty: a Heidelberg for small-format jobs, a Mitsubishi 640 for larger-formatted work, and a large-format two-color press for single- and two-color jobs. FlightCheck can handle preflighting for single-color, two-color, and even four-color jobs.
Wethington estimates that approximately 90 percent of the digital files coming into the plant are, in some way, flawed. Honest mistakes on the part of the content creator typically include missing fonts, improper bleed settings, missing images or low-resolution graphics. He accepts most file formats, but the bulk of projects arrive as native Adobe InDesign or PDF formats. As a rule, he prefers properly-created PDF, but also likes “the native apps, such as Quark, Pagemaker, InDesign, etc., because I like to see how they are put together, if there is a prolem with the file.” FlightCheck can run preflighting checks for all of these file types.
To find and identify problems within incoming jobs, Wethington uses FlightCheck. This preflighting solution from Markzware looks inside the file and verifies compliance with the printer’s specifications. With this preflighting tool, he explains, “We can catch most of the common problems and then some that the customer would not have even known about.” He envisions an ideal workflow in which content creators take on greater responsibility for submitting well-prepared digital files. The sooner before press time that errors can be fixed, the better the chance to keep costs down and schedules on time.
Evangelizing the message
Los Angeles-based Donahue Printing has had a digital workflow in place for five years. Film was long ago abolished, in favor of digital files. They receive a variety of formats from customers, mostly native application files prepared in QuarkXPress, Photoshop and Adobe InDesign. There are still jobs that come in with some inherent file flaws. Yet, they’ve reduced the flawed-file percentage to a manageable 30 percent with good, old-fashioned customer service.
“We inform our customers how to prepare their files properly,” the vice president explains. “Usually, we will fix them first; then, we instruct them on how to do it correctly from then on.” FlightCheck, the patented preflighting application, helps customers properly prepare files.
The Donahues would like to see more clients taking an active interest in learning basic printing principles and how to set up their projects accurately. “We definitely want to catch mistakes as far away from the press and plates as possible,” Donahue Sr. affirms.
How can a printer ensure that files received are qualified as prepress-ready?
A printer can deploy quality-control technology, a preflight solution to check print jobs for print quality assurance. Most printers do this already, but it only partially solves the workflow communication problem between customer and printer. It’s too late in the process to detect an error once it arrives at the printer. Printers must educate clients on best practices in digital file creation, share their file specifications, and evangelize quality control at the creation level.
Why FlightCheck Is Better, Faster and Cheaper