Last week I covered Durst’s new P5 family of wide format printers and ended with a promise to write about the Symphony software that accompanies these printers as well as the Durst Analytics offering that underpins Durst’s new approach to workflow.
Durst has created Symphony as a universal software that can be used in all its different types of printers. Many of the features were developed for the Tau label presses, and the system has already been previewed at the last Label Expo show. Hans Peter Schneeberger, CEO of Durst’s Prepress Digital software division, points out that there are already 50 label installations worldwide using this software. It will also be used to drive the Rho 130 single pass corrugated press that Durst previewed at the last Drupa and which is slowly nearing its commercial release. The Symphony software is also backwards compatible and will be made available for use with existing Durst wide format printers, once the company has finished with the P5 roll-out.
It’s a browser-based system, largely based on a Harlequin RIP from Global Graphics, which Schneeberger says is extremely fast and can handle multiple RIPs in parallel. I have to say that I am perpetually amazed that we do not see more printer manufacturers making use of the Harlequin RIP – this is the system that underpins HP’s T-series inkjet presses – and is, in my opinion, one of the most efficient RIP systems available for delivering vast amounts of data to a print engine.
Durst has also added Callas PDF Chip software, which is based on HTML and is extremely flexible. Schneeberger says Durst uses this for preflighting, adding: “We do PDF generation because we generate new versions of corrected PDF files with PDF Chip. We use this to do all our imposition.”
Durst has opted to integrate Color Logic (based in Germany and not the US Color-Logic that develops foiling solutions) into the mix for colour management. The company has a number of interesting options, including Zepra, a colour server that creates custom device link profiles. Schneeberger explains: “They provide us with a linear step and a profiling step and a correction step. They provide us with maybe eight device link profiles which we can tie together to create a big output profile with no loss of data. So it’s just one conversion at the end.”
He says that Harlequin’s built in colour management is not flexible enough, noting that it’s postscript based: “It’s a little bit old school for me!”
Durst is also developing a communications server, Concerto, that will link the presses via Symphony with an ERP or MIS. This in turn will mean that any print shop using an MIS-driven automated workflow will be able to include the Durst presses in future.
It’s also worth noting that Durst has developed a new interface for its P5 printers. The P5 series also gain a new 32ins touchscreen, with newly designed software. Barbara Schulz, Executive vice president global sales for Durst, says: “We watched operators to see how big a screen you need. There’s a fine line between what you do for marketing reasons to make it look great but the operator has to work with it.” The result is a completely new interface, driven by icons.
Separate to the workflow, Durst has also developed a new data analytics system. All printing machinery records a great deal of data about itself and the way that it works, mainly for maintenance and diagnostic purposes. This can include anything from the amount of ink used for a given job to whether or not any of the nozzles on the printheads are blocked, as well as how the actual maintenance routines that are carried out.
Some vendors have chosen to expose some of this data to third party RIP and MIS software or to allow customers to download user logs. Others, including Durst, are starting to go beyond this to offer a data analytics service to customers as part of a service plan. It’s a smart move – if you know how to interpret this data then you can take preventative maintenance steps, for example, replacing components at a shift change rather than having to stop in the middle of a job.
This sort of information can also be useful in understanding how you are using your printer and whether or not you are getting the most out of it. This data analysis can show what sort of jobs are consuming the most materials, and whether or not the machine is standing idle.
The idea appears to be to share a basic level of this information as part of the day to day maintenance of the printers but to charge for the more detailed, and therefore valuable information, as part of a Durst Analytics offering. No doubt, more details of this and the pricing of the P5 printers will emerge over the next month or so as the first machines become commercially available.
However, I think that Christoph Gamper, Durst’s chief executive, summed up Durst’s approach neatly, saying: “The new P5 platform, including workflow software and advanced service tools, represents our key strategy to further invest into large format printing technology and further afield.”
Essentially, Durst has exploited the synergies across all its market segments. In the past, Durst has used its inkjet expertise to develop its industrial ceramic and textile printers as well as its label presses, and now it is drawing on the workflow demands from those markets to squeeze more productivity from its wide format printers.