Global Graphics has updated its Harlequin RIP to Version 12.1 with a number of improvements, mainly aimed at the labels and packaging markets. This follows on from last year’s v12 release, which introduced support for PDF 2.0.
This latest version of Harlequin now supports the ISO 19593‐1 standard for PDF Processing Steps that was introduced last year. Martin Bailey, chief technical officer for Global Graphics, explains: “If you are aiming to print a folded carton then you need to be able to work with the cut and fold lines and other marks for varnishing, foiling and even braille.” Most converters would have to manually create technical separations but this new standard specifies a standard way of encoding processing steps such as die and fold lines or dimensions into a PDF file. It means that the technical content can be set up in a way that everyone understands easily.
Bailey continues: “We have added controls in the RIP together with extensions that treat these marks as processing step so that the RIP can be set up to turn off the technical marks, or to print just those marks to check them, or even just some of the marks, if foiling, for example, is processed on a separate device.”
Converters can automate this within their digital press workflows, for example, starting a print run with a few iterations of just the cut and fold lines for checking registration with dies and other finishing equipment, then turning off the processing marks during the final print run, before printing a few more copies of just the technical separations at the end to detect if registration with cutters and converting equipment has drifted during the job.
Harlequin 12.1 also introduces seamless screening for repeats for flexo sleeves and gravure cylinders, where there is typically a zip line. Harlequin 12.1 adjusts the halftones, automatically creating a screen that wraps around the sleeve or cylinder. The seamless screening can be applied to all screening types where the screening is applied by Harlequin itself, including spot function, threshold and tile-based.
Global Graphics has also managed to improve the overall performance, particularly when working with multiple spot colours. Bailey says he was surprised to find that some label and packaging converters work with up to 30 spot colours. He adds that new developments in inkjet presses are putting increasing pressure on the RIP, with many vendors now moving from 600 x 600 dpi resolution to 1200 x 1200 dpi, which adds up to 4x faster bit rate, and with vendors looking for speeds of 100mpm or more. He points out that many label and packaging converters also want to run orange, green and violet, as well as white and varnish alongside CMYK, all of which requires 20x more processing time than previously.
Indeed, Bailey says that there are some inkjet presses that consume an astonishing 45GB/sec of data – this presumably refers to HP’s Inkjet Web Press. This requires a lot of hardware to process this amount of data, and push it through to the printheads, and Global Graphics has worked hard over the years to optimise the way that Harlequin processes data in order to reduce the hardware requirement for its OEM customers, which ultimately should make life easier for the print service providers using those presses.
Harlequin 12.1 also gains a new scalable RIP feature, which is really just a formal acknowledgement of a framework that Global Graphics has developed over some years for handling multiple RIP servers in parallel. Bailey says that in the beginning the OEM partners would have done this themselves but now it’s built into the RIP, with Bailey saying that it’s now complete enough to warrant its own name. Essentially, it consists of an API that splits the job across all the available RIPs and tracks the progress, so that a separate API delivers the rasters out of the back in the right sequence, even if some pages have been processed faster than others.
This works across three levels, starting with a single RIP for light production and wide format printers. Then there’s a single server scaleable RIP for mid-range digital devices and a multi-server scaleable RIP for high speed digital presses.
Global Graphics has also added support for Windows Bitmap files. Bailey acknowledges that this is a legacy format but says “we have had a lot of requests, especially in wide format.”
There are two flavours of Harlequin available. The Multi-RIP edition is aimed at conventional printers and light digital devices, while the Host Renderer is designed for high speed digital presses. Global Graphics has already shipped the new version to its OEM partners so expect to see these features appearing in RIPs shortly.
You can find more details at www.globalgraphics.com.