Opening New Doors
Packaging-specific prepress technologies are opening new lines of communication, unprecedented quality-enhancement opportunities for printers, and strategic alliances between suppliers.
by Terri McConnell
"It doesn't get any better than this" was one of the first principles I was taught 15 years ago as a fledgling mechanical artist. Thankfully the statement wasn't a commentary on my career potentialit was a strong warning that as layouts moved through the analog printing process, image quality had generally nowhere to go but down.
I also remember another warning: "When a press operator walks through those swinging doors carrying plates, pray he's not looking for you."
In those days, little or no communication existed between the distinct operations of prepress and printing. Except to push through another helping of the hundred or so plates we produced every day, the doors were rarely opened from our side. We hoped they never opened from the other side.
It's gratifying to see how two decades of technology development has changed that. The ability to generate art electronically, and digitally preserveeven enhanceimage quality, has made prepress arguably the most forgiving phase of the printing cycle. And, as we reach the point where printing presses can actually "eat" digital data, those plateroom doors are practically swinging off their hinges.
Silencing the skeptics
The capabilities of today's electronic prepress systems have so validated the advances and advantages of new technology that one rarely encounters the "is this just a flash-in-the-panskepticism" expressed by early critics. But what are those capabilities? How do package printers, who may not have in-house prepress, benefit from them?
Traditionally, packaging segments of the printing industry have been behind the curve in adopting digital technologies. Until recently, most software and hardware developers weren't building solutions with such packaging-specific considerations as custom traps, spot colors, overprints, nesting, and dot-gain compensation. Electronic packaging systems were often more expensive and more complex to integrate than those designed for commercial printing prep.