Sizing Up Software
Functional specialties can help tailor prepress software to flexo, offset and other package printing processes.
By Susan Friedman
With commercial offset prepress needs nearly down pat, software suppliers' focus on package printing continues to intensify, with heavy emphasis on flexographic particularities.
"Because flexography and offset represent the biggest installed base of printing presses, they are the biggest arenas for more specialized prepress software," comments Alex Hamilton of Computers & Communications Consulting.
Ray Fennelly, applications manager at Contex, links flexo software growth to the process' steady transition from art to science.
Package printers seeking process-specific software won't always find "Just For Flexo" stamped on the box. Instead, suppliers generally specialize in a particular prepress function, such as trapping, explains Dave Burgess, product manager, package printing, at Creo Products. An open prepress workflow will enable a range of programs to handle problematic areas of a specific process, he says.
Software's functional specialties are also reorganizing prepress departments, separating staff members into distinct groups with responsibilities for critical color, package structure and plate assembly, says Susie Stitzel, product manager, Contex.
Prepress software which accurately prepares package or label files for a specific printing process can come in several different forms. First, a growing number of independently developed packaging software plug-ins are emerging to accompany off-the-shelf design programs for Macintosh and PC platforms such as QuarkXPress and Adobe Photoshop.
A lowly apprentice production's PlateMaker 2.0 plug-in for Photoshop allows any number of custom color, spot color or varnish plate separations to be produced from a Photoshop image, and saves the separations in one file. Without the plug-in, Photoshop limits users to CMYK or grayscale separations; special color effects must be created with manual stripping or a duplicate of the document. Product Manager Greg Hatem relates expanded custom and spot color capability is of particular benefit to flexo printing.