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Diving into Digital Workflows

(April 2013) posted on Tue May 07, 2013

Key features to consider when assessing workflow-management software and its role in digital imaging.


By Bill Hartman

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Creating a bleed is a helpful tool as well (Figure 2). If the cut contour is exactly on the edge or border of the graphics, and if the print and cut are not exactly in registration, then small, unseemly white spaces can be seen at the edge of the artwork. To prevent this, a workflow can provide an automatic bleed. Depending upon the power of the tool, it can even clone image pixels if there is no image data available.

Challenge: Making plans for the hardware One of the manually tedious chores is adding supporting marks for hardware or additional finishing—seams or grommet marks, for example. A workflow is able to automatically place them on a graphic, eliminating the need for an operator to do it. It saves time and reduces the possibility for errors. A workflow can also work with oversized jobs and billboards, offering interactive adjustments for specialty purposes. They usually allow the operator to add gaps or overlaps of variable sizes. Irregular tiles can be defined for special applications such as exhibition booth corners, wall coverings, or store displays.

Challenge: Saving as much material as possible As any sign and display company knows, materials do not come cheap, and it’s important to use them to the maximum. Good workflows offer intelligent nesting, to create an optimized sheet quickly in layout (Figure 3), with perfect registration between print and cut files.

Individually prepared designs can be combined onto the substrate. Workflows can optimize each sheet, based on the quantity specified for each design. Optimization can be achieved in different ways. If the displays use irregular shapes, sheets can be optimized by nesting the designs based on their cut contours (Figure 4). This is not available on all workflows, as most software will nest designs based on the bounding box of the design, which results in material waste. When working with rectangular shapes, a workflow can optimize the sheet by making certain it will have the least cuts when finishing.

The process can be further optimized by looking for a sheet that can be re-used. Sometimes, deadlines make it impossible to wait to fill a full piece of material. A workflow-management solution can keep track, in its memory, of available scrap material for later use. This reduces waste dramatically even when meeting very tight deadlines.


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