Hamburg-based LSD Günter Neumann GmbH started out as a traditional screen printer and over the course of time has grown into a state-of-the-art, innovative digital printing company. Apart from press proofing, which is partly done with offset printing, the company has been part of the digital future for more than 15 years. Two things that have remained from the screen printing days are Neumann’s material diversity as well as its comprehensive expertise.
The pressroom features a Jeti 3020 Titan with UV-curable inks from Agfa Graphics, as well as roll-to-roll printers, which are either latex-based or solvent-ink-based. With its flat-bed design, the Jeti 3020 Titan uses a machine concept that is both trusted and accepted by screen printers. The 3.20 x 2.00 metre print bed is perfectly suited for processing board materials. Company owner Günter Neumann had this to say approximately two months after the printer was placed into operation: "With the Jeti Titan we can produce an average of 100 square metres per hour. It is especially with large, national campaigns that we benefit enormously from the Titan's additional output."
Much that we see around us every day is produced at the Hamburg company. The production portfolio ranges from self-adhesive films to banners, displays, signs, car advertising and backlit, and Günter Neumann sees almost limitless possibilities: "The market in Western Europe, and especially in Germany, requires two things nowadays: On the one hand the trend towards short print runs is continuing, but on the other hand all print jobs have to be completed in the shortest possible time."
Asanti – at new concept at the right time
Asanti was installed together with the Jeti Titan in Hamburg and aims to improve and speed up preparation of incoming print files so as to embrace the higher printing speeds of the new generation on the one hand, and to accommodate the fact that the number of jobs increases with shorter print runs. Based on the Apogee workflow, which is used at commercial printing companies, Agfa Graphics decided to develop its own workflow for sign and display printing. Thanks to an efficient workflow, jobs that were previously performed manually can be automated. Integrated solutions such as Asanti employ a client-server architecture where all of the necessary functions, such as nesting, rendering and color management, are combined and managed via a user interface. This eliminates the time-consuming back and forth between individual workstations and enables work group models, where several users can simultaneously process the print data for several printers via Asanti.
Günter Neumann: "The user will quickly notice that there is a lot of knowledge and expertise behind Asanti. However, we benefit most from the data preparation taking place independently from the printing process. This allows us to prepare the next job while the first job is being rendered in the background and sent to the machine."
The need for increased performance is especially quick to arise for systems that have several output devices connected to them. Additional satellite devices can be connected to the Asanti server, where we can outsource one or more processes for performance reasons. In addition, computing-intensive processes such as rendering can be operated in parallel multiple times, which increases performance. The system automatically distributes upcoming jobs. In a multiple-computer setup, heightened security requirements can also be complied with by means of failover scenarios (automatic mirroring of resources and the job database) or through virtualisation.
Intuitive user interface
For user Jens Bohlmann, Asanti's strength lies in the simplicity of its user interface: "After the print data have been imported using drag & drop, the user is guided through the job creation process by the system in a step by step fashion. The user interface is highly visual and very easy to use. We started producing jobs immediately after the training."
The incoming files are checked during import. Any shortcomings or notes, such as regarding insufficient image resolution or RGB color spaces, are clearly listed in a test report. After the printing stock and format have been entered, the user can pull individual or several files onto the print bed and place them there either numerically or visually, with elements easily being distributed, aligned with each other and grouped.
"Compared to other RIP solutions, Asanti's user interface is easy to use and clear," says Günther Neumann, and adds: "Even as a user who does not work with the system on a daily basis, I can find my way just fine every time."
Print marks such as crop marks, job or type identification, barcodes or registration marks for finishing can be automatically added with mark sets. In addition to the graphical element, the mark sets also contain positioning and size information that can be defined independent of the use or the stock material. This means that the same sets can be used for all media dimensions and page sizes.
"I have noticed one thing," Neumann continues: "Asanti is a super-fast rip." It is based on Adobe PDF Print Engine (APPE) version 3.0, which is also being used in Apogee. As an Adobe Gold Solution Partner, implementing the newest version of APPE is always the highest priority for Agfa Graphics. Users benefit from reliable results and increased compatibility with new data formats. "As a printing services provider we receive files from various sources," explains Neumann and adds: "It is enormously important to us to be able to feed the files through the workflow as seamlessly as possible."
The APPE natively processes PDF files with prior reduction of transparent objects. Agfa Graphics developed the employed rastering especially for use in inkjet printers, and the process was also optimised for the conditions of the various Anapurna and Jeti models.
The joy of colour
Colours are not simply colours. People tend to associate special emotions with various colours, hence sayings such as "green with envy" or "seeing red". It is therefore eminently important for designers and marketing experts in particular for the desired colour shade to be perfectly reproduced.
One of the focal points during Asanti's development process was therefore on colour production, which was additionally supposed to be easy to operate by users. It was an ambitious goal which was nevertheless within the company's grasp because Agfa Graphics not only develops software but inks and devices as well - hence everything is produced under one roof. "The Calibrated Print Mode (CPM) provided by Agfa Graphics yields fantastic results," user Bohlmann explains and adds: "We use the supplied profiles without adapting them to polyester, PVC, Dibond or twin-wall sheets."
Nevertheless, if a new profile does need to be created due to a special material, then the user can easily make this himself based on an existing CPM. To this end, the user only needs to print out a three-line linearisation chart and a profile chart and measure it with the spectral photometer. The newly created profile is placed in the media hub and is immediately available to all users and for all jobs. The time needed to create a new profile is less than 10 minutes.
"For manufacturers of brand-name goods, colour-true reproduction of the corporate colours is always very important. "Asanti's comprehensive spot colour libraries are a big help in this respect," continues Bohlmann. "Exact reproduction of pantone or HKS colours on various materials is no problem thanks to the reliable ICC profiles. And if something does need to be adjusted a bit, correction of the library is fast and easy." However, he also sees potential for improvement in this area: "It would be great if this same correction option existed for CMYK-based colours as well, not just the special colours.
Another important component of Asanti's colour production is the patented SISR (Smart Input Space Recognition) technology, which corrects missing ICC profiles in customer-supplied files. To this end, SISR analyses the colour separations and adds the most likely profile to the image - or the entire file. The user is informed about the missing profile and the intended correction in a test report generated by Asanti Preflight - in accordance with the motto 'Automation is nothing without control'. Thanks to the correction, all data can be securely sent to the color space, no matter how cleanly the data supplier did his job. "The colour quality of the printing on the Titan convinced us from the very first print job," summarises Günther Neumann. "Everything is inherently perfectly coordinated."
What will the future bring?
"Asanti is set for the future," stresses Neumann. "Today we are primarily using the solution as a RIP, but we are already benefitting enormously from the client-server architecture, which is the basis for being able to prepare jobs while the previous job is being rendered in the background and sent to the printer. In the final production stage Asanti operates as a central workflow server through which the various users prepare the data for all of our printers as well as for finishing devices. This will help us maintain efficiency in a market environment that is characterised by increasingly smaller print runs, a higher degree of personalisation and shorter lead times."