Mileage for printers in hybrid workflows
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By Laurel Brunner
11 November 2011
SmartStream offers an option for hybrid workflow support, with the scope to route files to different engines
Digital workflows are the engines of print production. Increasing numbers of developers are building hybrid workflow systems to support both conventional and digital printing processes. A hybrid workflow allows a printer to choose different output paths for jobs within the same production system, for instance to digital printer or to flexo plate. As is the case with other areas of print, a hybrid workflow can benefit sign and display production economics.
Hybrid workflows offer printers several advantages, despite being a bit difficult to implement. Hybrid workflows also offer customers considerable output flexibility, so that their files can be printed as cost effectively as possible at multiple sites, using multiple output technologies. Fortunately for most sign and display printers, customers aren't necessarily fully aware of what this might mean when it comes to buying services. Sign- and display producers can therefore turn the threat of customers shopping around into a benefit by offering to manage the process for them.
But hybrid workflows are of greatest benefit to printers. Managing the workflow for multiple output options provides a tool for load balancing across devices and processes. The option to print digitally or conventionally can be a huge aid to cost management. It is also a handy way to get the workflow system to help maximise returns on capital equipment, and to keep production levels within the scope of service agreements. And effective workflow controls can be an aid in managing engines for maintenance or repair, which again helps reduce costs.
Hybrid workflows are relatively new for the sign and display sector. However, manufacturers with interests in a range of print sectors such as HP, which serves wide-format, commercial and industrial ink-jet sectors, are keen to develop their systems to support multiple output paths. The basic infrastructure for this is already in place with systems such as HP's SmartStream able to route jobs to different output paths. However we can expect to see such capabilities extend to reach across a wider range of output options, with greater control over different production parameters, from digital presses, analogue engines, and ultimately to electronic devices.
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