The ‘cloud’ has been touted as a saviour for any industry relying on IT; these days, that’s pretty much every industry. Vendors have been quick to respond by branding their products as ‘cloud solutions’. One supplier who won’t be seen jumping on the cloud bandwagon is Yves Roussange from Colour Process. He says slow internet speeds mean that for some applications, cloud solutions could “go away very quickly because everything is going very slow.”
To be clear, he’s not disagreeing with the importance of the internet to today’s printing industry. Printing is just one of a multitude of sector that rely on fast web connections for day-to-day operations. The sheer size of file whizzing between clients and printers means that they are particularly hungry users of broadband capacity. It is for this reason that Roussange says printers should tread carefully before investing in a full-blown remote, cloud-based preflighting system.
Australia still lags behind other developed nations in broadband speeds, he says. “We don’t have the freeway or Autobahn we need to be efficient. Compared with Europe, we are way behind. The problem today with a lot of technology like preflighting is that everything is on an external server, in the US or Europe or Singapore. So with file delivery, the client uploads to the server for pre-flighting and if there is an error, they need to upload again, then the printer needs to download again. It is in the pipe twice.”
This is not the case with Atomyx Portal, the PDF submission and pre-flighting tool that Colour Process recently launched in Australia. The software, which is a co-production, using Callas Software’s PDF engine with development from Belgium-based Four Pees and Colour Process, is installed locally at a printers’ premises (the package includes a Mac Mini to run the system).
According to software developer Four Pees, Atomyx “streamlines PDF file submission with built-in quality control and correction, gathers required job information – metadata – and provides immediate client feedback. Atomyx Portal is based on the open-source content management system Drupal and on proven PDF Toolbox preflight and correction technology from Callas.”
Bridging the gap
Atomyx sits in a gap between high-end automation software like Enfocus Switch, which can come with a suitable high price tag, and ad hoc file delivery systems like email, FTP and MailBigFile type services. According to Four Pees, clients without a specific content delivery and preflighting system like Atomyx “lose precious time receiving emails, looking at attachments, trying to discover what the order is about, opening jobs in Acrobat, checking quality and sending back emails with remarks to clients over and over again”.
With Atomyx, clients upload their artwork directly to this server. The file is processed for colour management and common issues such as low-resolution images or missing fonts. The client can then view a preview of the first page of the PDF and download a low-res PDF to check the content of this “normalised” PDF matches what they submitted. Roussange points out that this “low-res PDF reflects 100% what will be printed”.
If everything suits them, the client can approve the PDF and fill out a form with vital information, such as quantity. This metadata is stored in an XML file that can be accessed manually or delivered to the workflow, such as Apogee, Prinergy or Switch, along with the PDF. Roussange says Atomyx “can be integrated with any system capable of importing XML data”.
The fact the preview exactly matches the print-ready PDF, should help avoid costly mistakes, says Roussange.
“When there are errors, like if the font is different, this costs them money: they need to pay the click charge twice.”
Another selling point for Atomyx is its open source architecture, says Roussange. The software is built using the Drupal content management platform. This means Atomyx users can get under the bonnet of the software and tinker away, without incurring the kinds of hefty costs often associated with custom software development.
A quick look at the Drupal homepage shows the kind of modifications that are readily available. There are nearly 1,500 themes to tweak the look and feel of the system and nearly 18,000 modules to upgrade the functionality. If a printer does not have a Drupal specialist on hand, Colour Process and Four Pees can help facilitate this.
The ease with which Atomyx Portal can be customised should not be underplayed, says Roussange. For instance, he points to a recent installation of Enfocus Switch that Colour Process conducted at a Melbourne printer. The software constituted 40% of the cost of the project, while development time made up the other 60%.
When it comes to Atomyx, Roussange says many web designers know Drupal “and could customise the interface and make it look professional and put more services behind it”, such as a shopping cart for a web-to-print system.
The install price is relatively low, at $5,800 plus GST, which is important, says Roussange, because printers in Australia are just not prepared to put their hands too deeply in their pocket
for software. “It is a hard sell,” he admits.
While printers are used to spending “half a million dollars” for CTP or printing equipment, it is difficult to
get them to part with money for something as esoteric as software,
despite its increasing importance.
This hesitance to invest prompted Roussange to go back to the Atomyx head office in Europe and convince them to take a different approach to the pricing model for Australia. Rather than buy the system outright, users can opt for a pay-as-you-go approach, every three months.
“The quarterly arrangement is new for Australia. We are the guinea pigs. In Europe, they want to own it outright. The dealers who sell Callas or Enfocus, they don’t want to be paid monthly,
they want it upfront.
“I am listening to the Australian market, where people don’t want to commit to anything in this economic situation. If they don’t want it after a year, they stop paying it, problem solved.”
Implementing Atomyx is very straightforward, says Roussange. “I can walk into any printer and install it and it will be running after a day. The only thing you need to set up is a connection
to the website and it is done.”
He says that the ideal Atomyx user would be a print shop that is operating a number of different file delivery and management systems, such as email, YouSendIt and FTP. They would immedi-a-tely see the benefit or coordinating this within one system.
It is more likely this prospective client would be a digital printer, who tend to be more switched on about workflow automation, says Roussange. “I would say 1-5% of print plants have an understanding of what PDF normalising means, and the rest, nothing.”
The other reason Roussange thinks digital printers should sit up and listen is because Atomyx particularly proves its worth for the kinds of short-run, low-value jobs that suit a small on-demand company. If the wrong font is run on a digital job of, say, 20 booklets, the click charge of the replacement run could represent the entire margin on the job.
“If they normalise the PDF with Atomyx, they get a streamlined delivery with the clients and will save a lot of money because when they print, they print what the client has approved.”
Roussange is optimistic about Atomyx’s potential in Australia, and expects to see the first sales by the end of the year.
Atomyx Portal is a delivery portal with a PDF normaliser to replace FTP and email delivery of PDF files and allow clients to preview and approve normalised print-ready files.
Callas PDF Toolbox
Fee: $1,336.50+GST per quarter
Colour Process (02) 8006 4985
The system automates repetitive tasks in the printing workflow, anything from file receipt, file conversion, preflighting and imposition via any of the third-party applications for which it
Switch aims to replace ad hoc workflows that printers have devised themselves, combining hot folders and scripting to provide automation. Roussange says that rather than an alternative, Switch is the next level of automation after the entry level represented by Atomyx Portal.
Colour Process is also the supplier for Switch in Australia, where it
is sold as the SwitchBox package, which combines Switch with Callas PDF Toolbox, Elpical Claro-Single, Axaio MadeToPrint and Enfocus PitStop Connect and Server.
Price Varies depending on configuration, says Roussange. “You have three components to calculate the cost of Switch – first Switch itself with eight different modules, second, all the third-party software needed to be run within Switch 11 and third, the professional service fee for the development of the workflows and integration.”
He claims SwitchBox will be repaid in less than six months compared with a pre-press operator’s wage.
Contact (02) 8006 4985 www.colourprocess.com.au
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