Direct is a new graphics pipeline that sends data directly to the printhead electronics instead of writing to disk, and so reduces image processing times significantly, handles large volumes of data with ease and accelerates the time to print.
‘Direct is a new way of looking at things,’ said Eric Worrall, Global Graphics Software’s VP of product management. ‘Rather than expecting print service providers and press manufacturers to make do with a workflow that may have driven a flexo or a litho press, which is so often the case, Direct is created from the ground up specifically for the digital world and is compatible with any digital press. We started with the toughest requirements for data and image quality because once you’ve cracked that problem, you can scale back from there for less demanding environments with the appropriate choice of hardware.’
Industry data rates are accelerating: press resolutions are moving from 600dpi to 1200dpi, a quadrupling of data; speeds are increasing to up to 300 metres per minute/1000 feet per minute; presses can be up to 4 metres wide (13 feet) and extended gamut inks use many more ink channels than before with multi-level screening up to 7 drop sizes on inkjet presses.
A Direct workflow protects the investment in a press made by the print service provider and the press manufacturer by building in the flexibility needed to future-proof print production at the outset. This means that the capability of a press is not limited as data rates increase and the press does need to be reengineered to meet future requirements, for instance transitioning from a static to a fully variable workflow.
Direct integrates together several technologies from Global Graphics Software. Jobs entering the workflow are streamlined to optimise their processing through the RIP with innovative new software called Streamline Direct. Files are RIPped by Harlequin Direct, using the fastest RIP engine in the world, or screened by the award-winning ScreenPro Direct with PrintFlat to achieve the optimal quality at speed. Direct can be tightly integrated with printhead drive electronics and software from Global Graphics subsidiary Meteor Inkjet, or with other common drive electronics from other vendors.
Global Graphics Software has developed solutions for some of the hardest engineering tasks in digital printing by partnering with its OEM customer base. Working through challenges set by some of the industry’s leading brands has led to the development of Direct.
‘When aiming for the highest possible image pipeline speed,’ continued Worrall, ‘it’s important to be able to integrate with tight knowledge and access to each component, to squeeze out every bit of performance. You can only do that if you have control and access to all components. Global Graphics Software is uniquely placed in the market as we have access to every line of code for every component; we don’t need to request features and knowledge from any third-party suppliers.’
Direct brings print service providers the benefits of increased processing speeds and enhanced image quality. Productivity is higher, even on complex jobs with large amounts of variable data, because the time to RIP and screen data is significantly reduced.
Direct has been designed to be part of a fully automated print solution, supporting Industry 4.0 telematics and integration with PLCs and MIS systems, where feedback from the print line such as a quality inspection system, can help automatically correct for any issues as they occur.
For press vendors, Direct removes the software development effort from their in-house teams so that they can get their presses to market more quickly. Because Direct has been engineered to meet the demands of fully variable data from the outset, it gives manufacturers the option to use lower performance PC hardware for less demanding (static or mixed data) jobs. This is achieved by RIP-ping on the fly and streaming image data in memory directly to the printer electronics so there is no need to waste the time to RIP ahead to disk and no need for huge image stores holding vast amounts of data.
Harlequin Direct and ScreenPro Direct are cross platform, supporting Windows and Linux and optimised for Intel i9, Xeon and AMD Ryzen Threadripper CPUs. Both can be used with Meteor NozzleFix technology. Harlequin Direct and ScreenPro Direct can also be used with Meteor Mixed Mode to reduce the hardware costs for markets that mix static and variable data (Zoned Variable Data).
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