Product of the Month - EFI Fiery IC-308

As the need for digital print firms to differentiate becomes obvious, the Fiery DFE proves to be an enabler, finds out Rushikesh Aravkar.

14 Oct 2016 | By Rushikesh Aravkar

Surat’s commercial print market, which rests on the back of the seven lakh power-looms in the city, is probably the most competitive in the country. The competition is so ruthless that the digital print firms are ready to sell an A3 colour digital print at Rs 4.5. In such a scenario, time and again, the progressive print firms in the city have adopted the “differentiate to survive” strategy to save their margins. In the last couple of years, several offset printers have deployed GMG colour management software to achieve differentiation.

Of the 100+ digital production presses that have mushroomed in Surat, with a majority of them carrying a Konica Minolta label. They are on the lookout for differentiation. A few among them have realised how a robust RIP can enhance the output of the push-button digital printing technology.

It started with Nidhi Fashion Studio, a digital print shop that deals in high-end catalogues, invested in a Konica Minolta C1100 with Fiery digital front-end. “The quality difference in our EFI driven prints and others in the market was quite evident,” says Navneet of Nidhi Fashion.

Following the suite, in more than six new Konica Minolta deals sealed by TechNova in Surat recently, print firms have opted for EFI Fiery IC-308 controller by paying an additional 10-15% on the machine cost.

TechNova’s Vivekanand Singh says, “It’s a new trend in the city. Fiery has provided them an edge over their peers with fast processing speed, outstanding colour, and time-saving workflow. Fiery has helped them improve bottomlines.”

For instance, Fashion Advertising, a digital print shop established in 2014, houses three Konica Minolta 1100s, one with KM controller and the latest two with EFI Fiery. Yogesh Koladiya, director, Fashion Advertising is impressed with the ability of Fiery to reproduce light colours, detailing and depth for saree catalogues. “Fiery has better control on colours and is able to reproduce a wider colour gamut,” adds Koladiya.

In March 2016, when an offset print firm Shilp Art implemented a new digital strategy in order to tap short-run fashion catalogues and other low volume commercial print jobs for the local textile market it invested in a Konica Minolta C1100 cut-sheet digital colour press and EFI’s Fiery digital front-end.

“When we thought of making a digital move, the requirement was to have an exact match on demanding tints and solids such that the GMG proofs and the final print in case of both offset and digital are consistent. That’s where the Fiery DFE played a vital role. Even though opting for Fiery DFE meant spending extra bucks, when you see the prints you realise the worth,” says Nanavati.

It’s a positive sign that print firms are realising the significance of digital front-end in print quality, agrees Andy Yarrow, director channel sales – APAC, EFI. “The jobber market competes mostly on price. As quality standards in the market improve, those shops will need to adapt to survive.”

“The companies who have higher standards for print quality use Fiery servers to produce the differentiation of higher output quality and as the cost of employing people becomes more and more important the IC-308 enables workflow automation to lower costs and make jobs more profitable.”

Greater automation
The Fiery IC-308 was launched in June 2015 to drive the Konica Minolta Bizhub presses: C1060, C1070, C1070P, C1085, C1100, C71hc and Bizhub Pro C1060L. It incorporates advanced colour management and workflow automation to produce high colour and image quality output with fewer touchpoints. With its latest v2.1 release, it is not only supporting all engine finishing devices, but also selected third party finishers to provide a more streamlined production workflow.

Driving a wide range of Konica Minolta print engines, the Fiery IC-308 is versatile and can serve a wide range of markets – from in-plants and quick printers, to light and medium volume production environments, to high-volume commercial printers. Yarrow adds, “The IC-308 also supports industry standard variable data languages, such as PDF-VT, PPML and VPS, so the customers can look to add value to their print jobs business by taking advantage of the IC-308’s powerful processing capabilities.”

The robustness of a DFE can be measured by the integration and streamlining abilities that it brings to the table. In that sense, Fiery has an edge. Yarrow explains, “When you choose a Fiery server to drive your print engine, you instantly enable the EFI ecosystem because all Fiery tools and most EFI MIS systems and Web-to-Print systems are tightly integrated. Even if you use only few Fiery solutions today, you can confidently and easily scale in the future by enhancing the workflow you have already built with additional EFI and Fiery solutions.”

For colour-critical jobs that require accurate colour reproduction, Fiery IC-308 provides an option to integrate Fiery Color Profiler Suite. “It is the first color-management toolset for cut-sheet digital print systems that provides G7 calibration, verification of G7 grayscale compliance, and output profiling integrated with a digital front end (DFE),” says Yarrow.

How this is simple. It calculates G7 correction curves and writes them directly into a calibration set on the Fiery DFE. “This makes the G7 calibration process faster, easier, and less error-prone since it removes the need to manually load/input the correction curves or values,” adds Yarrow. Even inexperienced operators can use the Express Profiler option within Color Profiler Suite to create custom output profiles in five simple steps for a specific paper type and print engine, improving colour quality in just a few minutes.

Ease of use
Every Fiery server is controlled by a Fiery Command WorkStation. According to Yarrow, it’s a powerful, intuitive print job management interface that allows you to perform all document preparation tasks with fewer clicks from one centralised place.

This feature is handy when you have multiple print engines from different manufacturers, it enables operators to connect to multiple Fiery servers from the same Command WorkStation instance.

They can easily switch from engine to engine with a single click, and manage print queues more efficiently in a busy print shop. Command WorkStation is supported on both Mac and PC allowing all users to get full functionality from their Fiery investment.

While RIP-ing a job or a page, the Fiery IC-308 immediately begins to spool the next job to maximise use of the print engine. It boasts of minimising bottlenecks and downtime with advanced queue management.

Training and support
Yarrow says, “We always want to make sure our customers are equipped with the knowledge and skills to get the most out of their Fiery servers.”

Therefore, EFI has developed a catalogue of self-paced online courses that are all available for free for a limited time. One can start by enrolling in the Fiery Command WorkStation course and pick others that are of one’s interest, or take them all.

“We also have over 25 detailed how-to guides that include a print sample file and the instructions to set up the file and produce the job,” says Yarrow.

There’s an extensive product guide that acquaints users with all the Fiery features they can use to improve daily operations. In addition to this, EFI has produced specific user documentation for all its Fiery servers, such as Fiery IC-308.

“We have a sales and support staff in India as well as an engineering development centre inWhitefield,Bengaluru,” adds Yarrow.