David Zwang talks to Andrew Bailes-Collins, Head of Product Management for Ultimate TechnoGraphics, at Hunkeler Innovationdays about the company’s extensive software solutions for prepress processes such as imposition, tiling, ganging, and nesting, as well as binding automation.
DZ: Hi, this is David Zwang for WhatTheyThink and with me is Andrew Bailes-Collins, also know as ABC, who is the Head of Product Management at Ultimate TechnoGraphics.
Andrew, great to see you!
ABC: Great to see you, long time not seen.
DZ: Long time not seen, yes. First of all for people who don’t understand what Ultimate TechnoGraphics is… Let’s just start with that. Because Ultimate, you either know them and love them or you don’t know them and say: Whaaaa?
ABC: Ultimate TechnoGraphics is 34 years old.
DZ: I was there when it started, by the way.
ABC: Family business, started out with PostScripts, imposition and now PDF, not just imposition but also tiling, ganging any kind of lay-out, to drive predominantly digital devices. It made the decision to focus on digital print.
Then, 15 years ago, saw te opportunity for bindery automation. So not only imposing but then taking that imposition via JDF and then driving finishing devices. So we are now supporting nearly 60 different finishing devices. So to set up the automation, which are make-ready’s. So really from the press down to finishing, that’s where we play.
DZ: I know one of the benefits, or the beauties of your platform is that it’s designed to play nice with others.
ABC: It has to!
DZ: I know it has to, and everybody talks about it, but yours does.
ABC: It’s been from the very beginning.
DZ: Exactly! We can send data, not just the production data, but also the order data, the other stuff that goes around the metadata and get that through and that’s huge.
ABC: Being a small business you have to be flexible, you have to be open. We have a lot of OEM partners a lot of end-users, so that flexibility is key to our success, really.
DZ: Absolutely! So one of the things that in my mind, and look, it’s next level automation. It’s not really a hardware show, but it is kind off in many respects, and that’s not a bad thing, it’s a good thing, the way they do it is actually unique. But from a software perspective, you have something very interesting to show me.
So what’s it called and what is the problem you are solving?
ABC: It may come as a bit of a shock David, but people have problems with PDF files.
With preflight a lot of the issues can be solved but if you have a 10,000, 20,000, 30,000, 100,000 or 1,000,000 page files
DZ: Why would I have a 1,000,000 page PDF file?
ABC: Well, variable data, high speed inkjet presses…
DZ: Ahh, o.k. so I thought maybe I’m gonna have this book and make me read it. I mean I had trouble getting through War & Peace.
ABC: Particularly variable data (VDP). Big files, fast imaging devices, SLA”s mailing dates. You know you can’t preflight 150,000 pages. So, we get a lot of files from customers, because this is a market we play heavily in. We have a scalable version and we have a new benchmark here of 1,000,000 pages imposed in under 5 minutes.
DZ: 1,000,000 pages in under 5 minutes? Wow!
ABC: Of course this depends on the PDF. We get a lot of PDF’s that preflight wise there’s nothing wrong with them, your know, they will pass preflight with no problem at all. But because of the way they have been ‘built’, or the way they’ve been supplied, because you know well that PDF is an all encompassing format, it’s not just print. You can put movies in PDF’s you can put all kind of things in there. They get bloated, they get large and when you put it through the DFE, sometimes it doesn’t even work, it falls over, sometimes it’s slow. So we get those files from our customers and we analyze them. We saw that there is a need in the market for something to improve this process.
Preflight is not the solution because it’s not fit for the purpose, and that’s no disrespect. I spent 20 years in preflight. So if you have a VDP job it could be a 4 page repeating template, you may preflight the first 16, 24, 48 pages to check is everything’s o.k., but then you can’t really fix it. You know it’s tough. Your machine might fall over, not fit for purpose.
What we do is that we have something that focusses on, not the content of the PDF, but the PDF itself.
DZ: The construct of the PDF
ABC: Yes, the construct of the PDF, what’s in it. Because by the time it gets to us (Ultimate Impostrip), it’s got one job, being imaged. It doesn’t need meta data, it doesn’t need anything else apart from end up on the substrate.
So what we are doing is, we have a product called BetterPDF, the clue is in the name. It cleans up PDF’s to a user defined set of parameters. But also because it’s only being delivered to our product (Ultimate Impostrip), there are certain things we do under the hood that benefit us. But it;’s then taylored for the imaging device it’s going on so it gives the opportunity for the customer to taylor the PDF, clean the PDF, for the final destination of that file.
DZ: The word is obviously getting out because people have said… Yeah I was going to say: Reception has been pretty good, right?
ABC: Reception and then also the “When can I send you files?”, because it has not been released yet.
DZ: Do you have a rough target on the release date?
ABC: Soon! 😉
DZ: I like that!
ABC: We have a couple of direct mail customers testing it at the moment. And we have a few more after this show. There is a lot of interest. But it’s a common problem, once you start the discussion everyone has a file, or a customer or a group of customers…
DZ: No, this is a real problem. This is a real problem.
ABC: You buy a nice fast press but if you can’t run at optimal speed, you have to slow it down because of RIP that can’t keep up with the …
DZ: Or you throw incredible amounts of processing power at it, which is at great cost. It just doesn’t make sense.
ABC: Exactly right. So yeah, it looks good. We think we are in a real good position. It’s an optional module, part of our scalable package, which is our VDP package. People don’t have to buy it, they can try it, they can test it. It’s multi-engine so they can process multiple files at once.
DZ: This is looking great man. I look forward to seeing it.