The Big Picture - May 2012 - (Page 11)
Making Critical Prepress Upgrades
By Craig Miller
he economy continues to improve and our business has been growing faster than the recovery. As a result, we have recently bought two wonderful grand-format printers and are now looking toward a third. These machines print better and faster and do things I couldn’t have imagined just a few years ago. So as we move into faster printers – and, then, bigger ﬁ les – don’t we also need faster and more powerful prepress equipment? It’s a sad truth that we sometimes focus on providing our sta with the latest and best production equipment, but then have our prepress people languishing on old computers. This is a big mistake. We have had 20 production people and all their associated equipment idle because ﬁ les weren’t ready. Remember Moore’s Law: Processing power will double every two years. It often doesn’t take very long for computers to become obsolete. So how do you keep up?
Combating down time
For those of us with a printing background, we tend to be Mac-centric in our prepress departments. Those who evolved from the sign industry tend to prefer PCs. At least all of us now run prepress computers with Intel processors (sorry AMD). My own shop has historically been a Mac shop for prepress and a PC shop for RIPs. And while Apple has been releasing amazing consumer products, its last Mac Pro was released in August 2010 (has Apple abandoned us graphics pro users?). Our shop’s old Mac Pros were getting old and too expensive to upgrade, and we decided to not wait for Apple to release its next Mac Pro. One solution we’ve found is to buy consumer-oriented Macs. The iMacs now have screens measuring up to 27-inches and smoking i7 processors, and it’s easy (and cheap) to upgrade these to 16 gigs of RAM. We also have tried top-of-the-line Mac Mini servers, using these as prepress workstations. If you already have good monitors in-house, these little gems work very well. They have two hard drives, but no optical in their compact case. We use external Blu-ray drives, max out the RAM,
and replace one of the drives with a solid-state drive. They cost less than $1000, and we put another $300 to $400 into their upgrades. The Mini’s biggest weakness is its graphics card. We upgraded two of our sta to this Mac Mini solution (from old Mac Pro towers) and they have been very happy with the performance results. For the price of a new Mac Pro, you can buy three of these. As I write this, we’re bringing a new killer PC online in our prepress room. Built in-house, this bad baby is equipped with a 3.3-Ghz six-core i7 Extreme Addition Intel chip. We have built our own PC RIP workstations for more than a decade. We have a very talented guy on sta who builds what we believe to be some of the fastest PCs in the world. So we have always enjoyed rippin’ RIPS, which, also helps get ﬁles printing faster. However, we have never had a PC as a frontline prepress workstation. We felt it was a good opportunity to try a PC because one of our designer/prepress specialists is equally comfortable with either Macs or PCs.
But making a prepress department process print ﬁ les faster and more e ciently isn’t just about the computers themselves and how fast micro-processors have become. Ancillary computer technology can make equally impressive improvements in your operation. For instance, when we began tracking upload times to our FTP site, we noted that customers were sometimes taking hours to upload huge ﬁ les. So we recently replaced our T-1 lines with ﬁber optics. We now have a 100-MB pipe. And, with ﬁber, we have the option of having our speed throttled down to 20 MB for everyday use – this has >29
CRAIG MILLER is a principal shareholder in Las Vegas-based Pictographics, (pictographics.net) where he is also director of military and law-enforcement projects, the company’s defense-contracting division.
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of The Big Picture - May 2012
The Big Picture - May 2012
Vehicle Wraps: Chasing Traffic
Putting the ‘Specialty’ in Finishing Tools
The Big Picture - May 2012