In a press release dated 23 March 2016, Esko says it has completely updated its software solutions, relaunching them as the Esko Software Platform. This is the next version of Esko’s well-known portfolio of integrated software solutions for design, prepress, workflow automation, color management and supply chain collaboration used for packaging, labels, displays and signs. The full range of innovations and integrations of Esko Software Platform will be demonstrated for the first time at drupa, scheduled for May 31 through June 10 in Düsseldorf and be commercially released beginning June 2016
More variety and shorter runs
Esko says that today’s label, packaging, sign and display production has become increasingly complex and that brand owners want to sell more and better products and bring them to market faster. This leads to more variation within product families, more labels and packages, as well as a greater variety of point-of-purchase and other signage. These materials need to be produced in ever smaller production runs with ever shorter lead times and increased pressure caused by regulatory and brand compliance requirements.
For manufacturers of labels, packaging, signs and display graphics, this increased complexity leads to a more intensive use of a mix of printing technologies, frequently including digital print. In addition, production companies are faced with an overall shortage of experienced prepress and print operators. “In conversations with our customers, we hear a cry for more operational flexibility with shorter learning curves, faster time to market and increased productivity,” says Bernard Zwaenepoel, Esko senior vice president – software. “With the release of Esko Software Platform, Esko demonstrates its commitment to its customers by making Packaging Simplified.”
“Transforming our software portfolio to an integrated platform is our response to the changing ways customers prefer to buy, use and manage software licenses, regardless of whether they are a large global corporation with many production locations or a small family-run shop,” Zwaenepoel explains. “Esko Software Platform makes it easier for customers to add capacity and functionality as their needs change. While customers focus on cost control and productivity optimization, Esko ensures an integrated end-to-end solution that protects their investments and helps them to grow.”
The Esko Software Platform can be deployed on premise or in the cloud and can be purchased with a traditional license or a flexible subscription model. Within its cloud offering, Esko has created a series of Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions – The Esko Share and Approve Service WebCenter is a complete web-based approval tool in WebCenter. Cape Pack 16 moves palletization services to a SaaS model. Customizable reports contain interactive 3D views of logistics solutions and are stored in the cloud for sharing among all stakeholders. Moreover, WebCenter, MediaBeacon, ArtiosCAD Enterprise and Online Editing with Chili Publish are also available in a SaaS model.
Zwaenepoel says, “With the SaaS model, Esko hosts and manages the services. Customers choose the solution they need and run their business without increasing IT overhead and without the potential complexities coming with software upgrades. When using Esko Software Subscriptions, customers can also benefit from more flexibility when demand spikes by adding additional software seats.”
GS1 standard for packaging content
Esko is introducing ‘Content Management’ as a new module for WebCenter. This module enables printers and converters to expand their offerings related to artwork services. The software includes a controlled and automated process for updating existing artwork and for creating multiple variants for a single product. All stakeholders use a common database for content, automatically pulling text statements and other regulatory content into the artwork to ensure compliance. This solution also complies with the GS1 global standard for packaging content communication. By automating the artwork creation process, companies benefit from a faster time to market at a lower cost while reducing the risk of claims due to inaccurate content.
MediaBeacon DAM and WebCenter 16
A growing number of digital assets are being produced within the packaging supply chain which need to be shared with marketing departments, or to be part of content or product information management. Rich media assets need to be included as well (video, for instance). Integrating Esko’s MediaBeacon DAM system with WebCenter is meant to make assets available in the right version at the right time to the right stakeholders in the packaging workflow.
WebCenter is the customer portal that streamlines activities from specification and design through production. Users share files with all stakeholders for approval and collaboration. In the new version, they are able to view 3D designs, including transparency and print finishing effects, using a standard web browser on a desktop computer or mobile device.
Design for packaging, labels, signage and displays
ArtiosCAD 16 makes design and preproduction of multi-part packaging and POP displays simpler with layout tools that apply 3D clips and hooks used in retail environments and automatic nesting of production parts on the right substrates. For sign and display producers, there is an extensive online library of proven parametric design templates.
Studio 16 now adds increased 3D functionality to the Adobe Illustrator packaging workflow with tools to select materials and apply print effects and combine different shapes in 3D compositions, including realistic lighting and shadow effects. Users can share or export 3D designs to high resolution pack shots. The enhanced Store Visualizer 16 integrates with planogram systems (2D) to create and populate visually stunning virtual 3D stores in minutes rather than days. It is able to display barcodes; pricing and other metadata associated with each of the imported products, for use in store planning and category management. Studio Store Visualizer, co-developed with VTales, allows users to create and test package designs.
“Esko has embedded technologies from our partner Global Vision and from our subsidiary Enfocus to eliminate time-consuming manual checks,” Zwaenepoel says. “Automated quality checking tools allow our customers to process more jobs with the same people and with fewer errors.” Global Vision quality control tools are embedded in Automation Engine 16. Features now available include a spell checker and automatic checking of barcodes and Braille against an approved profile. The quality check runs as a background process and results in an annotated and viewable design file for Automation Engine, WebCenter and in ArtPro+.
Unique packaging preflight functionality, based on Enfocus technology applies preflight checks to content inside of the die-line, ignoring any information outside of the die-line (such as legends or control strips). Technical and other non-print items like varnishing and embossing can also be excluded from the preflight operation, checking only where appropriate and eliminating irrelevant feedback from the preflight report.
Zwaenepoel focusses on two Esko solutions for editing and preparing graphic designs for production. The first is the well-known DeskPack family of plug-ins for Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop and the second is the brand new ArtPro+ prepress editor that runs on both PC and Mac. Featuring a state-of-the art 64-bit architecture and 100% PDF native, ArtPro+ has an intuitive user interface with a software tool selector wheel that provides the user instant access to the right tools wherever he happens to be working in the design. Zwaenepoel explains, “Information is displayed where you need it, when you need it.” The in-context user interface removes all clutter from the screen. ArtPro+ is available to the entire installed base as an upgrade under maintenance contract for ArtPro and PackEdge.
DeskPack and ArtPro+ are designed for seamless integration with Automation Engine 16. With Automation Engine’s new Device View module, Esko’s hardware product lines (Kongsberg tables and CDI flexo plate imagers) are connected to and integrated with the prepress workflow putting full operational control of these devices in the hands of the prepress operator.
Extended gamuts for flexo print
Esko says that flexo converters are under pressure to print a growing number of short-run jobs per shift and that many flexo presses only have 40% productive uptime. Its solution to unlock flexo press capacity and to keep the presses running is to completely avoid washing up the press between jobs. This is done by standardizing the printing press on a fixed set of inks – an extended ink set of 5, 6 or 7 colors and printing jobs with this fixed ink palette. Equinox is Esko’s fixed color palette or extended gamut printing solution. Zwaenepoel comments, “Equinox helps achieve a 34% reduction in printed waste per job and a 25% ink saving in flexible packaging.”
Esko Software Platform will be launched and demonstrated at drupa 2016 and will be commercially released beginning June 2016. According to Esko, thousands of customers with a maintenance contract are entitled to receive the upgrades of the software they use and they will benefit working with this major upgrade as the software is rolled out by the regional Esko software Service Teams. Online training and support tools like the Esko Knowledge Base will support installations and simplify this global rollout.
Packaging South Asia is the cooperating media partner for drupa 2016 which is scheduled to be held from 31 May to 10 June at Dusseldorf, Germany.