What’s the New EFI Fiery FS150 All About?

Posted on by Greg Cholmondeley | No Comments »

EFI iPad AppYesterday, May 14th, EFI announced its new Fiery FS150 Pro DFE platform. Press releases can only provide so much content. Since I had an opportunity to sit down with their product team a few weeks back to discuss this new offering, I thought I’d share my perspective on what it is and why you should care.

The FS150 is the next iteration of an already great product. I find it to have evolutionary enhancements rather than revolutionary capabilities – but suspect that it has some revolutionary technology under the hood, especially regarding performance. The enhancements can be grouped into four broad categories: productivity, color, usability and integration.

Productivity

What they’ve done: There are two key productivity improvements in this release. First, their new Fiery HyperRIP simultaneously RIPs jobs on four processor cores to reduce RIP times. The result is RIPping that is 40% faster than their FS100 Pro and 55% faster than their DFEs without HyperRIP. They’ve also added what they call “Server Automated Workflows.” These allow managers to create and publish automated workflows via server presets, virtual printers or hot folders. Server presets are, basically, predefined job types (e.g. business card, 6×9 perfect-bound book, tri-fold brochure, etc.) with prepopulated job parameters. Operators can quickly set up jobs by importing them into “drop zones,” by selecting server presets, or by selecting predefined workflows in-line.

Why you should care: First, faster really is better in the production color world for three reasons:

1)      Documents are becoming more sophisticated and complex with higher resolution images, deeper layerings, drop shadows, transparencies and other effects

2)      Run-lengths are getting shorter – especially when personalization makes every page unique

3)      and printers are supporting higher resolutions at faster speeds (e.g. the new Xerox Versant 2100 press handles 10-bit, 1200dpi at 100ppm)

Color

What they’ve done: One major color improvement is support for all new PANTONE colors introduced since 2010 with the new PANTONE+ V2 libraries for coated and uncoated stocks. Another interesting one is what they call Grayscale Composite Overlay. This is a conversion method to accurately render overprints, drop shadows and transparencies when printing in grayscale mode.

Why you should care: New PANTONE colors are added because they are what people want to use – staying up to date supporting them is critical. If you ever convert color documents to grayscale, you already wrestle with the issues their Grayscale Composite Overlay feature addresses and will jump at its ability to minimize your need to go back to the native files to fix issues.

Usability

What they’ve done: First, this release delivers some much-needed operability improvements like an image viewer and the ability to sort and filter views in job lists by various job attributes. Second, they’ve added some nice JobMaster enhancements to support bleed-edge and multi-bank tabs as well as support of the product-specific presets mentioned in my productivity comments. Third, they’ve created a free Fiery Go iPad/iPhone app to monitor printer status and manage jobs from anywhere in your print shop.

Why you should care: EFI is providing more and more automation right in their Fiery DFE which can help shops without upstream workflow automation systems as well as those who need to quickly tweak jobs at the DFE. My research has shown that there is no “one right way” to do workflow automation. Some companies prefer to do some or much of it at the DFE while others want it all done upstream. By adding these capabilities, EFI lets you make that choice based upon your unique needs rather than upon the capabilities of the system elements. The iPad app is an expected and increasingly necessary tool to unchain management from desktops to wherever their jobs require them to be.

Integration

What they’ve done: They’ve created something called the Fiery Integration Manager which is a client application for system integrators and technical support personnel to manage JDF configuration settings. They also have a Fiery Developer Program web-based API for a variety of desktop/mobile platforms. Its web services include access to live bi-directional updates & status via WebSockets.

Why you should care: The powerful message here is that EFI is opening up access for technical experts to expand the base offering to be better integrated with enhanced access. Workflow automation needs to be integrated together in order to plug productivity leaks and while most systems now speak JDF/JMF, their settings need to be configured for their communications to make sense. Fiery Integration Manager makes this manageable without having to immediately dive down into writing code. While the free iPad app mentioned in my usability section is great, the desktop/mobile APIs allow creative developers to build all kinds of innovative tools. I’m looking forward to seeing the crazy things creative people will do with it.

Conclusion

As I said at the beginning, the FS150 is the next iteration of an already great product. Some features, like the performance enhancements, are essential to support the next generation of color presses. Others, like edge-bleed and multi-set tab support enable support for new types of work. And others, like the product presets, Integration Manager, web-based API, and iPad app make it possible to explore new ways to further streamline your workflow automation.

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