This article first appeared in New England Publishing and Printing

© Ron Ellis 2003


Revolutionary PDF Rips – The Field Becomes More Interesting and Part of What’s Revolutionary is the price.

By Ron Ellis

            PDF RIPs have been around for years, and are now used successfully by a number of printing and graphic firms. (For the purposes of this article a PDF rip is a rip that takes a Postscript or PDF file and uses the PDF format as the native file format once ripped.) The PDF world is evolving however, and right now there are a number of new PDF rips poised to hit the market. These new rips may completely change the market forever. Part of the reason is workflow. They are simple and easy to use. So easy that if you are used to traditional rips they will seem almost deceptively simple. Another big reason is price. These new rips are inexpensive. So much so that they may undercut the traditional non-PDF rips currently on the market. What would the traditional printer think if they learned they could get a full fledged rip that can rip, trap, proof and use imposition templates, all for $15,000? In a world where high end rips go for $50,000, these new simple PDF rips may have a big advantage. Another trend the new PDF rips highlight is the automation and loss of prepress staff and functions in printing facilities as the work moves upstream – in many cases to the customer. Although these rips are applicable for prepress and printing applications, someday these may be used by customers producing completed trapped files ready for output by you.

            In this article we will cover two of these new RIPS. Artwork Systems’ Odystar, and EFI Velocity Oneflow. Both are products that create ripped trapped PDF files suitable for printing. Oneflow can create 1 bit tiffs to be used for final output. We won’t be looking at more high end products such as Agfa’s Apogee X Commercial, or Creo’s Prinergy, but will cover those in a future article. For the purposes of this article we will be covering PDF based RIPs and workflows that come in at approximately $25,000 or less, including trapping.

            The new EFI Velocity Oneflow RIP placed in the top three at the PDF Workflow Shootout in San Francisco, and was listed as a Must See ‘ems for Graph Expo 2002. The Velocity Oneflow system is revolutionary in terms of functionality and price. Listing at $15,000, this new rip is a complete PDF workflow that includes pdf creation, editing, trapping, an imposition module, an Epson proofer driver, and a one bit tiff creation module and viewer. The software also comes with copies of Adobe Acrobat and Enfocus Pitstop. “OneFlow is a pure PDF workflow providing seamless production with extreme ease of use" says Richard Dannenberg, Channel Manager Eastern North America. “The product ties together the PDF process in a simple but comprehensive manner with many features found only on high end rips priced many times more than Oneflow.”

            The Velocity Oneflow RIP first converts the files to PDF format. If the file is a PDF already the files are flattened. For printers dealing with Publisher and Word files, the rip can take native Publisher and Word files and convert them into PDFs. The PDF can then be run through a preflight and automated with any desired Enfocus Pitstop actions. The file is then trapped. At any point in time the file can be viewed and edited with Enfocus Pitstop. The traps are vectors to they can be edited in Enfocus Pitstop if needed. Editing a PDF is as simple as opening it in Acrobat and making the edits with either Acrobat and Pitstop. The file can be routed to a proofer, or can be sent straight to generate 1 bit tiffs for imaging. The trapped PDF can also be sent to other locations, or proofers in it’s native PDF format if desired. Once ripped, the file is converted to raster data. Oneflow includes an imposition module that can use templates from Dynagram Dynastrip, Creo Preps, or Ultimate Impostrip to impose the individual pages for output to 1 bit tiff files or to the proofer. Onflow runs on Windows 2000 and XP Operating systems.

            Velocity Oneflow is revolutionary, in that it is probably the first rip that can perform all these functions for the very low price of $16,000. If you compare that to other rips that offer the same features and similar functionality such as the higher end Agfa Apogee X Commercial or Creo Prinergy these rips often come in at $50,000 or higher to get the same functionality.

            One thing about PDF workflows is that they are very simple. You can almost build your own. With a copy of Acrobat, Distiller, and Pitstop you have a robust rip that can create a near final file that any other rip can screen for less than $1,000. Add a copy of a trapping program such as SuperTrap or Creo Trapwise and you can produce fully trapped and certified PDF files for about $6,000. Oneflow fills in the missing pieces. It offers ripping, pdf creation, trapping, editing (with Pitstop and Acrobat), proof creation and screening and one-bit tiff creation. Like many of it’s high end competitors, Velocity  Oneflow adds the missing pieces to the PDF workflow, mainly trapping, imposition, and screening and proofing. For $16,000 the features it offers will be hard to beat. It has the potential to change the industry completely.

            Artwork Systems Odystar is another PDF Rip that is new to the market. It received the Seybold Editor’s Hot Pick Award in 2002. The intent of Odystar is different than that of a traditional rip, and seems aimed as much at content producers as at printers. The product is built around the Enfocus Pitstop technology (Enfocus is owned by Artwork Systems) and adds common prepress functionality such as trapping and use of imposition templates. By using the Enfocus Certified workflow the PDF files used in Odystar can be rolled back step by step as the job moves through the workflow.

            With Odystar, the job enters the system and is distilled into a PDF format. The PDF format used by Odyssey is unflattened PDF 1.4 and can maintain layers and transparency through the workflow, and then can be returned to the customer with layers and transparency intact. (Although the final rip doing the screening would have to be able to support these features. Few rips support transparency at this writing.  Odystar also includes a flattener to remove transparency for RIPs which do not accept PDF 1.4 files.) The job is then sent to the Pitstop gateway where a series of actions or preflight checks can be performed on it. Following the Pitstop module, the job can be trapped, and sent for other functions such as an imposition template. It can then be sent to other devices such as a proofer, rip, or ftp site. The current version of Odystar supports the Dynastrip imposition engine, although Preps templates are supported. Odystar supports the Enfocus Certified PDF workflow and can produce trapped, imposed and certified PDF files. Odystar offers a separation gateway for separated output, and can output separated or composite proofs on any networked printer.  You may have noticed there are several features lacking. Odystar does not offer any drivers to directly drive devices such as platesetters or imagesetters and Odystar cannot create one bit tiff files. What it does create is a clean, certified trapped PDF file ready for screening and output through existing RIPs. Artwork Systems has positioned the product to feed the PDF to an existing rip, such as a Nexus or Harlequin rip for final screening to take place.

            Odystar is priced at  $27,500 for a full version with trapping, separation, flattening, etc. It runs on the Macintosh OSX operating system. The automated DynaStrip imposition feature is $7500 extra. There is a lite version available for $15,000 which contains PDF creation features but is missing trapping , OPI, separation, AppleScripting, and imposition features. Both versions contain the full Certified PDF library

            These new PDF rips are not just revolutionary in terms of features and price. (If you were willing to pay, this technology has been around for a long time.) One of the best aspects of both of these rips is simplicity. If you are used to having to tip-toe around complicated rips in order to get files to come out, these rips will seem refreshingly simple. That’s because once you are in a native PDF file format things get much easier. While these rips won’t meet the needs of users requiring complex and intricate workflows, they would probably meet the needs of 80% or more of the commercial printers in the region. If you have a high end rip and high end trapping, but only adjust the traps a few times a year, and rarely change the settings then a rip like this may be for you. On the other end, if you have a Harelquin based rip and want trapping and a workflow, this rip may also be for you.

Ron Ellis is a prepress consultant specializing in workflow training and integration. He brings a strong background to all aspects of prepress and has been involved in numerous computer-to-plate installations throughout New England. His consulting services provide color management, integration, training, workflow development, and troubleshooting solutions to the graphic arts community. In addition to consulting, Ron has been working in the printing industry for the past 20 years, and has real life experience to bring to the digital challenges most printers are facing. He currently provides services to a number of prominent prepress dealers, and manufacturers. Ron holds a master’s degree in education in Instructional Design from the University of Massachusetts. More information on his services can be found at or by calling 603-498-4553.