Apogee Prepress from Agfa is an example of a modern prepress workflow. Since it is the only system that I am familiar with and have access to, it is used to provide an overview of the functions of such as system. Other workflow systems may use a different terminology or structure but they share many characteristics with Apogee.
Most prepress workflow systems in the market are modular: you can buy a base system and expand it. the same is true for Apogee Prepress, for which various versions are available. Optional modules, called task processors, allow you to expand the system. Here are some of the main task processors:
The Hot Folder task processor is used to send data to a job. It allows you to define that a certain folder on the server or elsewhere should be checked regularly for data. As soon as PDF files, PostScript data, TIFF files,… are dropped in that folder, they get picked up and made a part of the job. There are a number of other input devices as well. Two of the more interesting ones are the Apogee Portal input channel, which enables customer to upload data using a web site, and a JDF/JMF input channel for automatic job and data submission using the JDF protocol.
The Preflight task processor uses PitStop to check incoming PDF files. Next to checking the resolution of images, the presence of fonts and dozens of other settings, the module can also be used to fix certain issues. Check the page with preflight recommendations for more details on the way a system should be set up. Since it runs in the background, preflighting every single incoming file doesn’t take up any operator time.
The Run List task processor is used to put all incoming pages into the correct order. This can be done automatically, provided the designer or agency used a logic set of file names. Unfortunately that is seldom the case. Since PDF is the internal file format within Apogee Prepress, pages in the Run List task processor typically are PDF files. Doubleclick ‘em and they open in Acrobat – which is really nice!
One of the most important modules is the Impose task processor. As its name implies, this takes care of imposition, based on templates coming from Preps (my choice) or one of the other supported imposition applications. The ability to preview all imposed flats before sending them to the platesetter is very practical. Since Apogee has its own imposition engine, it can also handle JDF jobs that including stripping data. That is however only used in fairly rigid workflows where automation is easier to achieve.
The RIP inside Apogee Prepress is called PDFRender. It is based on the Adobe PDF Print Engine. The older Adobe CPSI RIP is still available for job reruns, when consistency with an old print job is crucial. You can purchase multiple renderers and have the system load balance all signatures or pages across these RIPs. It is pretty impressive and fast when you see 3 or more RIPs crunch big jobs. I’ve readied jobs in an hour or two that used to take a full week just a few years ago.
Apogee can drive multiple output devices. These can be physical devices such as an imposition proofer or a CtP device. It can also be logical or file devices, such as PDF output device or a virtual imagesetter that generates TIFF 1-bit data. Obviously you can use multiple devices in a single job because you need both proofs and plates. It is this type of automation where the difference with a ‘Do it yourself’ workflow can be pretty big.
Of course Apogee Prepress can drive a number of digital presses, predominantly Agfa inkjet systems. In an offset environment, presses such as the Generic Press are used to define processing settings. These can include dot gain, the target color space or the type of CIP3 file that needs to be generated.