Prinergy was originally a concept for a paradigm-jumping integrated software application to assist Creo customers moving from film to digital based workflows for their offset printing businesses. Creo’s commercialization of a reliable and cost-effective computer-to-plate (CTP) system meant that the tedious, inaccurate, and expensive use of film could be replaced by imaging a laser directly onto photo-polymer coated aluminum printing plates.
Prinergy debuted in September 1999 and went on to change the market for digital production of offset-printed material around the world. On October 6, 2012 GraphExpo, the U.S.’ largest trade show for print and publishing selected Prinergy as the recipient of the first ever “Must See ‘Em” Legacy Award, for over a decade of being a product and show leader.
According to MUST SEE ‘EMS program coordinator Hal Hinderliter, “Prinergy was not the first PDF-based workflow, but it stood out as the first product to bring the power of in-RIP PDF editing to a large scale audience. Virtually all prepress workflow systems are based on PDF, a concept that Prinergy helped legitimize.”
One judge commented, “Nothing else on the list went on to become as widely adopted and used as Prinergy. It’s a bedrock technology that continues to evolve as it drives productivity throughout the industry.” Another said, “This is still the most widely integrated and automated product on the market … it’s a fixture in the industry.” Other comments described it as “robust” and “a complete success.” Clearly, the Selection Committee felt that in consideration with other progressive MUST SEE ‘EMS winners since 1999, Prinergy was a standout with a significant long-term impact on the graphic communications industry.
A presentation I made about Creo culture and technology in 2002:
The vision behind Prinergy came about after Drupa 95. Creo had just released and demonstrated 9 working computer-to-plate systems that could make press-ready, digitally accurate plates in 3 minutes. Our challenge was there were few software systems capable of delivering the volume of print data at that speed. On a long plane ride back from Germany, Creo CEO Amos Michelson asked me what it would take to create the world-leading prepress system. We came up with what would be the cornerstones of Prinergy three years later, after ramping up an exceptional development team to realize that vision.
PDF – digital workflows tend to move from raster-file based to vector-file based as technology improves. Vector based files are smaller, and can be rendered at any resolution without aliasing artifacts. It might seem obvious in retrospect, but at the time (1996), betting Creo’s software future on PDF was a controversial and risky decision. At the time, Barco had an excellent vector format but was proprietary. We took a big bet on Adobe’s PDF becoming the defacto open standard for graphics and worked directly with Adobe to specify the features PDF had to have to be viable as a standard in print graphic arts – features like composite colour workflow, spot colours, and high-resolution with proxy image workflows. Agfa was having similar discussions at the time, unbeknownst to us.
Just-in-time Imposition. Imposition refers to the arrangement of pages on the printing plate, so that when the large sheets of paper that emerge from an offset printing press are folded, make a newspaper, or book, with all the pages in the correct orientation and order. At the time Seattle company ScenicSoft’s Preps product was chosen to help Prinergy achieve this goal.
The other values included:
- Database-driven. Amos had seen a PCB company completely take over the market and they had an underlying database, so Prinergy should, too.
- Mac and Windows User Interface. In the dark days of Spindler/Amelio it wasn’t clear that Apple was going to survive. Quark and Adobe were all hedging with Windows versions of Quark XPress, Photoshop, Illustrator, etc.
- Automatable. Production means being able to develop the best in-house process, then automate it so people don’t have to repeat the same steps manually many times day, and so reducing boredom and errors. Automation eventually reduces the human effort for simple jobs like business cards and brochures, which reduces the cost and boredom, letting people work on more complicated (and rewarding) jobs and problems.
- Scalable to be able to handle many concurrent print jobs, by adding more computers to a controlled task network, which made Prinergy an affordable power in small sheetfed printers, as well as being able to scale up for large commercial web printers like RR Donnelley, Word Color (now part of Quebecor).
- Proofing – use the NORM (Normalize Once (to PDF), Render Many concept to ensure proofs predict the finished product. Compared to ROOM (Render Once, Output Many) that requires resampling raster images to meet the different size & colour needs of proofers. I introduced the concept of Virtual Proofing by simulating duplex-printing on-screen.
As the Product Manager, soon after the DRUPA trip I wrote the demo script that would mark the Prinergy 1.0 product, and planned to be able to demo that to prospects, existing customers, and ideally, at the Seybold trade show where we would introduce it to the market. That indeed happened in October 1999, at a keynote shared with our new partner Heidelberg, and their prepress group consisting of some excellent engineers from Linotype-Hell in Kiel. The Seybold 1999 keynote was the first public showing of Prinergy’s key concepts: A cross-platform Java UI, a PDF workflow, very fast vector trapping, and onscreen virtual proofing. Here are some images of the early screens, when the product still went by its code-name Araxi.
The workflow for Prinergy 1.0 customers, Refine to PDF, output to proof, just-in-tim impose and render to 32″ x 44″ plate
Here’s the original Prinergy Workshop Layout on Mac OS 9, showing pages, refined pages, and page sets.
Prinergy with Just-in-time imposition, filling imposition plans imported from the Preps imposition software package
The Prinergy Workshop paradigm was unique at its time, and stayed pretty well unchanged for almost 10 years, going through some cosmetic changes and colours as Creo merged with Scitex then was purchased by Kodak.
One of the gaps that started to emerge as Prinergy moved to be the principal software application for offset printing was the need to automate more, and the need to track jobs progress regardless of how many people were working on it. The first problem was solved by the Rules-Based Automation (RBA) Team, and the second one that I did the interaction design for – Prinergy Dashboard.
Dashboard took a number of steps forward in the Prinergy user interface. It used Adobe Flash, to maintain cross-platform compatibility but leave behind the ongoing compromises required to keep a Java platform running. It also had innovations in showing dynamic history, a technique that showed at a glance which things had changed recently and which had not.
In the intervening time, digital presses were making inroads into traditional offset printing shops, and they wanted to use one workflow system, but have the ability to direct pages to digital or offset press without re-processing. As well, digital jobs had to have lower costs.
In 1999 Prinergy Workshop reduced the number of clicks-and-drags by an order of magnitude compared to just using desktop software and RIP. Ten years later we designed a user interface designed to reduce that by another order of magnitude, the interface that would become the basis of Prinergy 6. Kodak laid off the Prinergy development team in November 2009, Prinergy 6 was announced soon afterward, and delivered about four years later, in August 2013. Prinergy continues to be a component of Kodak‘s systems today.
Prinergy Direct, evolved from Prinergy Dashboard and designed for digital press impositions.