Ultimate’s Red Hot Technology Breakthrough Award: New Dimensions in AI

Sean O'Leary

In 1989, the Berlin Wall came down, the Little Mermaid swam into our hearts and desktop publishing was a fresh new thing. Platforms like PageMaker, QuarkXpress and Photoshop were still novel and the PDF protocol was a future gleam in Adobe’s eye. But as I was writing this post, I discovered that another event took place in 1989 that surprised me: Ultimate Technographics launched the original version of its signature Ultimate Impostrip® digital imposition software. Although I know that Ultimate TechnoGraphics is generally regarded as the inventor of computer desktop imposition technology, I was nevertheless surprised at how early that first release date was.

Thirty years ago, just before the full impact of digital technology began shaking up the graphics world, the probability of shorter print runs and the general democratization of print production were easy enough to anticipate. But it’s also fair to say that the future need for comprehensive workflow solutions was less obvious at that point in time. In 1989, few observers could fully anticipate the massive scope of the changes that would transform every aspect of printing. So when viewed through the lens of hindsight, that first version of Ultimate Impostrip® seems all the more prescient. The Montreal-based company was staking out a decades-long model for successfully surfing the innovation curve.

Fast forward to Print18, in Chicago, as stem-to-stern workflow automation took a bow as one of the convention’s dominate themes and Ultimate Impostrip® 2019 was awarded a RED HOT Technologies Award. The honor was an acknowledgement of a number of new developments and ongoing improvement in Ultimate’s flagship platform, and also reflection of the fast-growing incorporation of Artificial Intelligence as an essential technology in every aspect of print production.

Greetings From Your Intelligent Imposition Agent
Among the developments built into Ultimate Impostrip® 2019 is the Intelligent Imposition Agent, also described as an “automated imposition employee.” Enabled by Dynamic Data Feed algorithms, this very smart and hard-working artificial intelligence agent sets up layouts based on user-defined imposition rules contained in a single dynamic hotfolder. The DDF provides the brain power to optimize layouts efficiently, consistent with the need to produce a large number of small jobs as quickly as possible.

According to Ultimate TechnoGraphics’ CEO Julie Watson, “it is able to choose best-fit layouts based on all your templates, a specific subset of templates or even create completely dynamic, optimal layouts without the use of templates.” Watson emphasizes the need to maximize print equipment productivity as becoming ever more essential in the future. No one can afford to waste time or materials in the 21st Century. Backing up the AI component is one of those less dramatic but essential upgrades: a succession of improvements in the architecture of the processing engine. Users can expect faster indexing and imposition times, improved reliability and 64-bit support. Or, as Watson puts it: “It’s even more powerful, we’re breaking speed records.”

Ultimate Impostrip® 2019 also sports a new look and feel in a redesigned, more functional User Interface. Ultimate says the new editor makes creating dynamic marks and color-bar profiles much easier, as is using the Advanced Preview feature. The editor provides support for a huge range of marks, barcodes and colors even including variable data. Ultimately, smart imposition can be regarded as the core component of an integrated whole that manages print production from intake to finishing. To that end, Ultimate Impostrip® 2019 is built to thrive in an end to end production ecosphere. Ultimate’s new set of helpful algorithms provide full PDF and JDF support, meaning users can expect seamless upstream and downstream connectivity when the time comes. The company has also proven adept at partnering with major hardware OEMs to develop integrated pre-press and finishing solutions for both digital and offset environments.

Based on dozens of conversations at Print18, it seemed pretty clear that for PSP’s and many other segments of the commercial printing universe, automating workflow has already passed through the leading-edge phase, and is rapidly becoming a baseline survival necessity. The time to automate your workflow is here.
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