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Automated Ways To Combine Images? And Simplify Workflow

Discussion in 'Flexi' started by johntech, Jun 27, 2020.

  1. johntech

    johntech New Member

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    I'm new to Flexi and was wondering something...

    A hypothetical scenario...

    1. You have a UV Printer and a jig that will print (12) iPhone cases at a time.

    2. You allow customers online to design their own iPhone case design and their design gets saved to your server somewhere when they submit an order.

    3. You currently have 50 outstanding individual orders (case designs) that need to be printed.

    Is there a way to program Flexi (I've seen some mention scripting) so if you click a button or launch a certain process it will "go get" 12 case designs, out of the 50 that need to be printed, and place those 12 designs into ONE job where the 12 design images will be laid out into the jig structure/format?

    Then the ability to get the next 12 to make another single job that will print 12 at a time.

    At a minimum, being able to 'point' Flexi (or a script) at a folder that contains 12 case design images and have Flexi combine them all and place each one into that single job jig. ??

    Even more advanced and a 'wish list' function... is there a way for Flexi to 'mark' designs as printed (or prepared for printing) with an another system? i.e. sends a signal/API post to another database to make that design as 'completed' or something?

    Thanks for any insights!
     
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  2. iPrintStuff

    iPrintStuff Prints stuff

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    All of which I’m about to say may be nonsense as I don’t have a flatbed and haven’t had to do jobs like this before. I have a few thoughts that would make my life *easier* but don’t have a complete idea of how your workflow goes.

    That and I don’t use flexi so will add an option (lazy) that you could use if you have indesign/data merge software.

    Firstly, what type of UV printer? I’ve got rasterlink and as much as I hate it, the jig function there looks almost foolproof and very easy to accomplish. You’d open all 50 images, select 12, group them, then go to the jig function and set them up. Should take about a minute all in. Plus you can continue to set up jobs While the first one is printing. I’m going to assume flexi has something similar due to rasterlink being the worst rip I’ve encountered and even they make it simple.

    In onyx, I believe it may be even easier. You can set up custom sheet sizes (I.e. the size of your jig) and then put the space between copies etc to suit your jig. Onyx will automatically split the 50 images into “sheets” that are your custom size - going one further than RL having to group images.

    If I didn’t know how our RIP would handle this. I’d probably do it in indesign (I’ve done a job like this before when we didn’t have onyx). Basically id set up a jig, then keep the template to place artworks into. I’d drop everything into a “links” folder and name the images 1-12. Once that was setup for the jig you could export that. Then open links folder, delete the first 12, select the next 12, rename 1-12 then open the indesign document and relink 1-12. Changing links should take about 10 seconds after that.

    As far as marking jobs printed. I think we’re trialing a bit software soon (Covid delays yay) that should do this with in onyx for us. Can let you know how that goes.
     
  3. johntech

    johntech New Member

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    AWESOME insights, thanks so much! Our UV printer is from SinoColor in China. It runs Epson DX8 heads and Flexi has their printers in their configs. As much as people hate on chinese products, it's a solid, well-built printer with excellent tech support; and was 70% cheaper which was all we could afford during the startup phase.
     
  4. Keith van der Westhuizen

    Keith van der Westhuizen New Member

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    Good afternoon johntech,

    You have an interesting question :)
    I got tired of doing the same thing over and over and over again and after working for an online printer for a little while and seeing how extremely expensive software can automate various processes i decided to look into this and it turns out that if you apply yourself and learn a little Visual Basics and some JavaScript and you have the API for the software's involved you can honestly make your computer do ANYTHING! This only costs time and not 10s of thousands of dollars.

    I have integrated excel spread sheets, coral draw, adobe Photoshop, and outlook in my graphics department over the last to years to have everything from .pdf checking to proofing be automated so the graphic designers just sit and press hot keys.

    If you can find a developer that is very good with visual basics and java script you will most definitely be able to create what you are looking for. The structure and naming conventions need to be very strict because the smallest error in naming conventions will break the system.

    Further more; you will be able to build the script so that it updates your management system automatically, you can go as far as to build client notifications into the module too so that they get an automatic update once the product goes into print.

    I wish you all the best with this venture and i hope that you come right :) - the key is to not give up... when some one tells you it can't be done; trust me it can!

    I had adobe engineers tell me that the software can't do what i want it to do and boom... with a little math, java script and perseverance and allot of code copying off google... i got it to do the "impossible".
     
  5. ikarasu

    ikarasu Very Active Member

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    Visual... Basic? Wasn't that depreciated 20 years ago?

    Python + js. Python is super simple.. But js is more powerful.


    All of the above (aside from marking as complete) is built into illustrator though you can do variable imports, setups jigs...etc. Not sure about flexi... But super simple in illustrator and we do it all the time.with 20,000 variables at once.
     
  6. ColorCrest

    ColorCrest Active Member

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    I'm curious if you care to explain how Adobe Illustrator can accommodate what the OP is after, exactly. The OP seems to be looking at a web-to-print scenario. What roll does Illustrator play?
     
  7. SignMeUpGraphics

    SignMeUpGraphics Moderator

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  8. Christian @ 2CT Media

    Christian @ 2CT Media Major Contributor

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    VBA is still prevalent today; it shares a lot of the same logic as today's prevalent languages.
     
  9. ikarasu

    ikarasu Very Active Member

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    I have a customer that sells caricatures - He does 100ish a week. he exports all the artwork along with an excel file that contains all the customers information / filename of their artwork... I spend 2 minutes cleaning the excel file up (It could be exported the way I need it, however explaining it to him isnt worth the effort), import it into illustrator and illustrator will import every image, add cut marks, grab the customers information from the excel file and create a shipping label with their image right next to it for easy matching. It takes me 5 minutes to setup 100+ files for print cut + The envlopes/labels for it.

    OP could do the same - every web 2 print store has an export button that I've seen. Export everything... create a "Template" Jig, batch save the file in illustrator and it'll auto put every image into a jig. Thats without custom scripting...

    With custom scripting you could technically grab all the filenames from a directory and use that to import them so you dont need to export - You could also have it delete the files it used - but thats getting a bit more complicated.... but still definitely doable, and wouldnt cost much to get someone to create the script
     
  10. ColorCrest

    ColorCrest Active Member

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    What mechanism is used to pair the text data portion from Excel with the image portion of each order using Illustrator?
     
  11. ikarasu

    ikarasu Very Active Member

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    Variable window - Windows > Variable

    Then you import as a .csv file. Text is just "Variable1, Variable2" etc, Images get places as "@Variable3" Etc.



    heres a quick tutorial. It was added in 2020... If you're not on the newest CC, there is a script called Variable import that works as well.



    We regularly do 10,000 different items a month... some with images, some without, this makes it almost instant
     
  12. ColorCrest

    ColorCrest Active Member

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    The above says that you're hosting your own site. Also with so many outstanding orders, you're not aware of some common software tools to help manage workflow.

    Therefore…

    This is better handled at a more accessible and efficient database level as opposed to a more closed RIP software. Of course I recommend FileMaker as the database platform because that’s the most affordable option for sign shops. With the many touch-points and data-points involved, using FileMaker with it various built in engines can make for a centralized solution for overall control and scale. In this case, FM’s web publishing engine for PHP and XML along with a print engine feature to gang elements.

    The basic workflow is that a PHP website accepts a customer’s input of data directly into a FileMaker database for their order info and their design options into PDFLib templates for the graphic and text elements. At this point, using FileMaker as the shop’s order management software, the order is active and already populated with the necessary data. The customized PDF is linked in the database which a CSR should verify by simply looking at the design.

    When there are enough orders collected for a print run, an operator prints directly from the database using a layout which gangs files (12-up in the case of the OP's jig) to create a single, short term file for the RIP to print from a hot folder on the network. For small products such as phone covers, many shops choose to print as TIFF format for the interim file type and to use as a proof for customer’s approval. The data and the original PDF is always memorialized in the database.

    I've offered a relatively inexpensive method if, in fact, you desire to keep things "in-house" and under your complete control with scalability at no extra costs.

    See the attached images. One is a gang print example generated via FileMaker. On the second, notice the ".fp5" portion of the URL which indicates the site of 20 years ago connected directly to a FileMaker Pro database version of the era. This site is from before PHP became widely popular, therefore used Lasso.
     

    Attached Files:

  13. ColorCrest

    ColorCrest Active Member

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    What I see in the video is the user manually entering a different path name into the spreadsheet in order to link the variable image. That's a deal-breaker.

    The JS script that I'm aware of is literally 5,000 lines of code which has been at GitHub for two years.

    Not really a solution for web-to-print, but could be useful none the less.
     
  14. ColorCrest

    ColorCrest Active Member

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    This is a link to a company the OP might be interested in because of the phone cover product...



    Another to the same company as featured by Claris FileMaker in August of 2020...

    https://fusionofideas.com/blog/

    Most or all of their software development offerings look suspiciously exactly like FileMaker iOS solutions to me.
     
  15. ikarasu

    ikarasu Very Active Member

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    As long as theyre in the same directory, it takes about 10 seconds in notepad ++ To enter a directory before the text, as you can enter text via coloumn. But in theory... your web to print software should be able to auto enter this information in an excel file.


    upload_2020-9-8_12-41-13.png upload_2020-9-8_12-41-32.png
     
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