Established in 1949 and based in Manchester, CT in the US, Allied Printing Services, Inc., is a full service commercial and financial printing services company. From its first 150 sq. ft. location in 1949, Allied now operates out of a 300,000 sq. ft. modern facility designed specifically for its needs, on a beautiful 30-acre campus. They are a third generation family owned business, managed by current President John G. Sommers, Jr., grandson of the founder. Their sales growth places them among the top 50 printers in the United States—the largest family-owned commercial printer on the East Coast.
With a vast array of prepress, offset web and sheetfed printing, digital printing, finishing equipment, and fulfillment solutions, they service a wide range of companies, many of whom are listed in top 100 of the Fortune list. Allied continues its mission to be the technological leader in the commercial printing segment. They point out that they will print anything—fast and of high quality.
Allied was the first company with a computer-to-plate system because of its relationship with Gerber in early 1990s. They were also a large Scitex shop, along with National Geographic and Newsweek.
“Until CtP, we were in a digital world, but still outputting film. We still had to split it and process digital files,” muses Jonathan Kaufman – Senior VP Technical Development. “If we wanted to print a poster, it took 20 minutes to an hour to process a file. If we built a silhouette or resized artwork, we expected processing time to be about an hour before plotting the file on the platesetter or imagesetter—which took about 20 minutes for a 30” x 40” film. Unfortunately, many very high-end RIPs were still relying on single 32-bit processor Intel-based computers running Windows NT. It was like carving on walls with loincloth. In those days before CTP, if another plate was needed, it took forever. You would have to go back, reprocess, and reset.”
One of Kaufman’s friends was working for Alcatel in Silicon Valley—before it was Silicon Valley. Kaufman visited him and saw the advantages of 64-bit processing. The fastest was going to help the printing industry, which was behind in technology. In those days, Silicon Graphics 64-bit processing was driving more imaging and processing than a room of computers. The Sun Sparc was also significant in the business space and dabbled with Xerox in typesetting and driving digital printers. Some prepress manufacturers were rebranding Sun boxes as their own. Allied had a DEC, which owned the 64-bit space for government and large businesses (such as Oracle).
As CTP came out, the RIP was brought to plate room. “I had the three manufacturers of hardware and my task was to find the best prepress software to run on the platforms: One ran on a Sun system and one on DEC, while DALIM TWIST ran on an SGI system. I visited all of the facilities and was looking at a multi-million dollar investment that not even our largest competitors were spending. The more processors or RAM that could be used, the more efficient file processing would be. Through testing, a file that took 20 minutes to create a bitmap file ready for a RIP on a high-end Scitex system took less than 20 seconds on SGI/DALIM TWIST, because it could scale on as many processors as were available. It flattened and created a PostScript—and subsequently a PDF—file while offering the best trapping,” marvels Kaufman. “We decided to invest in DALIM TWIST as our workflow. DALIM TWIST had scripts and programming pre-written as icons. It was fully customizable for the user. With DALIM SOFTWARE, we moved away from the era of slower RIPs and workflows. It was efficient and, with two 14-processor servers running at full speed and complete bandwidth, we could operate very quickly. Every three years we would grow prepress 300% faster, with more capacity.”
Meanwhile, SGI bought Cray and Allied Printing became the first Cray printing installation running DALIM TWIST. “Those computers had the shortest electronic travel path, which made them the fastest systems. They also offered full redundancy. We ran dual enterprise servers, so if one went down it wouldn’t stop the plates, press, and printing. DALIM TWIST could scale as many processors at 64 bit, with no celling. We also were faster because we were the first in the printing industry to adopt ATM OC12 and OC3 fiber networking between our workstations and servers, with fully redundant one terabyte of FibreChannel attached storage—which only NASA had at that time!” asserts Kaufman.
“No matter, how much I threw at DALIM TWIST, it took it. At the time, a new idea was to build different workflow paths dictated just by naming convention names. We had lots of proofing systems along with platesetters, imagesetters and digital printers,” says Kaufman. “With just one different letter in the filename, we could move files through the network at amazing speeds. We were doing it nearly instantly when it took the industry hours to output files. Remember, this was 1996.”
“Just recently you see everyone with icon based scripts. The industry took 20 years to catch up to me! In that time, we got much better and continue to grow using new versions of DALIM TWIST and new generations of Linux and Mac. You see designers taking a month to create a logo with millions of colors. With DALIM TWIST we get a pure match and the software tears right through it,” remarks Kaufman. “We now use high performance servers with terabytes of RAM and 8-core processors—but the software is still the same. The advantage we had 20 years ago is still the answer today.”
“During all this time, IO Integration really has played above the rim,” says Kaufman. “They understand us as a customer and as friends—a true partner. They know we want to stay ahead of the competition, have realistic expectations, but always exceed them. I need three pieces to make things happen: an integrator I trust, software and hardware.”
Our future will include faster machines and faster technology—and, I presume evolving to DALIM ES. Prepress is so integrated upstream to customers with soft proofing and asset management, so I need to keep TWIST for the heavy lifting and ES is a better fit for the customer-facing part of Allied. We’ve had a pretty good run for 20 years, so I don’t see any reason to change systems.”
“It’s really a testament of what DALIM TWIST does and what we do with it,” attests Kaufman. “We’re a high performance shop. We get the work when the customer has run out of time and the work is very complex. We are still doing best of breed work with TWIST. DALIM SOFTWARE has robust, high performance customizable software. No one else does that.”