By Chris and Kathi Morrison
Chris and Kathi Morrison own and operate The Image Specialists, a full-service graphics company based in Clements, CA. Chris is also a Microsoft-certified systems engineer.
5296 S. Commerce Dr.
Salt Lake City, UT 84107
Company Profile: SA International (SAi), recognized as a global leader for professional — design to production — software for the signmaking, digital-printing, screenprinting and CNC machining industries, has strong OEM relationships with industry leaders, a worldwide network of resellers and approximately 100,000 customers in more than 50 countries (its products are available in more than 13 languages). Formally Scanvec, Ltd., SA Intl. originated in Israel in 1990. In 1998, it merged with Amiable Technologies, Inc. and subsequently changed its name. Headquartered in Salt Lake City, American-owned SAi can also be found in Brussels, São Paolo, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Tokyo.
At a glance: FLEXI’s varied software packages begin with FlexiLETTER™, an intuitive, entry-level, vector-based, text, design and layout program for use with vinyl-cutting plotters. Next up is FlexiSIGN,™ a mid-level signmaking package that, in addition to design, vinyl-cutting, scanning and tracing capabilities, features Job Statistics and Text Styles. FlexiEXPERT,™ designed for professional signmakers, adds advanced, vinyl-cut and bitmap edit tools, without color-printing output. It also features design, text serialization and color-tracing features, as well as job-estimating and design templates. FlexiSIGN-PRO,™ SAi’s flagship product, offers total software solutions for any signmaking operation. It adds an advanced RIP, ICC profile support and built-in drivers, plus design, cut, RIP and print tools.
SAi also offers its PhotoPRINT™ product family that comprises PhotoPRINT SERVER-PRO,™ a client-server RIP package that features editing, a color profiler and a layout and design station; PhotoPRINT SERVER,™ a client-server RIP networks software for production environments that adds job-priority, page-nesting and job-nesting tools; and, PhotoPRINT DX,™ a layout package with design features for text, shapes and effects that will RIP and print to two devices simultaneously; PhotoPRINT SE, ™ designed for single-workstation environments, will directly RIP and print from such popular design applications as Adobe Photoshop® and Illustrator®, QuarkXPress® and CorelDRAW®.
Contact: Gudrun Bonte, product manager
Workflow and improved productivity were the revising engineers’ keywords.
People have been making signs since the Paleolithic era. In those days, humankind painted (or scratched) metaphoric similes and esoterica on rocks and cave walls, to express experiences, concepts and ideas. That humankind created such art was, archeologists say, the dawning of a new age. And, albeit it’s an imaginative stretch to group SAi Intl. with Paleolithic artists, in 1990, when signmaking technology was also an epochal event, SAi, from the start, was firmly onboard as both a software originator and foundational pioneer.
Since 1990, SAi’s sign products have expanded from vinyl-cutting applications to FlexiSIGN, a benchmark of computer-aided sign design and its related, automated, signmaking software, plus its PhotoPRINT™ family of large-format print software.
FlexiSIGN-PRO,™ the SAi flagship product, offers the total solution for any signmaking operation. It features an advanced RIP, ICC profile support and built-in direct drivers, plus design, cutting, RIPing and printing tools. Version 10, reviewed here, offers several notable updates:
Design Central — a context-sensitive feature that presents relevant information about a current, selected, drawing object. You can easily override any displayed values to change text and objects.
Smooth Shadows — to create a more realistic drop shadow. Select Shadow from the Effects menu and tag the Design Central Advanced button to apply such parameters as blur amount and opacity.
Link PDF — a feature that be worth the price of admission to many digital-print makers. Let s face it, we all have a love/hate relationship with PDF files. They are super convenient, and it’s common for clients to send graphic materials in PDF format. However, how many times have you opened that same file in three different programs (e.g., word processor, sign package, photo editor, etc.) and not one of them looks the same?
Common shop problems include color shifts and blends or transparency drawing elements. Our previous workaround was to find a program that rendered the file correctly and then exported that file into another format that the target software would better handle. In some cases, we’ve printed the file and then scanned it, to get an accurate rendering.
In Version 10, SAi offers two, PDF-file-handling methods: Import the PDF in a normal fashion and let Flexi handle the color and graphics interpretation, or link the file to the design and let the included interpreter deduce the colors and graphic objects.
How? Select Import, click on the PDF file and select the Link checkbox. We tested a document to see the difference — the link system worked great.
Multiple contour cut lines — allows you to customize digitally printed decals.
Weeding — add horizontal or vertical split lines from the Production Manager box. You can use them to separate lines of text, or pass through text area while avoiding the actual letters. Further, you can manually add or move the weeding lines to a new location.
Nesting per Vinyl Color — select the Nest option by clicking the Production Manager checkbox. To ease installation, specify that groupings stay together (e.g., words) thus preserving spacing in groups, while efficiently using the media.
Ink Estimation — Again, in Production Manager (Ink Estimation), key in the price of the ink and the container volume, then RIP and Print the image, but specify you want it held (not printed). Next, click the Estimate button at the top of the window to view a graph that shows the percentage of estimated remaining ink, by color (Fig. 6), and the ink cost.
If everything is cool, release the job to print.
Software updates — find a new Check for Updates tag in the Help menu that opens a web page that shows recommended updates, drivers, patches and profiles that your FlexiSign package may need. You can download the recommended items directly from the page.
The graphic user interface (GUI) — allows you to view color swatches and make easy color picks.
Bad Wrap design — combines high-resolution photos and precise vehicle measurements that allow you to quickly create and print a perfectly fitting wrap. Even better, you can drag and drop your design elements onto the template and they’ll automatically adjust to accommodate windows, door handles and other vehicle appurtenances.
We conclude that SAI has keenly replied to customer feedback because the updates are more than surface gloss. Once again, the steadfast company has advanced its already capable software. Now, you don t need to use a photo editor to create diffused drop shadows; instead, do it in the open-design package. The weeding and nesting enhancements make production more efficient and save materials. PDF color shifts, a pain for many, are supplanted by the Link import function. The ink estimator helps you save time and estimate jobs more accurately.
Finally, we’ll say this about Bad Wrap: It’s good.
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