Software - Jan/Feb 2014

Delcam - ArtCAM and CADCAM

Chalkboard made with ArtCAM Pro 2013Using the latest version, ArtCAM Pro 2013, the new Interactive Relief Modelling was used to stretch and bend the feathers in real-time. This peacock was designed in Delcam’s artistic CADCAM software package ArtCAM Pro.

Just as sign makers are demanding more of their software, consumers are demanding more of the sign maker. Living in the era of “instant gratification” has lead to a more demanding consumer, says Rebecca Freemantle, ArtCAM Marketing Manager.

“Today’s society has come to expect things instantly thanks to the digital era that we are in, and for many companies the true focus is now to ensure that the customers get what they want, when they want it - whether it is how fast a consumer receives purchased goods, how quickly they can learn how to use it or being able to produce detailed and accurate signage speedily,” she explains. It is to help sign producers meet these high expectations that Delcam have made continual improvements to ArtCAM software in a bid to make designing signs quicker and easier. “In ArtCAM 2013, we dramatically enhanced the speeds at which relief and vector artwork could be designed, as well as the speed in which simulations of the design were generated,” says Rebecca, adding this is something that will continue to be built into future releases. For the Delcam team, the job is never done when it comes to improving and adding new features to the software.

There have been significant developments over the last two editions of CADCAM software, with many more to come. And of course the ArtCAM 2012 and 2013 releases came with many user-friendly features such as interactive distortion modelling, allowing sign makers to alter their vector and relief artwork by bending and stretching their designs and to see them transform in real-time on their computer screens. “Delcam also has a number of projects in the pipeline to really push what can be done with vector design, relief modeling and machining,” reveals Rebecca. “Of course, there will always be fine tuning as technology progresses, as this allows us to improve areas of the software that customers feel could be better. Our continual drive is to ensure that the software is as easy as possible for the sign maker to use.”

The ArtCAM recipe for success

  • “With every release, we like to think of our process as a recipe,” says Rebecca. Here are things that Delcam considers when putting together the next version of ArtCAM software:

  • Small Things Matter – Delcam is in constant contact with its client base and in each release addresses areas that have “niggled” at our customers.

  • Core Features – On our customer visits, in ArtCAM forum interaction and ArtCAM user groups, we look at how our customers work and discuss their ideas. This helps the development team to create design and manufacturing tools to ensure that they can complete their jobs as fast and efficiently as possible.

  • Workflow – We ensure that the software is tested thoroughly so that it is every process from design and manufacture is easy to do. It is logical for anyone using ArtCAM.

  • WOW! – Delcam invests heavily in R&D to give our customers tools that will really transform what they do. As a large international company providing software solutions for a range of industries we are continually working with machine suppliers and industry leaders to further develop our product offering with unique technologies.

How to select winning software

As the sign market continues to diversify, it is becoming increasingly difficult for sign producers to cater to every faction of the market. The development of certain trends within signage and graphics can help sign makers concentrate on certain sub-markets or focus on select products, therefore making it easier to choose appropriate software. “With a rise in interest things like vehicle livery, it is helping to distinguish a sign manufacturer as one that focuses on digital and wide print formats to those that offer engraved, etched or dimensional signage,” says Rebecca.

When it comes to selecting the necessary software, sign makers are advised to consider products that can move with the market. This will cut down on re-purchasing and retraining costs, and make it easy to transition into new market areas, such as switching from 2D to 3D signage. Rebecca recommends attending open days or partaking in online software demonstrations prior to purchase to avoid selecting the wrong software package. “Additionally, arrange to speak to the company and tell them what work you do and what you would like to create in the future. From there they can show you what packages are available to you for your budget. Most importantly, don’t be afraid to ask!”

For more information, visit www.artcam.com

CADLink - SignLab, EngraveLab and ProfileLab

SignLab 9.1 boxSignLab 9.1 ScreenshotSignLab 9.1 being shown on a computer screen next to the software box.

Selecting the right type of software can be a challenge, with numerous capabilities, subscription options and price points on the market. CADLink Marketing Director Mike Chramtchenko reveals that when investing in sign making software, there are a few key things to keep in mind.

“The single biggest factor in selecting software is to make certain that the manufacturer is continuing investment in research and development, and adding support for changing market conditions as well as brand new specialty markets that appear on a regular basis,” says Mike. Investing in limited software can cost more to replace and rack up additional costs and time spent retraining staff, whereas selecting software from a trusted provider that constantly upgrades existing products can streamline user training and maximise cost efficiency.

Doing due diligence and research on software providers will help uncover things like a track record for developing new, innovative features (or a lack thereof), and enable sign makers to see which products are best suited to the various markets and clients they service. “Secondly, the temptation to utilise ‘generic’ or ‘non-market specific’ design or production software because of its extremely low price will cost sign makers in the long run,” adds Mike, noting that a reasonable investment made in market-leading, market-specific software will pay significant dividends by providing time savings as well as tools that provide higher value products to customers.

CADLink on the year ahead

CADLink has been a long-time provider of state-of-the-art software to the signage and graphics industry. Solutions are available across a wide variety of platforms that make it easy for sign makers to streamline their design processes on a number of materials. SignLab, currently on version 9.1, is a solution for large format design, and features new application plug-ins for common apps such as Corel and PhotoShop. EngraveLab offers solutions for laser engraved signage, and ProfileLab supports 2D and 3D CNC machining. According to Mike, the constant development of new software is a direct response to the new hardware that has entered the market in recent years. “The proliferation of new printers, new

ink technologies as well as new media types require that existing software packages extend support to these new methods of production and markets,” he explains. “The development emphasis for CADlink's software products (primarily SignLab and Digital Factory), has been to support new printers, print/cut devices and consumables.”

Core software products such as SignLab have undergone changes to introduce new design and production features in order to better serve new specialty markets, and improve overall workflows. CADlink has also been particularly responsive to the growth of online product fulfilment, as Mike reveals they have been “developing ways to integrate existing design and production workflows into the online business model.” When it comes to the overall market, Mike predicts the focus for software will be on developing products that support specialty markets as well as integration of design, production and delivery. “2014 will see exciting new developments within the software product line,” he says. “There may even be a new release of one or more brand software products.”

For more information visit www.cadlink.com

CorelDRAW

CorelDraw X6 Boxed software CorelDraw Smart Carver screen shots.

Sign makers can expect to see software that saves time and money without compromising on quality or output says Gérard Métrailler, Sr. Director, Product Management, Graphics at CorelDRAW.

“Corel will continue to focus on workflow and ease-of-use, enabling users to leverage the power of CorelDRAW in order to get their job done quickly and with an impact,” he explains. As the needs and budgets of every business vary, 2014 will see Corel continuing to offer monthly and yearly subscriptions as well as perpetual licenses and boxed products, so that companies can find the exact software solution that meets it’s goals. “Sign makers must be sure to buy software tailored for their business, and must also decide if they want to buy their software outright or rent it via subscription; Corel offers both solutions giving the customer a choice.”

Corel has continually invested in the performance of the software, with CorelDRAW X6 being released almost 20 years after the first edition. This software has many updates and capabilities designed specifically for sign makers to make it simple and efficient to create designs suitable for use on a number of materials. "The ability to create impactful graphics for a variety of outputs - vehicle wraps, billboards and traditional signs – is critical, as sign makers are often working on multiple projects with very little time,” says Gérard. “Sign makers need software compatible with the latest equipment and inks, including accurate colour management, which must be easy to use, time-saving and suit their workflow.”

Designed with sign makers in mind

CorelDRAW X6 is equipped with tools specifically for the sign maker, as opposed to general graphic designers or ad agencies.

Four shaping tools make it easy to refine vector objects, while the custom build colour harmonies allow sign makers to adapt colours collectively as opposed to individually. The intuitive software also creates complementary colour schemes, helping reduce the amount of time required during the design process whilst still providing vibrant shades for the client. The Complex Script Support feature speaks to the diversity of jobs that sign makers may undertake – quite literally. Asian and Middle Eastern languages appear with complete accuracy, allowing sign makers to deliver projects in a multitude of type-settings and opening up new revenue streams.

To learn more, visit www.corel.com

CorelDraw Colour Harmonies functionality being shown with a screen shot

 

Clarity Software - Increasing customer’s productivity

CLARITY SOFTWARE logoEmerson Welch, Marketing Manager for Clarity Software, reports that the company has seen a growth of over 20% this year, and predicts a similar profit next year as sign making companies require more software solutions to accommodate diverse business requirements.

As sign making companies continue to branch out when it comes to products and services, the demands from software are higher than ever. A new range of materials, printers, inks and more has lead sign makers to seek out integrated software solutions that take care of everything in one go. “At Clarity Software, we continue our quest to increase customer’s productivity by joining internal systems and processes together,” says Emerson. “Our joined up software is their foundation to drive high margins from the start, which is why software is right at the top of everyone’s list.”

Clarity Software broke ground last year after being the first software provider to be accepted into the BSGA. Their MIS (Management Information System) has been designed to help SMEs improve efficiency, streamline work processes and take care of time-consuming jobs automatically to reduce the amount of time it takes to process an order from start to finish. The company keeps a finger on the pulse of the changing dynamics in the sign industry so as to continually improve the MIS software to meet the demands of end users. With start-ups, mergers and breakaways constantly changing the face of the signage landscape, there is more pressure than ever to create software that rises to the challenge.

CLARITY SOFTWARE being showing in use.

One such challenge is the amount of business that is derived from website enquiries. As sign making companies look to increase this, Clarity Software responded with the innovative Web to MIS™ software, which received it’s debut in the Spring at the UK Sign and Digital exhibition. This timesaving software changed the face of website updates and customer communication in 2013, and Clarity Software looks to build on this momentum in the year to come. “Users will be quoting and estimating on the move through our cloud-based CRM system Clarity Go, which is a huge gamechanger for the industry, as well as having the ability to sell online using their trusted Clarity Professional MIS as the control centre for their website,” says Emerson.

Consolidation is key

Sign makers should ensure that they are selecting something tailor-made for sign and graphics, rather than a generic piece of software, advises Emerson. “Generalised business systems won’t work,” he says. “They will fall short in quoting and estimating and other key areas.” The areas of quoting and order placement are of course the most important when it comes to garnering immediate returns, and so Emerson advises to focus on this first before using the software to turn a hand to more advanced tasks like production scheduling and proofing. Rolling out the software in stages is advice Emerson often offers to businesses that are new to it, and it always well received. “The design of Clarity has been considered carefully so it can be implemented in stages, removing the need to overhaul your entire business overnight and risk upsetting your loyal staff,” he explains.

Just as important is the integration of the software with accounting products such as Sage and QuickBooks, as this mitigates the amount of time wasted on admin inputting duplicate entries into the system separately. From initial enquiries to finalised invoices, companies can keep track of everything in one place and spend less time doing so, freeing up more time to work on the projects at hand.

Heading into a new year, Emerson predicts there will be more than just software systems headed for amalgamation. “The natural progression of the sign industry points to more consolidation and acquisition in 2014, with some well-known corporations being targeted,” he reveals.

“There could be a few surprises.”

For more information visit www.clarity-software.com

SAi - Consolidated Software

Man holding media as it comes out of a wide format printer.Screenshots of the SAi Mobile App.

2014 may be a year of hotly-anticipated firsts for many things, but revolutionary software may not be among them says Jurgen Verhulst, Application Specialist for Signmaking Products at SAi.

“The sign making market is mature, and the software is mature as well,” he explains. “I think going forward we’ll see less revolutionary features because everything is already there. The major battle is behind us; all software is so feature-rich at the moment.”

What sign makers can expect to see more of is software that focuses on aligning business processes. This has been a key area of development for SAi for some time, and going forward, the company will continue to create software that not only streamlines every aspect of business, but also works across a number of different machines. Established sign making companies are no stranger to investing in new machines and receiving a new piece of operating software for each one. “It becomes a bit of a patchwork for the user,” says Jurgen. “There are so many applications running to get a single job done, and things can become even more complicated if there’s an equipment failure or a printer runs out of ink because all of this software has to be restarted.” With one streamlined product, costly mistakes and time spent training operators can be reduced, and this is exactly what SAi hopes to achieve in 2014.

Jurgen cites making high-quality software available to all businesses, from SMEs to start-ups, as another goal on the agenda.

Starting this year, SAi is rolling out the capability to buy software on a subscription basis. Sign makers can choose from monthly or yearly packages depending on their needs, which can reduce the temptation to invest in cheaper, non-specific software that has the tendency to cut corners. “Software is expensive for a reason, but we try to make it easy for all businesses to afford the best by breaking it down,” says Jurgen. “Software is an ongoing investment, so it saves time and errors in production to have one system that everyone can operate and understand.”

The most recent edition of SAi Flexi introduced cloud functionality with online storage, complete with apps that provide an integrated solution for end-users. Jurgen reveals plans to add yet more apps to the software in the coming year to give sign makers plenty of options when it comes to using various inks and substrates. Additions and improvements like these are what Jurgen believes will drive the software market forward, given that the basics have already been put in place and tailored to the evolving market of the past few years. “SAi already has a software solution for almost every aspect of sign making, whether it’s vinyl cutting, printing, CNC machining, colour profiling, design and editing. I think the future of software will be the integration of things like CRM software, accounting, design and even stock keeping - it will all be streamlined and consolidated.”

For more information visit www.thinksai.com.

Screendump showing the SAi software

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