Software is one of those things for which we tend to take an “out of sight, out of mind” approach. In the case of RIP software, you may be sending several jobs through each day and only occasionally experiencing an issue that requires more than a cursory examination; perhaps a font that wasn’t embedded into a PDF or a color profile that causes a color shift. It’s these situations that tend to lull operators into complacency.
Preflight software has done much to prevent expensive mistakes from making it all the way to plate or press over the years. However, the older the RIP, the more likely any issue that stops production is serious and costly. Of course, the same applies to the platform on which the RIP is loaded and the operating system under which it runs.
There are literally thousands of Harlequin version 9 and older RTI, Compose, ECRM, Xitron, and Rampage RIPs still in production out there. The computer’s hard drives are wheezing, complex patterns are taxing the trapping engine, jobs render at a pace slower than the output engine, and Microsoft has stopped writing security updates so the whole platform is at risk of becoming some sort of internet porn server. (Trust me, this really has happened!)
The point is, it’s not just about the software revision. It’s also about the underlying infrastructure. When the computer finally falls over in a squeaky gasp of smoke, the first thing people do is load the software on a new computer and move the dongle. All fine and good but that old RIP was never tested on that new OS, which means you cannot predict the stability of operation. What’s more, if you’ve been driving your engine through a PCI card it’s highly likely the drivers are not going to load and you’ll be completely out of production.
You rely on the RIP to drive your CTP and keep your press fed with plates, which is where your money is made. Instead of thinking out of sight out of mind, take an active approach to the state of your RIP and workflow. Recognize what a week out of production can really cost and I think you’ll find that upgrading the RIP and infrastructure together before there is a problem is the best insurance you can buy.