The history of RIPs and how they evolved into DFEs

Around 1990 the first RIP was invented. Its developers envisioned a low-cost, easy-to-use system that would allow users to process and print high-quality graphics, including photos, with equipment that doesn’t need to be operated by fully qualified people who are familiar with offset, lithography, etc.

A decade later the printing industry started needing something more powerful, something that could load files from various network sources and process them for variable data applications as well as pull information from a database for personalised documents — what we now know as the Digital Front End or DFE.

A DFE should not only load files from multiple network sources and process these for output on digital equipment ranging from small desktop printers to large digital presses. It must also provide consistent colour, quality and accuracy, ensuring the highest standards are met at all times.

As with most things in life, not all DFEs are created equal. Especially when the economy is slow or the future uncertain, a powerful DFE can seem like a luxury when it probably isn’t. Looking into the past to see how it all started and evolved can tell you something about the future and what to expect from a technology.

Download the complete story on the evolution of the RIP for free here.