The world of high-end printing owes much to a small country one would not perhaps immediately associate with some of the best and most innovative technology in prepress and printing. I refer, of course, to Israel. One of the leading figures in the printing world is Efi Arazi, an Israeli who pioneered photography for the NASA Moon landing and also founded Scitex, a leading high-tech company in the printing output and input business. Now there is another product from Israel, the Indigo printer. The normal digital printing process requires designing what we want on a computer, taking the data to an output service and having them create the cyan, magenta, yellow and black (CMYK) film. The film is then taken to a printer, the paper chosen and a number of prints is thought of - a few thousand, for example. A few days later the print job is done. Altogether, this can take anything from a week to a month or more. Good communication is essential here. The Indigo will change some of this, if not in fact radically alter the way we print in the future. Computers have long threatened to be able allow us to do things that were once only dreamt about. With a machine like this it would be possible to do a print run where every page had a unique graphic on it. This, of course, is not possible with traditional film because once it is made, it cannot be changed. With the Indigo, because the printing is done directly from the binary data in the computer to the printer itself, each page can be unique, or each page can contain unique data. One of the first Indigos to make an appearance in Hong Kong was bought by KM Yim, the manager director of Print-on-Demand, a service bureau that offers traditional film output as well as special printing on the Indigo. The machine was bought through the trading giant Jebsen, who also supplied a few weeks of training for the staff at Print-on-Demand. The Indigo is a large printer with a Sun Microsystems workstation in it to control the complex processes needed to produce four-colour output. After a few teething problems, the printer now runs much easier. Mr Yim said: 'It has taken about three months to get the Indigo 'broken-in'.' The printer is known to be a little temperamental about settling in but it seems to be working quite well now, he says. Occasionally it is necessary to ring Israel to get the answer to a difficult question, but that is increasingly rare, said Mr Yim. The Indigo is particularly useful for high-quality, small-volume output that is needed in a hurry. It is actually cheaper than traditional printing methods if you are doing a run of about a thousand or less. The printer is theoretically capable of handling 1,000 pages per hour but in fact it may depend on other factors, such as the amount of ink needed for each page. In the best case, Mr Yim can almost certainly guarantee 500 pages in an hour. Mr Yim employs a number of people to take care of all this expensive equipment. He has three Sun SPARC stations, three Power Macintoshes, a Howtek drum scanner, a Scangraphic imagesetter and an IBM PC. Morrisey Cheung is the shop manager for all of this and he has experience with Macs and UNIX machines. Print-on-Demand is open from 9 am to 3 am. If a client comes in with a job before 11 pm at night it will be ready by 11 am the next day. Mr Yim said he was keen to link up with designers in the territory and work out the best way to use the technology. Some designers were sceptical about the initial results of the Indigo but after viewing the latest output they said they would use the product if an opportunity arose.