VariScript™ Product Overview
VariScript was launched in January
1997 as a unique high-performance PostScript controller for production
printing environments. The controller, which is called HPO (High-Performance
Page Output), can process PostScript data at 1,200 feet per
minute and fully manage all aspects of the printing process.
The HPO consists of a dual-board RIP housed in a rack mount
case for easy installation.
The HPO features several custom-designed ASICs that handle
raw bit manipulation at very high speeds.
In addition to the bit manipulation ASICs, the controller features
a variety of other processors that handle I/O and other functions,
depending on the requirements of the OEM.
The HPO is linked to a host system or a network of clients via
an Ethernet 10/100BaseT interface. The device connects to a printer
through a proprietary vLogix fiber-optic interface. The printer
receives data from the interface, or TAB (Target Adaptor Board) boards, for each supported
object. These compact TAB boards fit internally into the engine
and convert the fiber-optic protocol into the protocol of the marking
engine. In the case of a multi-engine printer such as a "twin"
or an ink jet device with multiple heads, the fiber-optic connections
can be daisy-chained from engine to engine. Logically, all of the
engines are in the same loop.
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The system can deliver data in any form required. The HPO delivers
a complete bitmap, scan line to scan line.
In addition to the Ethernet and fiber-optic links, the HPO includes
several other interfaces, including a serial port for diagnostic
purposes and additional serial and parallel ports.
While the hardware is rugged and simple to repair, the real heart
of the vLogix technology is the software. Designed for the HPO,
this unique software architecture, called VariScript (variable PostScript),
is radically different than that found in traditional production
Like other variable data printing technologies, all VariScript
print jobs have two primary components, a variable data file, or
"merge file," and a fixed data file, or "style sheet."
The merge file is a simple text file consisting of sequential fields
of text with absolutely no formatting information. It can be generated
manually, or, more likely, dumped from a database.
The style sheet is a standard PostScript file generated in any
page layout or other application. It consists of both "static"
graphic or text elements that will appear on every page of the ultimate
print job, and variable data demarcated with double brackets ("<<"
and ">>"). The brackets surround the name of a data
field to be filled by variable data in the merge field. The formatting
of the double-bracketed field name is applied directly to the variable
During the print process, the variable data and fixed data are combined
to create finished pages. But this process requires two additional
pieces of data: a job ticket that specifies the particular characteristics
of the job (duplex, 11x17, saddlestitched, folded, etc.),
and a "configuration file" that provides the HPO with
the information it needs to format any job properly for a particular
The job ticket is another simple text file generated in any word processing application,
but, of course, in a format that can be interpreted by the HPO.
The job ticket not only controls basic print characteristics
and postprocessing operations, but also many formatting functions
such as text wrapping, page orientation, margin widths, character
substitutions, and user-defined bar codes. As a result, many problems
in the original PostScript style sheet or merge file can be corrected
at print time without touching either file, simply by editing
the job ticket.
The configuration file is resident in every HPO, and is unique
to the type of printer your HPO drives. A single HPO can drive only
one print job simultaneously, although that print job can consist of more than one marking
Distribute and Print
Because the printer-specific aspects of a job (the job ticket and
configuration file) are separate from the job itself, VariScript
is ideal for "distribute-and-print" operations. A variety
of machines can be used.
The VariScript approach also provides customers with unprecedented
flexibility. It allows the high-volume user to put the job on the
best machine for the job without altering the data stream.
One of the most original characteristics of the VariScript approach
is its "pull architecture." Ordinarily, print files are
"pushed" at printers by an operator on the host system.
But with VariScript, the operator simply inputs a job ticket name
and location to the HPO, and leaves the rest to the system.
After receiving this request, the HPO retrieves the required job
ticket from the specified location. The job ticket in turn specifies
the location of the PostScript style sheet and merge file to be
used for the job, which are "pulled" by the HPO for processing.
The style sheet and merge file can be stored locally or remotely.
The first step in the VariScript rendering sequence is the parsing
of the PostScript style sheets into display lists by a Xionics-based
interpreter. Then the style sheets and the merge files are composed
into PostScript pages. These composed pages in turn are rendered
into bitmaps by the HPOs powerful ASICs and sent in bands
to the print engine (or engines). No pre-processing is required.
The entire process happens in real time.
A key component of the VariScript architecture is a comprehensive
audit trail for tracking what has happened to a job. Every page
in a job gets a unique 32-bit audit number and a series of time
stamps as it is processed --when it was created, when the printer
received the page, when the page passed through the post-processing
systems. Only when the page has been printed is the HPO
signaled that the page is done.
If a page fails at any point, this fact is recorded in an audit
file that includes details on the nature of the problem. At the
end of the job, this file is sent to the host for printing or storage.
The operator can also specify that failed pages automatically be
reprinted without stopping the workflow.
Because of its unique architecture, the HPO controller can produce
variable PostScript pages at the blistering rate of 1,200 feet per
minute. Or, put in a page-per-minute context, 4,000 impressions
per minute on an 18-inch wide duplex printer.
VariScripts banding architecture allows the HPO to operate
with remarkably little memory and no disk storage needed
at all. It buffers 20 to 30 pages ahead.
Another key feature of VariScript is the fact that the technology
is entirely self-contained, with no need for special external software
or drivers of any kind. All of the data required by the HPO can
be generated in conventional desktop applications.
The VariScript architecture was originally developed over
a five-year period beginning in 1992 and the first functioning controllers
were demonstrated at COMDEX in 1994. Since then, VariScript has
been shown at a wide range of shows, including DRUPA, On Demand
Early in 2001, vLogix purchased the rights to VariScript and
is currently engaged in further application development of the product.