Automation: Scientists Develop 3-D Document Visualization

Sept. 1, 2008
Preparing detailed brochures and flyers with special folds can be a time-consuming and costly process for printers. Until now.

Preparing detailed brochures and flyers with special folds can be a time-consuming and costly process for printers. Until now. Scientists at Xerox Corp. created a technology that uses 3-D software to help printers view the entire layout of a piece before it goes to print.

Aimed at eliminating one of the most costly bottlenecks in printing, the new technology will speed document preparation and approval—a process that costs six dollars for every one dollar spent on the print job itself, according to InfoTrends. With Xerox’s 3-D visualization software, users can see what prints will look like—texture, gloss, folds, binding and all— before any ink or toner is put to paper.

“3-D visualization helps prevent costly mistakes and rework,” says Rob Rolleston, a research manager at Xerox’s Research Center Webster. “Seeing the finished piece before it is printed can cut out many possible errors—orientation, cutting or even how a certain image sits on the page—and result in a great print the first time.”

The vision for this collaborative project across Xerox research centers in New York and California is to help customers understand all the options available to them, whether they are walking into a print shop or submitting print jobs via the Web. 3-D document visualization delivers a virtual tour of each customer’s desired print job. Customers watch as the program flips through a color flip book or opens and folds their greeting card, demonstrating exactly what it will look like upon completion. Rolleston says, “The software allows users to produce new and interesting documents without having to learn the technology and vocabulary of the printing industry.”

According to Rolleston, the technology is still being refined. “As we prototype this idea, like all others, we’ll engage with the customers to test concepts and determine the most valuable options,” Rolleston said. For more information, visit

Pants for Troops
Eton Systems Inc. says longstanding customer Tullahoma Industries LLC has shifted production of its U.S. Army’s Generation III uniform trouser program from traditional sewing and assembly lines to the advanced Eton unit production system in its Brilliant, Ala., facility. The move was warranted by production limitations related to handling of bundles of the lightweight, waterproof material used in the uniform.

After using a manual production process for more than six months, the move to Eton resulted in a 15% to 20% increase in productivity in fewer than 90 days. With operator productivity now running at 117% of established standards, the company plans to increase production of the Gen III pant from 500 units to 750 per day.

“Moving the GEN III product to Eton has been a huge improvement for us,” says Russell Boren, corporate engineer and former Brilliant plant manager. “The slick and lightweight materials were far too difficult to keep organized manually. Operators got frustrated trying to stack, tie and untie, and

Xerox scientist Rob Rolleston looks over a finished document as Xerox’s new 3-D Document visualization software displays the document on the screen in the background. (Photo by John Griebsc)

position the fabrics for assembly. Very few were even coming close to production goals.”

He says with the Eton system, all of the parts for each pant are efficiently organized in a special product carrier. Most of the time, workers do not even have to remove the work from the carrier to do their job. This has eliminated the need for two general material handlers and dramatically reduced operator handling time across the board.

Tullahoma Industries LLC produces commercial thermal underwear, chemical protective garments, and coveralls, coats and trousers for the U.S. military.

Latest from Technology & Automation