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CIP3 Comes Home

April 2000
Lieber Vater! In many ways, CIP3 can give thanks to the DRUPA exhibition in Germany. DRUPA 1995 was the event that really brought attention to the CIP3 initiative. DRUPA 2000 will see several conceptual aspects of the initiative realized.


In late 1993, Heidelberger Druckmaschinen initiated discussions in Germany with the Fraunhofer Institute for Computer Graphics. The two organizations, later joined by bindery innovator Polar-Mohr, formed the foundation for the CIP3 cooperative—a study group known as CIP3, the International Cooperation for Integration of Prepress, Press and Postpress.

By DRUPA 1995, the CIP3 movement took official form. Its objective: Facilitate data exchange from prepress to finishing. In short, bring about the digital linkage of all production processes over the complete printing process. The essential requirement for this digitization was the creation of the Print Production Format (PPF), a standard machine language—introduced at DRUPA 1995—that defines certain data, from the design to the dispatch of a printed product.

As DRUPA 2000 commences— May 18th to 31st in Dusseldorf, Germany—the global printing industry finds that this still-young study group is now more than 40 members strong and the specification of the PPF format can be downloaded free from the Website.

With DRUPA 2000 as its backdrop, the study group—including, among others, Adobe, Agfa, Akiyama, Barco, Creo, Fujifilm, Gallus, Hagen, Hamada, Harlequin, Kolbus, Komori, MAN Roland, Mitsubishi, Ryobi, Sakurai, Scitex, Screen, Wohlenberg and Xerox—are working with Heidelberg in cooperation with the Fraunhofer Institute to make real the digitization of print production, first discussed with fervor in 1993.

What will DRUPA 2000 hold for CIP3? Over the past five years, the CIP3 initiative, at any given time, has been called the tool for linking printing processes; a giant step in establishing an all-digital workflow; a vital piece of the digitization puzzle for print production.

Still, has the CIP3 movement truly permeated the prepress-to-postpress activities of commercial printing? Yes and No. While there are dozens of commercial printers in the United States testing and operating all-digital workflows that adhere to the PPF, these printers, for today, are in the minority. Hesitation exists.

Despite the fact that there are proven products in the market that permit the full-tilt digitization of the print production process, there remains a sense of "wait and see" in the printing industry. Not to worry, though, once it catches on, adoption could become rapid.

Some CIP3 prepress initiatives at DRUPA 2000 include the Apogee InkDrive by Agfa; CelebraNT RIP by Fujifilm; DeltaTechnology and Signastation by Heidelberg Prepress; and Harlequin's ScriptWorks RIP management system, sold through OEM partners. DRUPA 2000 may also be a show of shows for CIP3 technologies including the likes of Impostrip by Ultimate Technographics, InkPlanner by Barco Graphics, Creo's PrintLink and TaigaSPACE by Dainippon Screen.

Outside the digital prepress realm at DRUPA 2000 will most likely be CIP3 technologies such as CIP3 Interpreter from Graphics Microsystems and MAN Roland's PECOM technology, as well as Heidelberg's CPC 32 press interface, which reads a CIP3 file created by Heidelberg's Delta module, PressGate. Heidelberg's CPC 32 then calculates and presets ink zone coverage on Speedmaster presses.

The CPC 32 prepress interface values are obtained directly from a PPF file produced during the prepress process and are transferred to the press via a flash memory card or by wire. That reduces makeready time, since the device eliminates the need for the press operator to manually adjust each printing unit's ink zone settings. An ancillary benefit is more precise presetting of ink zones. In the bindery, Heidelberg offers the Polar Compucut, which uses CIP3 PPFs to program cutting systems automatically from prepress data, which, naturally, trims production time and eliminates the possibility of input errors.

On an Internet note, new companies have joined the CIP3 initiative, notably Impresse and Noosh. Both are poised to offer Internet-based print procurement and administrative tasks to the printing industry—perhaps via a PPF link, but certainly via an automated bridge that will link the print procurement phase with the print production processes further down a print job's life cycle.

MAN Roland is one of more than 60 partners making up PrintCity at DRUPA 2000. Located in a new hall, it will be the largest single exhibit hall in Germany, occupying more than 220,000 square feet. MAN Roland and its PrintCity partners, including fellow CIP3 partners Adobe, Agfa and Wohlenberg, will demonstrate complete print production workflows.

With CIP3 in mind, MAN Roland will exhibit its PECOM Server-Net, which is a backbone for the CIP3 open-architecture concept. Also in PrintCity, MAN Roland will operate a new electronic job ticket specification designed to bring significant levels of process automation, collaborative workflow and asset management to both print and cross-media publishing markets.

Jointly announced in February by industry leaders Adobe, Agfa, Heidelberg and MAN Roland, the Job Definition Format (JDF) is a new electronic job ticket specification. It is being positioned as an open, scalable, Web-compatible job ticket standard that is built on the success of market proven standards like the CIP3 PPF and upward compatible to de facto standards like Adobe's PDF and Adobe's Portable Job Ticket Format (PJTF).

The JDF specification will be published by the four companies and made widely available to all interested OEMs, third parties and end users via

With these and other initiatives that will take center stage at DRUPA 2000, CIP3 has become much more than a concept. It is a consortium in action, a cooperation of technology pioneers devoted to advancing automation in the printing process. CIP3, too, is an application. It is the Print Production Format, which, through technologies from Adobe, Agfa and other software engineers, is linking the front-end functionality and demands of commercial printing to their pressroom and bindery operations. One by one, commercial printers are adopting the PPF as a standard workflow.

With new CIP3 members such as business-to-business Internet companies, one can only speculate as to how far-reaching the CIP3 initiative might actually evolve for the commercial printing industry.

In the case of Impresse, for example, the CIP3 commitment is apparent, as Impresse's Robert Chansler, R&D technologist and CIP3 expert, explains: "CIP3's Print Production Format was a valuable contribution to the industry, and Impresse supports that standard primarily by reliable transport of the PPF data. We are excited about the recent Job Definition Format initiative because this next-generation standard lets us add value by managing the procurement and commerce aspects of the commercial printing supply chain from the creative professional to the factory floor to invoice and delivery reconciliation."

What could the eventual direction of CIP3 be, with the addition of Web-based technology providers to the consortium? Internet to press? Internet to postpress? Print procurement to print delivery—fully automated functionality from the point before concept to the point after postpress? Invariably DRUPA 2000, and future DRUPAs, will offer a clearer view of CIP3 automated advancements and the willingness of commercial printing to embrace its inevitable, digital world.


The Print Production Format (PPF) is the specification developed by the CIP3 consortium that defines how an organization passes production data from prepress to press to postpress.

Launched at DRUPA 1995, the PPF is a standard machine language that has been embraced in digital workflows by Adobe, Agfa, Barco, Creo, Heidelberg Prepress, Scitex, Screen and other digital workflow providers.

With the PPF, ink key settings on the press can be handled automatically using data downloaded from RIPed files. The goal: Use prepress automation to allow a print job to speak in one voice, digitally, from prepress to the pressroom and, ultimately, the bindery.

PPF files are generated as early as possible in the life cycle of a print job. Along with information such as the client's name and address, the print job's name and the applications used to create the data for the print job, the PPF contains as much information about the job as possible—from format size to inks and finishing information.


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