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CIP4 Standard--Digital Integration

September 2000
The Job Definition Format (JDF) has added a new vigor to the CIP3 movement—changing the consortium's name to CIP4, and forecasting a new era for CIM in an e-commerce and more automated printing industry.


When the CIP3 consortium was formed in 1995, the intent was clear: develop standards that would facilitate a completely automated and integrated printing process, from prepress to pressroom to postpress. Hence the name, CIP3—the International Cooperation for Integration of Prepress, Press and Postpress.

Easy enough. The mission was embraced by dozens of technology providers. Together, companies from Heidelberg to Adobe, MAN Roland to Agfa, formulated a new format, known as the Print Production Format (PPF). The specification is designed to enable printing workflows that reduce the need for repeated data entry. Most recognized as an enabling technology for ink-key presetting, the PPF, from the first version to its third, gained recognition throughout the industry.

Then in July of this year, something changed. With more than 40 members working in a joint direction for the betterment of the PPF, the CIP3 consortium announced on July 14th that a new format, which had been fast gaining attention and implementation in the industry, would now be a rising star for its own efforts to automate and streamline the printing process.

In a telephone conference call spanning three continents, the CIP3 consortium and the four companies that initiated development work on the Job Definition Format (JDF)—Adobe, Agfa, Heidelberg and MAN Roland—reached a final agreement on the details of handing over all rights to JDF to CIP3.

The result: CIP4. The CIP3 consortium changed its name, officially, to the International Cooperation for Integration of Processes in Prepress, Press and Postpress, or CIP4. Immediately, work began among the collective technology members to start negotiations with other standards organizations with the expertise to work on extending JDF into areas such as digital printing and e-commerce.

"The printing and publishing industry needs a robust and widely implemented standard supporting e-commerce, automation, computer integrated manufacturing (CIM) and the ability for products from a variety of vendors to work together," stated Martin Bailey, senior technical consultant at Harlequin and acting chair of the CIP4 interim advisory board, during the time of the July 14th announcement.

"JDF is a long way ahead of any alternatives at this point, and we are delighted to see it moving to an open standards body where everybody can contribute to its further development," he added.

What's in an Acronym?
What is JDF? The most significant capabilities of JDF can be divided into three principal categories: JDF's ability to complete every part of a job, from start to finish; its ability to link MIS with production; and its ability to perform both of the first two tasks, no matter what tools are used.

JDF provides a mechanism to control all of the processes in print production. Unlike other job ticket formats, JDF allows the description of all the processes needed to complete a printed product, from job submission through prepress, press and postpress.

Sound familiar? It certainly did to the CIP3 consortium. JDF also provides a mechanism to allow production automation systems, or MIS, to control and track jobs. Essentially, JDF supplies a messenger service to run between MIS and production. As each process in a job executes, the results are recorded into the job to facilitate tracking each aspect.

In addition, JDF defines a messaging architecture, which includes message formats, semantics and message protocols. JDF devices use this architecture to communicate with systems that control print production facilities. System vendors, therefore, are given a great deal of flexibility in terms of how they choose to use the messaging architecture, and whether they provide both notification and control facilities.

"JDF is the missing link to implement interoperability of systems from e-commerce to print room, allowing automation of the entire publishing process," reports Johan Berlaen, general manager of R&D Systems at Agfa.

"The transfer of the initiative from the four founding companies to an open standards body is a major milestone in the adoption of JDF," he contends. "I encourage organizations, companies or individuals who want to contribute to JDF to work together with CIP4 so that JDF can be implemented worldwide for the benefit of the whole publishing and printing industry."

Within the coming months, more news will be reported concerning efforts to implement JDF into CIP4 initiatives, signaling a new turn for automated workflows and process control. It will incorporate prepress technologies, as well as e-commerce technologies working on the front end to drive process control through the pressroom and out the finishing department.

CIP3 is no more, it has evolved; and with it evolves the expectations of the printing industry as digital technologies deliver new levels of print production automation.

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