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DRUPA 04 REPORT PREPRESS & PREMEDIA -- Preparing Data, Not Dot

June 2004
BY MARK SMITH

Technology Editor

The front end of the printing process, or what happens "pre" the press, used to be a fairly contained, well-defined set of steps. Then the digital age dawned and, ever since, the changes have kept on coming. Another whole step, premedia, has even been added to the process.

At Drupa 2004, computer-to-plate (CTP) production, digital proofing (remote and hardcopy), screening alternatives and, of course, the all-encompassing workflow and CIM concepts were the primary areas of focus in new product development.

JDF support was pervasive, but came across more like a background buzz than a force destined to reshape the industry. That the sum of such developments would be under-whelming was all but inevitable once the event was crowned the "JDF Drupa."

In the end, the JDF Parc functioned more as a venue for one-on-one demos of individual solutions rather than a showcase for selling the concept to the masses. Print-City did a better job of physically displaying the end-to-end, integrated workflow concept, but there was a risk of the message getting lost amid all of the equipment required to build five multi-supplier "production factories" that represented different print specialties. Across the way, the physical proximity and designs of the Creo and NGP Partners booths worked against positioning of the latter as an independent, open organization working toward process integration.

One did get a sense that JDF is real and progress is being made toward the goal of enabling a data-driven print manufacturing process. By CIP4's accounting, there were 75 companies showing JDF-enabled products at Drupa. In the JDF Parc, the 21 participating companies reportedly showed 90 connectivity pairs—combinations of two products with proven JDF interchange capabilities. NGP Partners said its members were presenting more than "80 pair integrations that are installed, in testing or in development."

Perhaps of more significance were the hopeful signs that some of the confusing aspects of this industry effort may be resolved. For one, NGP Partners and PrintCity both have become CIP4 members, on top of memberships held by the individual companies that form these groups. NGP Partners also has committed to bringing its results back to CIP4 and working toward establishment of a single version of each Interoperability Conformance Specification (ICS) being developed for the industry at large. These developments should help address any concerns about groups within the industry working at cross purposes.

Doing a Job on Spec

The ICS concept was one of the primary advances introduced in version 1.2 of the JDF specification, which was released during Drupa. It provides a mechanism for establishing a minimum standard implementation of the specification within individual classes of devices. According to CIP4, the other big change is a complete overhaul of the preflighting description to enable standardized preflight profiles and reports.
 

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