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GRAPH EXPO WRAP-UP -- Digital Integration Takes the Stage

November 2002
BY MARK SMITH


Job Definition Format (JDF) support came the closest to being a theme among prepress exhibits at the recent Graph Expo and Converting Expo 02 in Chicago. The competitive pressure to beat the drum for JDF compliance may be causing an unintended complication, however.

There are signs of a growing trend toward JDF being equated with all efforts to digitally integrate the entire print production process, a concept also known as computer-integrated manufacturing (CIM). That leap is not completely accurate, or at least premature.

JDF capabilities are not precisely a successor to the CIP3/4 support touted by manufacturers in the past. The latter is based on PPF, or the Print Production Format, which has been the foundation for capabilities such as ink key presetting on a press and automatic setup of job parameters on folders and cutters based on data from imposition systems.

JDF builds on the technology of PPF, as well as Adobe's PJTF (Portable Job Ticket Format), but isn't automatically a replacement for either. It is an XML-based standard designed to facilitate the exchange of information between different applications and systems within the overall print production process. The goal is to enable the creation of seamless workflow solutions encompassing products from all compliant vendors.

Despite JDF being a standard, mutual compliance doesn't mean two products will be able to automatically work together in a plug-and-play fashion. Even if one product can write a compliant file and another can read a compliant file, the manner in which the data is handed off or transferred typically requires tweaking, especially with products from different vendors. That's why, for example, workflow solution vendors such as Heidelberg and Creo announced the ability of their front ends to interface with specific JDF-compliant computer management system applications—Heidelberg Prinance and Printcafe Hagen OA, respectively.

JDF and the issues surrounding its implementation will be explored in greater depth in upcoming issues of Printing Impressions.

A sometimes related trend was the expansion of efforts to more directly integrate the creative workflow into print production systems. Creo has been a leading proponent of this workflow approach with its Network Graphic Production concept and Synapse family of products. After previewing it at On Demand 2002 in New York City, Heidelberg formally launched its offering, now called Prinect Internet Portal. These online systems provide tools to the content creator, including solutions for preflighting, proofing and job submission.

Birds-Eye View

Third-party component provider Markzware showed a new preflighting technology, called Hawkeye, that brings the capability to creative professionals through the use of plug-ins for popular desktop publishing applications.
 

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