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INDUSTRY STANDARDS — FOR THE COMMON GOOD

September 2006 BY MARK SMITH
Technology Editor
STANDARDS ARE not the sexist topic. The need for exactness can make even their names a tough read. Take, for example, ISO 12647-2, the standard for “Graphic technology - Process control for the production of halftone color separations, proof and production prints - Part 2: Offset lithographic processes.” That is instantly memorable.

The payoff from implementing common languages and practices is a more efficient and consistent printing process. Efforts to that end continue on a number of fronts, but two have been particularly active of late.

Users of print that operate on a global basis want their materials to have a consistent appearance regardless of where the pieces are produced, which means “running to the numbers” with SWOP or ­GRACoL, now administered by IDEAlliance.

Maximizing process efficiency through automation means minimizing operator intervention and seamlessly integrating production steps by implementing an interconnected workflow that spans the entire plant, as well as front office—enter JDF (Job Definition Format).

Adoption of standards can be an uphill battle due to concern that something will get lost in translation. Printers may fear losing the ability to differentiate themselves based on quality. Manufacturers may see standards as limiting the value add that comes with customizing their solutions.

To be precise, something can only be a true “standard” if it is recognized by the International Standards Organization (ISO) that governs all industries, including printing. There are also de facto standards, specifications, best practices, etc., that can be the solution of choice without rising to the level of a formal standard. With apologies to the purists, the term standard may sometimes be applied in a broader, less precise, sense in this article in the interest of readability.

Standards have been known to stir controversy, since the parties involved can have very strong opinions and potentially competing interests. Even so, IDEAlliance’s introduction of the G7 methodology prompted a surprising level of international debate.

G7 and GRACoL 7
According to the “G7 How-to” primer released by IDEAlliance, this “calibrating, proofing and printing methodology” grew out of research and development efforts of the GRACoL Committee. The new methodology “defines gray balance and target neutral print density curves (NPDC) for three-color gray and black as the primary method for color control as opposed to previously developed methods that focus on ink density and TVI (Tone Value Increase, formerly known as dot gain).”

G7 originally was developed to support the GRACoL 7 specification. The “G” refers to calibrating gray values and the “7” stands for the seven primary color values defined in the ISO 12647-2 printing standard—Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black (K), Red (M+Y), Green (C+Y) and Blue (C+M).
 

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