Postpress Automation — Backing into IT
Out With the Old?
Along with figuring out how to address manual operations, incorporating legacy equipment is a big issue in bringing postpress into a CIM workflow. The long life span and cost of bindery equipment makes it impractical for shops to consider a wholesale upgrade to new systems with state-of-the-art electronic controls and digital interfaces.
Even existing systems with such capabilities are likely based on the PPF (Print Production Format) and not the JDF (Job Definition Format), which is seen as the basis for industry automation efforts going forward.
One of the main reasons for making a switch is that the JDF specification, with its Job Messaging Format (JMF), is designed for bi-directional communication. PPF was developed only to communicate job data from prepress to downstream operations for use in automating device makeready and setup. JDF adds the capability for devices to potentially report back their capabilities, status and progress toward completing a job.
The JDF specification uses a different data structure than PPF, but it includes an appendix detailing—element by element—how PPF maps to JDF, Harvey points out. PPF wasn't simply rolled into JDF "because, for all intents and purposes, it's a proprietary format, not an open specification like XML (extensible markup language), which is the foundation of JDF," he explains.
Freestanding JDF controllers are likely to become a commonly used solution for dealing with legacy equipment and manual processes in the bindery, Harvey believes. Such a controller could provide an interface to several different devices or even a whole department, he says.
"The server would act as a bridge between MIS systems and automated bindery equipment," the association exec observes. "This approach would provide a migration path that would be a little more friendly to a shop's capital budget. A lot of installed devices already have some capability to be included into an automated workflow, so it would just be a matter of slaving them (using their proprietary language) to a JDF-enabled controller."