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JDF Workflows — Legacy Meets Automation

April 2008 By Erik Cagle
Senior Editor
MICHAEL MURPHY likes to keep his ear close to the ground. The president of Japs-Olson Co. in St. Louis Park, MN, is a frequent conference attendee who tries to stay constantly attuned to what technological movements are afoot in the commercial printing industry. JDF, or Job Definition Format, is of particular interest.

One would be hard-pressed to find someone who is not a strong advocate of JDF in principle, if not practice. The practice area is where it starts to come apart, especially if the topic at hand is full, true JDF workflow. These are almost as uncommon as Elvis sightings and, to some, equally difficult to believe.

“I always find it interesting when you go to conferences and see people showcasing these elaborate workflows. Then you realize that what they did was buy a new press and a new cutter,” Murphy says. “So it makes sense that (JDF) would work. But it becomes more of a challenge when you talk about trying to bridge cutters and folders that are 10 to 15 years old with one new cutter. We found, in our situation, that it happens a lot.”

Like Japs-Olson, many U.S. printers find themselves equipped with a mixed bag (agewise) of prepress, press and finishing gear. The problem with that, as Murphy points out, is the hardware’s varying stages of compatibility with the latest preset standards. Thus, the workflow from a JDF standpoint is not as seamless as advertised.

Bridges to legacy equipment are the key that make JDF life more fruitful. For example, Murphy points to the Microcut from C&P Microsystems as enabling his company to get maximum performance out of his older cutters. The Microcut is designed to automate backgauge movement on any paper cutter, regardless of brand or size. Productivity, greater accuracy and improved reliability are among the touted benefits.

“We have nine cutters and only two of them are preset-able,” Murphy notes. “The Microcut has really helped us update some of the older machines.”

On the folding end, Murphy finds a challenge in sending out presets to mixed manufacturer gear. Japs-Olson operates MBO and Heidelberg (Stahl) folders, and it was necessary to script the prepress system to be able to write out preset files for both because a determination of which folder to use typically hasn’t been decided at this stage of production. Then files can be put on the network to be downloaded by the cutter or folder operator.
 

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