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WEB PRINTING SPECS -- SWOP for the New Millennium

September 2001
BY MICHAEL RODRIGUEZ


Over the last quarter century Specifications for Web Offset Publications, or SWOP (www.swop.org), has become a major factor in the success of the publication industry in the United States and a widely recognized acronym around the world.

This has been accomplished in a diverse business and technical environment by means of reasonable specifications put forth by a group of dedicated volunteers. These volunteers understand that the printing industry is a manufacturing business which, like other manufacturers, can streamline its production process when the input of information is standardized. SWOP specifications help everyone in the production chain—from advertisers to prepress shops to printers—to work together more efficiently

Over the years SWOP has adapted to changes in technology and business and now, with the digital transformation from desktop publishing to computer-to-plate (CTP) in full swing, it has extended its philosophy to the challenges of this new era.

The new 2001 specifications, the ninth edition, include a number of new approaches for promoting accurate communication and quality production throughout all segments of the graphic arts chain. Guidelines, specifications and formal standards provide a stable foundation, which allow new technologies to be extended to their fullest advantage. But first, a little background.

Twenty-seven years ago, as high-speed web offset printing was transforming the publication market, a group of industry experts met to address a growing problem in color reproduction. Supplied input materials (film and proofs) were produced in widely varying ways, making it nearly impossible for printers to match color consistently.

Publications were especially challenging because of the diverse mix of enterprises—client, agency, prepress, publisher, printer—through which complex production steps were mediated. Importantly, the quality requirements of the advertising community, the lifeblood of many publications, were not being met and it was getting worse.

Widespread Participation
The group invited participation from all segments of publication production and set out to establish specifications and responsibilities for the production of advertising and editorial materials. A board of directors was established, consisting of representatives of major trade organizations. This volunteer body, since expanded to include at-large experts, has guided SWOP through the changing landscape of the publication industry. A review committee was also established with all interested parties invited to participate.

These two groups have met regularly to monitor current issues in the industry, to update the specifications and to reaffirm the mission of continual improvement in the quality of publication printing. Over the years this work has reflected SWOP's commitment to adapting to the latest techniques and technology.
 

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