JDF BASICS -- It's Just the Ticket
To throw in one final acronym, JDF is said to have been designed "with the intention of providing the highest possible level of compatibility" with the PPF (Print Production Format). PPF started the industry down the road to computer-integrated manufacturing by enabling data captured in prepress to be utilized in the pressroom and bindery. The primary implementations have been using data captured by the RIP to preset ink keys on-press and passing job layouts from imposition software to the bindery for automatic setup of cutters and folders.
PPF can be thought of as providing a subset of the functionality in JDF and as a precursor to it. A new JDF-enabled system should enable the same capabilities of PPF, but doesn't necessarily replace it. Legacy systems will dictate that the two formats continue down parallel tracks for some time.
Because of the position its products occupy in the workflow, ScenicSoft Inc. had been the nexus of much of the activity related to PPF implementation. Having since been acquired by Creo Inc., the company reportedly plans to continue its development efforts with regard to PPF and JDF. "We will continue to offer support for PPF even after we add full support for JDF output to finishing equipment," says Caycee Holt, product marketing manager for Print Planning Software at Creo Inc.
The nature of CIP3-4/PPF required that the implementation be tweaked for specific types and brands of equipment, Holt notes. "We've had to send different PPF files based on the type of equipment (cutting, folding, etc.), but all vendors use the same format," she adds. "In the spirit of open standards, we hope to deliver the JDF file in a one-size-fits-all form."
The industry's experience with implementing PPF and the extensibility of JDF have cast doubt on the "plug-and-play" interoperability of the specification. Currently, no formal process exists for testing and certifying JDF specification compliance, concedes Margaret Motamed, CIP4 chief marketing officer. However, she says the organization's System Interoperability Working Group is working to create a compliance process that is expected to include certification levels and a series of interoperability test events.