VARIABLE-DATA SOLUTIONS--Refining Raw Data
"Reusability" encompasses a combination of software and hardware capabilities. What PPML primarily does is specify how reusable elements are to managed, including naming conventions, and how cached elements are called by the page file. It is up to the RIP/front-end suppliers to decide what storage capacities and configurations to offer in their systems. The greater the amount of online storage, the more page elements that can be preprocessed and cached.
The decision to use XML (Extensible Markup Language) as the foundation for PPML provides an additional benefit. XML has been widely adopted as the underpinning of the modern Internet and state-of-the-art Web software. This commonality makes it easier to implement a Web-based interface in PPML-compliant variable-data workflows.
Breaking With the Past
With the exception of interoperability, the job processing capabilities enabled by PPML are not new to the market. A number of the proprietary data formats and systems developed by individual manufacturers already support page element caching and reuse.
That's where the potential for problems may lie. Manufacturers agreeing to work together to develop a standard is one thing, but getting everyone to implement it in an effective way is quite another. Technology and marketing concerns can impede progress.
From a technical standpoint, problems can arise due to the fact that a variable-data tool can be considered PPML-complaint even if it doesn't implement all of the functions supported in the print language. For example, what happens if the press' front end doesn't have adequate online, high-speed storage capacity to handle the level of job element reuse specified when the job is built?
The more insidious concern is marketing related. Can all the companies put aside their self-interests and act in the common good?
Some of the manufacturers involved in developing and implementing PPML have been players in other efforts to achieve system interoperability. Most notable was the attempt in the late 1980s to develop an interchangeable file format for use in color electronic prepress systems (CEPS). The standard had an official designation, but the development effort was generally referred to as DDES—Digital Data Exchange Standards.