Why Embracing Standards in the Printing Industry is Important
The following post was submitted by Color 2015 sponsor, X-Rite Pantone.
Author: Ray Cheydleur, Printing and Imaging Product Portfolio Manager, X-Rite Pantone
Many industries rely on standards and technical specifications to bring an independent perspective to their production processes. In the world of print, some people think only manufacturers and software vendors need to understand color standards. This, of course, isn’t the case. Embracing standards and specifications can help printers set clear expectations, solve practical problems, and improve productivity by bringing a systematic perspective to their entire print workflow.
What’s the difference between the Standards and Specifications? Industry Standards are maintained by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and provide rules, guidelines, and characteristics for common and repeated activities to help printers achieve the best possible output. Specifications contain technical guidelines, often incorporating standards and provide detailed descriptions of the required criteria for a piece of work, such as print targets, aims, and ICC profiles.
With the advent of hybrid printing—that is, printing components of the same job or for the same client with multiple printing technologies—it has become increasingly necessary to print to standards. Producing materials on a variety of offset, flexo, or digital devices; running prints using two different technologies or processes; or printing locally to save transportation costs—these can all result in an ambiguous exchange of print-related data which can result in inconsistent quality. Standards help bridge the gap so everyone is speaking the same language.
I recently spoke at Color 15 about a few important standards that can help printers overcome the challenges of hybrid printing.
Controlled Lighting for OBAs
ISO 13655 and ISO 3664 aren’t new, but they have had a significant impact on standards work this year. They help printers deal with the impact that optical brightening agents (OBAs) have on color. These are chemicals that are added to paper to make it look brighter and whiter. ISO 13655 specifies the kind of light to measure with, and ISO 3664 the color of light to view with, so they interact with OBAs in the same way—establishing agreement between visual checks and measured evaluations.
Adopting these standards can require new measurement equipment, lamps, or viewing booths, plus the specifications and workflows that enable it, so it has taken some time for everyone to get behind them. However, if you print to specifications, have brightened stocks, or do something other than on-press proofing, following these standards is the only way to address the realities of today's market and consistently deliver the color consistency your customers expect.
To learn more about the impact of OBAs on the print and packaging industry, check out a whitepaper I co-wrote with Kevin O’Connor.
Printing digitally across multiple technologies
ISO/PAS 15339 describes standard practices for hybrid printing. Using a gray balanced approach, the goal of this standard is to enable the best reproduction of process printing across a range of substrates and technologies. It also provides standardized print specifications that brand owners and print specifiers can use to predict and specify the quality of requested work.
This standard contains two parts. Part 1 describes the methodology for better data exchange in the workflow based on color quality and a colorimetric-based process control. It also provides a way to achieve similar appearance results between printing processes with different color gamuts. Part 2 provides the first set of reference characterization data sets that meet the criteria laid out in Part 1, providing seven different reference printing conditions, from small gamut to larger-than-standard analog printing gamut.
If you have an established color-managed workflow, implementing ISO/PAS 15339 will be a piece of cake because these reference print conditions comply with GRACoL, SWOP, and even ISO 12647-2. In fact, SWOP and GRACoL 2013 use these exact characterized reference printing conditions.
Universal file format for digital color communication
Correct and accurate color communication is critical to an efficient workflow in the Graphic Arts, and communicating color data electronically has become a hot topic for printers. The Color Exchange Format (CxF™) helps by laying the foundation for the unambiguous communication of color. It’s defined in a completely open way so that all aspects of a color can be communicated, even when the application and the color communication features required are unknown. CxF is able to extend the information set to the needs of a new application without affecting general usability.
CxF version 3, originally developed by X-Rite, has moved to a standard that can be used by everyone to share color data at all steps in the workflow, from brand owner through to production. ISO CxF/X (ISO 17972-1:2015) with additional parts provides a framework for exchanging everything from target data to spot color tone values. It ensures an accurate and efficient exchange of digital standards, measurements, and metadata.
Many companies and products have already benefited from CxF—the communication solution of choice; and now that it is an ISO standard, many more can share the advantages.
Sharing quality data
Known as PQX, Print Quality eXchange was developed by industry volunteers to facilitate transmission of performance data between the print supply chain, allowing brand owners to assess and track relevant production and quality data. PQX uses XML and incorporates CxF/X to carry measurement data plus additional metadata that CxF/X does not directly support.
Initiated as an IDEAlliance® project, PQX falls within a new series of workflow documents started in ISO TC130 and is currently in the testing phase. PQX is a great example of how industry experts are joining forces to do the necessary pre-work before presenting a technical specification or an international standard to the committees for review.
It doesn’t end there
These are just a few of the specifications and standards that are important for printers to understand. And since standards are constantly being updated and refined to support evolving printing challenges, it’s more important than ever to stay informed in order to remain competitive in the market.