As the pace of drupa announcements begins to accelerate and the excitement builds, it is clearer than ever before that the magic three lettersJDFwill play a huge role at the fair and beyond as our industry moves inexorably toward a computer integrated manufacturing (CIM) model. As many before me have said, this is critical to maintaining the viability of print as a communications medium with the vast array of non-print communications vehicles that are available and in use. Not only will JDF and CIM address time to market issues for printed material, making the entire process faster and more productive, but it will also play a role in assuring that print stays cost competitive.
In today's preview, I will take you on a quick tour of the much-vaunted JDF Parc, as well as discuss an important new PDF development. And because PrintCity has joined CIP4, it is timely to talk about the role that consortium will play.
Enfocus Announces Instant PDF 3.0
On April 15th, Enfocus announced the release of Instant PDF 3.0. This major update to the Enfocus product is designed to address the major problem with a PDF workflowthe generation of inconsistent PDFs by a wide range of users with varying skill levels for document receivers who have an equally wide range of criteria for what constitutes a good PDF. This Acrobat plug-in allows a user to create a PDF according to a set of predetermined specifications driven by the selection of a virtual desktop printer. It then preflights the file, certifies it and delivers it. It also supports CertifiedPDF.net. According to David Van Driessche, Enfocus' CEO, Earlier releases of the product have been well received, but we felt like there was so much more that we could do. With 3.0, we have added so much new functionality, it almost deserves a new product name.
Instant PDF 3.0 serves two target audiences: the document creator and the document receiver. And its preflighting, according to Van Driessche, is more than simple preflighting; he describes it a self healing application that can fix problems during preflight, and help creators fix, in an intuitive fashion, problems that cannot be fixed automatically. The resulting output is much easier for document receivers to integrate into their internal (hopefully JDF-enabled!) workflow. And critical settings can be locked by the receiver to prevent users from inadvertently changing them.
Document receivers can establish PDF queues that encompass all of the critical settings required to make a good PDF for their environment. It contains a PDF profile and Action Lists, defines delivery methods; and supports most major graphic arts document creation packages. Queues can be e-mailed to document creators or published to CertifiedPDF.net for access by all authorized document creators. Access to CertifiedPDF.net is free for creators, and available to document receivers for a nominal subscription of $500 per year. Van Driessche indicates that CertifiedPDF.net is not designed as a profit center for Enfocus, but rather as a service to the industry, with the subscription fees basically covering costs.
For the document creator, Instant PDF 3.0 is designed to make creating a PDF as easy as printing to a desktop printer. All the document creator needs to do is create a good basic file, select Save as Certified PDF from the file menu within the application, select from a list of queues and Instant PDF completes process, providing feedback and asking for additional information only if needed. Document creators can also choose to proof the file before sending.
While PDF workflows and the tools to support them have matured significantly, perfect PDFs can be the exception more than the rule in a production environment. Products like Enfocus' Instant PDF that are designed to deliver perfect PDFs with as little stress and strain on the document creator as possible add an important element to an automated workflow that ultimately will make both document creators and document receivers more productive and open the door for increased automation in the print production process.
CIP4 and its members have been working hard on interoperability testing, preparing for a massive interoperability demonstration at drupa. There are 21 vendors in 18 pods at JDF Parc, with each vendor showing one or more products. Interoperability testing, and the drupa demonstrations, revolve around product pairs. These pairs are identified based on input/output relationships; that is, as part of the workflow, each product accepts an input from some other product, and creates an output that is delivered as an input to yet another product. The JDF Parc initiative will feature some 43 pairsthat is, 86 products interacting with each other in various configurations. In fact, there were so many companies wishing to participate in JDF Parc that there was not room for them all in the JDF Parc venue. Thanks to the foresight of Messe Düsseldorf, and in cooperation with Deustche Telecom and Cisco Systems, a massive wireless network has been installed throughout the fairgroundsmaking it the largest wireless network in Europe. This has made it even easier for the JDF activities to spill out beyond the JDF Parc, enabling more vendors to participate in live demonstrations from their stands.
In addition to leveraging interoperability testing to refine the JDF specification, which now consists of some 800 pages, CIP4 has also been developing an Interoperability Conformance Specification (ICS) as it looks forward to handing off the testing process to independent bodies in the future. While the CIP4 interoperability testing has helped build critical mass among vendors and applications, it is by its nature limited in terms of the amount of testing that can actually be done through this vehicle. Utilizing third party testing bodies adds scalability and will ultimately free the CIP4 body for other work.
Third party testing is expected to start later this year, with Sewickley PA's Graphic Arts Technical Foundation (GATF) being the first independent testing body authorized to perform the testing in accordance with conformance specifications. Based on what is learned from initial rounds of testing, third party participation will be expanded with GATF remaining the primary testing body for North America, and other entities engaged for Europe.
In more good news for CIP4, PrintCity, as an entity, has become a member. While most, if not all, of the PrintCity affiliatescomprising some 50 companiesare already CIP4 members, PrintCity's membership adds even more weight to the important role CIP4 plays in our industry.
At drupa, PrintCitywhich has been described as a multi-manufacturer show within a showwill be demonstrating three multi-vendor manufacturing lines: packaging, publishing and commercial printing. Each will show the complete end-to-end manufacture of an end product. For example, the packaging line will be manufacturing a boxincluding interfacing with an MIS system, prepress, printing, die cutting and assembly, resulting in a box that will be filled with goodies for PrintCity visitors, who will be able to see the entire interconnected data and material workflow in action. This should be quite a sight. With lots of big iron, but equally important, or perhaps these days even more importantly, a live demonstration of computer integrated manufacturing for the printing industry made possible in large part by JDF-enablement of its various components.
Turning the Tide
All in all, drupa appears to be living up to its promise as the JDF drupa. Adoption rates should begin to escalate coming out of drupa, and as Margaret Motamed, CIP4's Chief Marketing Officer, has said, Two years from now, JDF will not even be news anymore. We will wonder why we ever thought it was exciting. It will become defacto, and will be as exciting as discussing plumbing or having a conversation about USB ports. So where does that leave us for drupa 2008? We can only imagine