An international, multi-vendor, ISO (International Organization for Standardization) committee has completed the development of an international standard that defines a PDF-based variable data printing (VDP) job exchange format.
ISO 16612-2 Graphic technology - Variable data exchange - Part 2: Using PDF/X-4 and PDF/X-5 (PDF/VT) defines the PDF/VT document format and methods to enable reliable document exchange for variable data and transactional printing. Transactional documents include invoices, statements, and documents that integrate billing information with marketing information (TransPromo). It is intended to enable those involved in variable data printing to take advantage of tools, conventions and technologies already in use. PDF/VT will simplify and streamline production workflows for Direct Mail, Transactional and TransPromo print jobs. It will simplify VDP printing in a range of environments from desktop printers to digital production presses. Additionally, PDF/VT will support the full graphics model of PDF 1.6.
PDF/VT uses the Portable Document Format (PDF) based on the existing ISO PDF/X-4 and PDF/X-5 standards. It provides for the specification of document structure and layout, content, and interaction of graphical objects in an imaging model supporting live transparency, layers, and full ICC-based colour management. Provision is made for fully self-contained PDF/VT files (blind exchange for maximum reliability), as well as for PDF/VT files that reference external graphic objects and profiles. PDF/VT's rich metadata model enables robust, granular and dynamic production controls.
In a PDF/VT workflow, a VDP application generates output in PDF/VT format, and a Raster Image Processor (RIP) or Digital Front End (DFE) that is capable of interpreting the PDF/VT format rendering the job for print production. Workflows based on PDF/VT will deliver all the well-known benefits of PDF print production for VDP jobs. By folding seamlessly into existing PDF-based prepress operations, PDF/VT enables a single common PDF print production workflow for all job types.
PDF/VT will enable high performance rendering of graphically rich content for printing on high-speed digital presses by caching repeated text & graphics. A significant number of products which will create or consume PDF/VT are currently in active development, and are expected to be introduced in the near future.
According to Tim Donahue of Eastman Kodak Company, document editor and chairman of the ISO TC 130 Task Force that developed the ISO PDF/VT standard, "The PDF/VT standard is based upon the result of rigorous examination of variable data and transactional print workflows and on requirements drawn directly from variable print practitioners. The members of the Task Force that created this standard included an international group of experts in variable data and transactional print workflow, digital printing, PDF, JDF, color management and high performance RIP technology."
Committee members involved in the development of this standard include a broad range of the industry's leading printers, RIP, and software vendors, commercial printers, and other industry stakeholders. NPES The Association for Suppliers of Printing, Publishing and Converting Technologies coordinates the activities of the U.S.-based representatives.
"I'm very glad to see the release of this standard allowing the predictable production of variable data output on a very wide range of printing equipment. Jobs can be produced on a range of devices from office or copy center, to a variety of production equipment, with a consistent creative and validation workflow", said Dave Prouty, Technology Strategist. "This should make the creation and production of variable data output easier, more predictable, and more broadly utilized."
Here is what some industry leaders are saying about the PDF/VT open standard and how it will make variable data printing more accessible:
Adobe Systems, Inc.
"Adobe welcomes ISO's publication of the PDF/VT spec, the result of several years of effort by print industry leaders around the globe," says Naresh Gupta, senior vice president, Print and Publishing at Adobe. "We believe that this emerging standard will finally fulfill the promise of Variable Date Printing (VDP) and continue to drive growth of the digital print arena. Eco-systems based on PDF/VT and the Adobe PDF Print Engine will further streamline workflows and deliver more reliable, higher quality print results."
"One of the fascinating aspects of PDF/VT is that it will reshape variable data printing, as PDF/X has reshaped prepress file exchange," says Olaf Drümmer, CEO of callas software. "With the help of PDF/VT validation technology from callas software - specialist for PDF quality assurance since 1997 - both PDF/VT producers as well as those outputting PDF/VT will be in a position to ensure smooth and error free processing."
"Kodak printing solutions, both EP and Inkjet, are further empowered with the release of the PDF/VT standard. It allows Kodak customers to enjoy the efficiency of PDF based workflow for a wide range of digital print applications including quicker throughput with color print that accurately matches the author's intent", says Isidre Rosello, General Manager of Digital Printing Solutions and Vice President of Eastman Kodak Company. "We're proud to have been a part of the development and review of the specification and look forward to its growth as the industry standard for variable data printing."
"Efficiently driving complex VDP jobs in digital print requires support for multiple standards to ensure interoperability and reduce costs," said John Henze, vice president of Fiery Marketing, EFI. "PDF/VT as one of these standards will bring the benefits of a PDF workflow to VDP, helping our customers increase production efficiency with capabilities such as late stage exchange of critical variable content."
Global Graphics Software, Ltd.
"The clear definition of metadata for variable data print jobs in the PDF/VT standard will help the whole industry as it migrates from proprietary and specialist file streams towards the use of PDF," says Martin Bailey, Chief Technology Officer at Global Graphics Software, Ltd. "Amongst other benefits it allows us to provide solutions that will print VDP jobs even faster on digital production presses."
GMC Software Technology
Jeffrey DeVoyd, VP Product Marketing of GMC notes that "At GMC our philosophy is to ensure that we support all industry standards and that is why we made the commitment to PDF/VT as a production format." Mr. DeVoyd, continued "PDF/VT standardizes many PDF performance-boosting methods and simplifies its use in the production environment. Specifically, the inclusion of machine controls within the spool file itself will greatly enhance the attractiveness of the PDF/VT standard to our customers. With PDF/VT our clients can be assured that our high performance file generation will equal high production performance and efficiency."
"HP Indigo is proud to be one of the first digital print manufacturers in the world to fully adopt the PDF/VT standard, having incorporated it into our HP SmartStream Designer VDP creation tool and HP SmartStream Production Pro Print Server," says Alon Gazit, Director of R&D, Indigo division, HP. "With HP Indigo VDP and TransPromo customers experiencing double-digit annual growth, the new format will help them meet the need for higher efficiency in the production workflow."
"Konica Minolta recognizes PDF/VT as an effective industry standard," says Toshi Fujimori, Vice President, Konica Minolta Systems Lab. Inc. "Our bizhub PRO engines will utilize PDF/VT, greatly enhancing our ability to provide effective VDP workflow solutions-like our Printgroove POD Suite-to fast-paced, printshop environments."
Pageflex, a division of Bitstream
"Bitstream is pleased to have been the first software company to bring a PDF/VT driver to the market when we released Pageflex 7.6 last month. Both our Pageflex Storefront web-to-print product and our Pageflex Server product for VDP now support PDF/VT production" states Jeff Perk, Director of Product Management for Pageflex. "PDF/VT brings users all the benefits of a PDF workflow–including reliable visual proofing, standardized preflight tools, and a superb imaging model for printing graphically-rich documents–while advancing the final critical step in VDP workflows: the efficient RIPing and printing of VDP jobs."
"Printable is committed to meet the growing industry demand for VDP technology," says Coleman Kane, CEO and president, Printable Technologies. "PDF/VT technology provides clear advancements to VDP workflows that will benefit the entire industry." Douglas Cogan, Vice President of VDP Technology at Printable Technologies says "The ubiquitous nature of PDF reading and editing software and the enhanced RIP speeds promise an exciting future for PDF/VT and the entire industry. Printable plans to add support for PDF/VT into the FusionPro product line before the end of 2010. The large installed base of FusionPro Desktop and Server products, including all subscribers to our MarcomCentral subscription service would be positioned to immediately benefit from PDF/VT."
"In recent years, the printing industry's needs have expanded to include everything from mass production to personalized printing. As a result, Screen is promoting the development of an integrated workflow for CTP and POD which use same RIP Core and GUI. Therefore PDF/VT will be an integral part of our workflow strategy," says Kyohei Fujisawa, Corporate Executive Officer of Dainippon Screen Mfg. Co. "PDF has its strengths in versatility, portability and rich expressiveness. By adopting PDF/VT, which integrates the personalized information to these strengths, we will create a shift to personalized printing based on the current PDF workflow. With this strategy, we aim to become the leaders in the next generation printing industry."
"Ultimate Technographics welcomes the initiative to develop the ISO PDF/VT standard," declares Joanne David, President and CEO of Ultimate. "As a leading prepress software developer focused on digital printing, we have witnessed the need to produce large variable data campaigns more efficiently for our customers. PDF/VT is part of our roadmap for the new Impostrip OnDemand Scalable server that allows customers to take advantage of the new generation of digital presses dedicated to transactional and personalized marketing."
"The release of PDF/VT as a variable and transactional data printing standard is a great addition to PDF. This capability coupled with the Adobe PDF Print Engine, will enable customers to achieve a significant improvement for their customized variable workflows. The use of metadata will enable flexible reuse scenarios for targeted demographics resulting in improved processing of files with richer content," says Ann Cecchi, Senior PDF Workflow Specialist at Xerox Corporation.
"The personalized applications that our customers create with XMPie solutions are highly creative, targeted, response driven campaigns. That is why we were one of the first leading VDP software vendors to endorse PDF/VT," said Reuven J. Sherwin, vice president, Products, Research and Development, XMPie Ltd. "We knew our customers would benefit from its capability to allow for faster, more efficient, more consistent quality in the production of variable data documents created with XMPie. We are committed to the initiative and to introducing products that take full advantage of this emerging VDP standard."
ISO 16612-2:2010 is available for purchase from NPES as well as ISO member national organizations. NPES is the secretariat to Working Group 2 of ISO TC 130.