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Steady on

Jul 1, 2010 12:00 AM

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It has been almost a decade since the Job Definition Format was first drafted in an effort to create a job ticket format that would encompass the entire lifecycle of a print job. The CIP4 ( Interoperability Matrix currently lists well over 500 tested “pairings” of applications that can be connected via JDF. These span a wide range of functionality, from order management to binding and delivery. Nearly every prepress workflow system from the major suppliers is JDF capable.

Current capabilities

At the simplest level, JDF from a desktop application can deliver product intent (number of pages, size, inks, customer information, job parts) and PDF content to prepress. Desktop imposition software can create JDF for automated layout.

At a higher level, an Internet-based storefront might deliver product intent and customized PDF content to prepress via JDF. Similarly a JDF-enabled management information system (MIS) might create the prepress job. At the very highest level, and available today if both the MIS and prepress fully implement JDF 1.3 and JMF (Job Messaging Format, the “command and control” aspect of JDF): automated job creation, including process parameters; and content delivery to prepress, automated layout, proofing, platemaking and — most significantly — “live” feedback from prepress to the MIS regarding device and job status, proof approvals and consumable usage.

Additionally, some prepress systems are able to act as JDF controllers. A sophisticated example is the delivery of PDF content, printing and finishing instructions to a digital press through a JDF-enabled controller, and JMF feedback from that press back to the prepress system. It is in these scenarios where we begin to realize the vision of the automated “smart factory.”

Industry evolution

JDF adoption is incremental: Increasingly, customers are actively pushing their suppliers to integrate existing systems, and if this is not possible, replace them with JDF-capable alternatives. As the economy recovers and the nature of our business extends beyond printing to multimedia content delivery, so will JDF continue to change and evolve. CIP4 continues to develop the specification, the vendors continue to implement it, and the end users tell us what works and what needs to be added or changed. Ongoing development of tools for Extensible Markup Language (XML), the underlying language of JDF, provide challenges and opportunity as well.

Ultimately, it is all about profitability, and the process automation and information flow facilitated by JDF is helping users to realize profit through process automation, reduced touchpoints, better cost accounting and more. While evolutionary, rather than revolutionary, the prospects for JDF appear brighter than ever.

Mark Gallucci is manager of technology marketing for Agfa Graphics (