10 March 2019 Digital Printing Technologies

New specification aims to tame digital workflows

Digital printing has frequently been left out of industry standards, now Ghent Workgroup has published ways to help automate prepress for digital print.

The Ghent Workgroup has published the results of work on a specification for PDF creation and quality control in digital printing.

The organisation says that this fills a gap as “digital print was identified as a key area missing good guidelines for the usage of PDF” says Elli Cloots, vice chair of the GWG and senior product marketing manager at EFI.

GWG was formed to harmonise the use of PDF in a litho workflow, originally to provide a standard for the creation of PDFs for magazine advertising so that prepress workflows would treat each PDF as intended. This evolved into the PDF/X standard and its derivatives.

But while small format digital print is similar to litho printing and frequently digital and analogue presses operate side by side, “the methodologies and equipment used are different enough to require specific guidelines” says GWG.

This includes different approaches to overprinting, image resolution and so on to reflect the nature of the work handled and that many devices will handle some aspects natively, meaning that strict adherence to some of existing rules is not necessary.

But PDF/X-4 compliance, file integrity checks, colour control and others remain essential and are retained. It forms part of the GWG 2015 specifications so ought to be implemented quite quickly. It has already been adopted by the major providers of preflighting software.

Says Cloots: “Having this new specification helps significantly to improve standardisation, and thus the possibility for automation, in this growing segment.”

The same sentiments lie behind development of a standard for wide format digital printing led by the Speciality Graphic Imaging Association in the US. This intends to deliver a standard for wide format imaging regardless of technology and substrate. Ray Weiss, director of digital print programs at the SGIA, says: “While colour specifications such as Swop and Gracol are based on offset presses running traditional CMYK inks, digital printing is the Wild West with substrates and ink sets varying tremendously.”

The creation of a standard will reduce waste and unhappy customers improving the predictability of this kind of inkjet printing.

The committee formed comprises printers, equipment, ink and substrate providers. There is no timeline for the completion of the work.

By Gareth Ward

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A new standard will end confusion over PDF workflows in digital printing the Ghent Workgroup argues. Current options can give rise to confusion and impede progress towards automation.

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