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The ABCs of JDF

(June 2011) posted on Thu Jun 30, 2011

Automating the workflow pipeline.


The International Cooperation for the Integration of Processes in Prepress, Press, and Post Press (CIP4) Organization is the international standards association whose mission is to foster the adoption of automation in the printing industry. CIP4 brings together systems and software vendors, printers, publishers, consultants, educators, integrators, and distributors to define standards that support print automation, and to help educate and promote automation globally. JDF is one of those standards.

“Automation in printing began in the late 1980s and early 1990s – well before JDF was around,” says James Harvey, executive director of CIP4. “But only the largest companies could afford automation; as it means custom engineering and the need to plan the entire operation. JDF makes automation affordable and accessible to all print providers.

With JDF, you can begin automating pieces of the operation and expand automation with the confidence that you don’t have to go back and reengineer everything when you add equipment,” he continues.

And, says Harvey, “Some folks assume that JDF is only for sheetfed offset, or only for digital printing, or so on. This is especially true of folks in specialty areas. If your business is label printing, or printing of electronics, or flexo and board conversion, you may wrongly assume that JDF cannot help you. But the processes and resources in JDF are elemental – the building blocks of JDF can be arranged in any fashion you need for any workflow.”

Defining JDF: The Job Definition Format (JDF) is a specification and XML schema that’s used to define the interchange of data between systems in an automated production environment. JDF is flexible enough to cover every process and supports all types of printing, including digital printing, wide-format printing, offset sheetfed and web printing, gravure and flexography, and applications in packaging, newsprint, and more.

JDF supports both process information for devices on the shop floor and customer intent information for front-end/customer facing systems, and it includes a “Job Messaging Format” (JMF) that supports the command and control of systems on the shop floor by print MIS, scheduling, and job planning systems. In addition to driving production, JDF can also be used to collect information from devices on work in progress and completed for reporting, invoicing, and systems-management purposes.


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