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Hottest technology at IPEX – Adobe PDF Print Engine – news commentary by Andy McCourt

Thursday, 20 April 2006
By Print 21 Online Article

It could have been Agfa and Fuji’s processless violet plates. It could have been Canon’s imagePRESS C7000VP, the new Presstek DI 52cm press or the latest HP Indigo 5000 with UCP (enabling combined mono/colour throughput with mono at twice the speed and half the cost); or the X-Rite PlateScope; maybe Heidelberg’s monster CD74-5+LY-P-5+L press or its Prinect Integration System. Screen’s Truepress Jet520 could have qualified as could Xerox’s iGen3 with inline UV coater or PressSense with its ‘map everything, know everything, control everything’ MIS.

However, my IPEX technology Hot Pick is not even a product you can directly buy; it’s a way, a method, a change-agent every bit as significant as PostScript in 1985, PDF in 1993 and Creative Suite in 2003. It will change the way our industry works and will affect the offerings of all major suppliers – digital and offset (and eventually other processes).

Announced on the opening day of IPEX 2006, it is Adobe’s PDF Print Engine.

PDF (Portable Document Format, or Acrobat) has become the file format of choice for the majority of printers, designers, prepress operatives and brand managers. But the promise of bulletproof, end-to-end PDF workflows has not materialized due to the fact that PDF has been ‘shoe-horned’ into existing PostScript and other workflows. PDF files have to be ‘flattened’ in order to pass through proprietary RIPs and, once flattened generally can not be changed without going all the way back to native applications and re-flattening. Exporting PDFs as EPS or TIFF, as many workflows do, can alter things. Add JDF (Job Definition Format) demands and the compatibility issue gets more complex

Transparencies and overprints can corrupt; the exquisitely named ‘atomic areas’ of complex transparency graphics, can re-combine to reveal ugly lines and artefacts. Spot colours can mysteriously turn into CMYK. Fonts can thicken or change. In a nutshell…it can piss a lot of people off, especially the prepress folks who have to fix over 50 per cent of PDFs they receive.

All because the PDF ‘train’ is on a different gauge than the current workflow ‘train.’ Native end-to-end PDF workflow has not existed, and seamless unified digital/CtP output from a single workflow is a pipe dream. No longer, the PDF Print Engine steamed into IPEX and was immediately and enthusiastically embraced by all major suppliers, such as:

Agfa: “We are proud to move forward with Adobe by adopting Adobe PDF Print Engine for our market leading ApogeeX workflow and Delano project management system.” – Richard Barham – VP Marketing

EFI: “the Adobe PDF Print Engine is the first PDF RIP we’ve seen that natively integrates the content, PDF, with the job ticket, JDF. We believe that the Adobe PDF Print Engine is a means for our customers to more precisely print/render PDF files in reference to what they see on the screen during the content creation process.” – Mehran Farimani, GM, Server and Controller Solutions.

Fujifilm: “Fujifilm has eagerly waited for the release of this significant new PDF rendering technology. We see the Adobe PDF Print Engine as a core technology in our workflow product line.” – Andy Cook, MD in UK

Heidelberg: “With Adobe PDF Print Engine, Heidelberg will be able to offer new native PDF rendering capabilities to its Prinect MetaDimension products. More than that, it is the modern concept and the extended capabilities of this next-generation printing platform which will allow Heidelberg to use its Prinect native JDF architecture to implement consistent Ripping technology throughout the Print Production Workflow.” – Peter Leu, VP responsible for Printect.

HP Graphics & Imaging: “We see value in the Adobe PDF Print Engine as it can accelerate the transition to unified analog and digital print workflows.” – Manuel Kostas, VP Marketing

Kodak: “The Adobe PDF Print Engine introduces a new JDF interface and promises support for advanced PDF technologies like transparency. It will allow us to produce even more complex PDF print jobs with greater speed, consistency and reliability.” – Stan Coleman, GM Workflow

Océ: “Adobe is taking the right step by delivering open systems based on industry standards like PDF and JDF. Adobe PDF Print Engine perfectly fits into Océ’s award-winning PRISMA Output Management System architecture.” – Konrad Sommer, VP

Dainippon Screen: “Adobe PDF Print Engine will bring new levels of integration of Trueflow with content creation applications such as Adobe Creative Suite 2, as well as provide the ability to create scalable workflow solutions – from entry-level to the largest printing systems.” – Eiji Kakiuchi, Media Technology Company President.

Xerox: “The introduction of the new Adobe PDF Print Engine is another great example of what we’re doing together to continue to deliver benefits to printers everywhere.” – Mike Salfity, VP, Workflow Business Unit

Rochester Institute of Technology: “With Adobe PDF and JDF as the backbone, the Adobe PDF Print Engine synchronizes designs directly with the printing process; assuring designs print right the first time – elevating the consistency, reliability and profitability of print.” – Frank Romano, Professor Emeritus

Many other vendors have announced their intention to support the Adobe PDF Print Engine.

Adobe has caught the pearl and unified not only digital and non-digital workflows, but also PDF with JDF. The first takes care of the content, the second takes care of the context, or job ticket with all production data embedded therein.

It’s a kind of RIP if you like, but it works with other RIPs too. Adobe has long eyed Harlequin’s (Jaws) domination of RIP’ing and has had past shots at hardware RIPs built into devices. But software is the way to go, and now it has happened.

Adobe’s PDF Print Engine will find its way into all serious (Windows-based) workflows and products by virtue of Adobe’s OEM programme, just as all progressive vendors adopted PostScript in the 80s. Those that ignored it (e.g. Crosfield) are no more.

The same will happen with PDF Print Engine.

My Call

Don’t even think of a workflow without Adobe’s PDF Print Engine and JDF combined.

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