The International Cooperation for the Integration of Processes in Prepress, Press, and Post Press (CIP4) Organization is an 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.
The Job Definition Format (JDF) is a specification and XML schema that is 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, offset sheetfed and web printing, gravure and flexography, wide format printing, 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 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.
JDF covers the whole life cycle of a print and cross-media job, from concept to delivery. The JDF specification includes four major application areas:
- Job Ticket — Information about a printed product that may start with customer intent information and eventually include all process instructions and parameters.
- Workflow organization — A building block model used by management, production, and workflow systems to organize and automate jobs, including detailed definitions of processes, parameters, and job metadata.
- Device control & automation — An open, XML-based command and control language for all shop floor and studio floor software and systems known as the Job Messaging Format (JMF.)
- Device Capabilities — A method for MIS, workflow, job scheduling and job planning systems to query devices for their capabilities and for devices to report back capabilities that is useful for both setting up new devices and determining their present status (for example what media is presently loaded into a device.)
The JDF specification itself is very broad and covers every area of printing; however, specific devices only have to implement the JDF features that are specific to it operation. For this reason, CIP4 has created Interoperability Conformance Specification (ICS) documents that define the required conformance for both “manager” systems (that organize jobs) and “worker” systems (that consume and act on JDF) for specific interfaces in the workflow. For instance, there is an MIS-to-Prepress ICS document. CIP4 has licensed Printing Industries of America to conduct product certification testing based upon the available ICS documents.
There are hundreds of JDF-enabled products on the market, and all major press, prepress, and postpress vendors provide JDF features as either standard features or available options. Printers need to be sure that JDF support is a go/no go requirement in all their systems purchases, to ensure that currently purchased equipment can be integrated with automated systems today or in the near future.
JDF is extendable and does not limit your ability to add new features to your systems. Namespace extensions can be added to JDF that provide compatibility while allowing the flexibility for individual companies to carry private data within a JDF file when they really need it. You can ask your vendor for documentation on the extensions they use; however, extensions should not be used as a substitute for elements and attributes already defined in JDF, and we strongly urge vendors and users to submit extensions that they use to CIP4 for consideration for future editions of JDF.
PrintTalk is another major specification maintained by CIP4. Like JDF, PrintTalk is a specification and XML schema, but PrintTalk’s scope is to define the interchange of information between systems involved in the buying, selling and estimating of printing. PrintTalk covers everything from a request for quote and print estimates to invoicing; it may be used by ecommerce systems, print MIS systems and their front-ends, and web-to-print systems. PrintTalk provides a business context, and is an XML wrapper around a JDF product description.
The Print Production Format (PPF) is available for download from the CIP4 website, but the PPF functionality has been incorporated into the JDF standard. JDF builds on and extends beyond CIP3's Print Production Format (PPF).
There are thousands of printers, prepress services, publishers and others using JDF-enabled automation around the world. Some are just starting and have connected a few devices; others have completely automated all operations and even automated connections/interchange directly with customers. The best way to learn is to review case studies and CIP4 has lots of detailed case studies.
CIP4 has formal and informal cooperation with many other groups. Together, we are building bridges between islands of automation. CIP4 has formal and informal liaison with ISO TC 130, ICC, IDEAlliance, IFRA, PODi, Ghent Working Group, and UP3i. The standards can work together.
XJDF is a simplified version of JDF. Whereas the original versions of JDF were based on the idea of a complete electronic job ticket, XJDF (JDF 2.0) assumes that the job ticket exists only as an internal representation within a management application. Management applications can be but are not limited to MIS (Management Information Systems), Production control systems or Prepress workflow systems.
XJDF describes the interface between management applications and applications that execute instructions. In other words XJDF is designed to be a pure information interchange interface. This leads to a significant reduction of complexity compared with the original JDF design. This reduction in complexity should lead to faster, simpler and more robust integration of devices and applications in the graphic arts.