Friday May 13, 2016

ISO / DIS 19593-1 Processing steps 2016

Long name isn’t it, and it doesn’t really sound that exciting either does it!
But believe me when I say this one will be a game changer for a lot of people.

The story started within the Packaging subcommittee of the Ghent Workgroup

In 2010 they released ‘Storing non printing contour data in PDF’. This was then refined further in 2011 to become the ‘Non-Print Contours Specification’. Then finally in 2013 came ‘Storing processing step data in PDF’, which quickly moved to ISO to hopefully become an official international standard in the near future. It’s in what’s called the DIS (Draft International Standard) stage at the moment, but it’s moving fast!

So what is it, and what’s it for?

Well, in many areas of the printing industry it’s standard practice to use layers (Optional Content Groups) to visually separate different objects in a PDF from each other. A typical use would be to place ‘non-printing’ objects on a different layer to other content. This makes the file easier to create and also proof and manage.

Practical examples would be to place the cutter guide on it’s own layer, or perhaps the emboss elements, something that would be foiled, something to be printed in ‘white ink’ or the drilling holes
The problem with this approach is that there are no standards for how these layers and objects should be managed or constructed, so everybody has their own internal workflow, and typically they are based on the name of the layer or the name of a separation. Great when you are working internally, not so great when the file is released into the big, bad world.

So ISO 19593-1 is designed to standardize the use of layers within PDF files. It’s something that is badly needed and it will impact not just the packaging market, but also labels, large format and even digital and commercial printing. Anyone who does ‘extra’ work on the printed sheet is going to benefit from this.

Now you probably know that we at Enfocus love a good standard. With standards come stability and conformance. If everybody is working the same way, and everybody knows what they are receiving, then you get the ability to automate, and with automation comes efficiency, increased quality and a reduction in the cost of production. 

More about ISO 19593-1

Don’t be fooled into thinking it’s as simple as making a few layers in a PDF and assigning objects to them. It’s a lot cleverer than that!

With this ISO specification, the layers are not actually defined by their names, they are described by metadata that exists within the definition of the layer. What actually happens is that metadata is embedded in the PDF file describing which particular ‘processing step’ the objects on the layer are for. That means the layer name can be localised in different languages, and as long as the ‘processing step’ metadata is there and correct, a receiving application or even hardware device will be able to know what the objects on each layer are for, and handle that file accordingly.

Additionally there are a few other rules thrown in regarding use of spot colours, overprint, transparency, object positions and the type of objects that can be used as ‘processing steps’. Effectively the ‘Processing Step’ objects should not interact or effect the printed objects in anyway.

That means that a tool like PitStop can automatically check if processing step layers exist, if they have content associated to them, and also the attributes of those objects. Alternatively if you have an archive of work that you would like to convert to this new standard, then that could also be possible by mapping color separations or the existing layer construction to the new specification.

Exciting stuff huh!

Future plans

So time wise the specification is not yet published by ISO, but you can expect to see it in its final version in a year or so if all goes well. You’ll also start to see support for the standard starting to appear in the market. devices as well.

However, a few forward thinking software vendors think that this kind of thing is pretty useful already, so if you are going to Drupa then expect to see a few demonstrations and discussions on a few booths. 

If you are passing by the Esko/Enfocus booth (Hall 08b/A23) then please feel free to drop by and talk to our team about our plans for ISO19593-1 support, and find out how you could start to implement this kind of functionality in your workflows today.

We’ll be really interested in your input and feedback, and look forward to talking about standards and future plans.

About Andrew Bailes-Collins

Andrew Bailes-Collins, senior product manager PitStop at Enfocus

Andrew Bailes-Collins is Senior Product Manager at Enfocus. He graduated from what is now the London College of Communications and went on to serve an apprenticeship as a Compositor. He has worked for a number of vendors in the printing and publishing sector, including Scangraphic, Apple, and DuPont/Crosfield.

He has been Prepress Manager for several high quality printing companies in London, managing the change from conventional production techniques to digital. An early adopter of computer-to-plate and PDF workflow, Andrew then worked at OneVision Software for ten years. Initially based in the UK, before rising through the company to become Head of Product Management Europe at their head office near Munich in Germany.

Andrew joined Enfocus and moved to Belgium in 2011 and is the Senior Product Manager responsible for the PitStop family of products. He is also the Technical Officer for the Ghent Workgroup and Co-Chair of the GWG specifications sub-committee.

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