Day 3: Unified global color standards

One feature of DRUPA that was started in 2004 and is now expanded in 2008 is called Drupa Innovation Parc (DIP). This is a hall dedicated to smaller and innovative companies that offer new solutions to printing and publishing related issues. Since I had spent most of my second day walking through the halls with heavy machinery, I wanted some time to focus in on software and related technologies.

Most of my career has been in prepress and premedia. While I am truly impressed with the mechanical element of the print process and have learned as much as I can about it, I am much more at home at the front end of production, i.e. the world of computers, creative workflows, content management, e-commerce and the like. This what the DIP is all about. There are seven division with the DIP:
1. Print buyer integration
2. Print + publishing
3. PDF + XML production
4. Creative production
5. JDF experience
6. Document management
7. Online communications 

There are more than 100 exhibitors in the DIP and I decided to just wade right in. The first thing I looked at was web2print or web-to-print solutions in the online communications section. These are technologies that enable a printer to host an online storefront where clients can specify, upload files — and in some cases even design documents and pages — for print media products and then purchase them electronically. Most of these systems are aimed at the short run and digital print market. However, I could see how a high-volume and primarily lithographic printing firm could have a web2print store front solution that would enable clients to purchase products online. The key competitive issues here would be price, turnaround and shipping costs … what’s so innovative about that.

After speaking with a few companies about web2print, my next stop was to talk about color management at the Alwan Color Expertise booth in the Print + production section of the DIP. Here I was presented with software that manages the conversion of customer or internal color data for printing companies so that they can more easily meet the customers’ color expectations. Alwan, a company that was founded in France in 1997, is also a big proponent of color standards for the graphic arts.

The following appears on the company web site:

“The globalisation of the industry has resulted in many new challenges to producing consistent quality print,” says Elie Khoury (founder of Alwan). “It is not unusual for the origination for a job to be created in one place, while the customer checking proofs is in another and the final output of the work is carried out in several countries. … If you can control color at every stage by standardising incoming files, produced proofs and the final print, you will significantly improve productivity and profitability”

This global perspective is not just sales jargon. During my discussion with the Alwan representative, I found out that there was a meeting being held that same day in a conference room in the DRUPA complex at 4:00pm. The meeting had been called by a group called “Printing Across Borders” whose aim was to unify the European and American color standards initiatives. This sounded like something that was in keeping with the theme of DRUPA: One World – One DRUPA, so I said that I would be interested in attending.

I finished up my visit to the DIP with a few more vendors and then decided to make my way over the Printing Across Borders meeting. In addition to the exhibition halls, the grounds of Messe Dusseldorf also include something called Congress Center Dusseldorf. The meeting was being held in CCD Room 7.

When I arrived I found a group of no more than 40 people around a conference table getting ready to begin their discussion. The chair of the meeting was none other than Elie Khoury of Alwan. I was also pleased to find among those in the room was Bill Birkett and Chuck Spontelli from Doppleganger, LLC a Michigan-based color consulting company. Others in attendance included technical representatives of printing equipment manufacturers, prepress companies, color measurement companies, technical consultants and printers from a dozen or so countries. 

The topic under discussion was trying to find a means to unify the European color standards (under the designation of ISO 12647) with the standards work done in the US (under the designation GRACoL7). For reasons beyond the control of most of those in attendance, these two standards initiatives evolved independently of each other. Some of this problem has to do with lack of communication between the two groups and some of it is related to an important technical legacy. Prior to the development of computer-to-plate and spectrophotometric color measurement technologies, the Europeans used positive film and negative plates (generally) and the Americans used negative film and positive plates. This led to slight differences in the appearance of printed color. This difference has been carried over into the world of ICC profiles and DeltaE color differences.

Fortunately, the actual color that each of these standards represents is by-and-large very similar. The consensus of those in the meeting was that these difference needed to be and could be resolved. If things were only so easy! There were three or four presentations that were given by representatives of each side and the specific technical details of the differences between the standards were discussed. These presentations were followed by discussion and the moderator ask each of the people in the room to express their opinion.

When he got to me, I said, “As a representative of a US printing firm, I am pleased to be able to participate in the meeting to discuss this important topic. Establishing one unified international color standard is important for all of our businesses to be able to successfully meet our customers’ needs. Getting the differences between the standards resolved is something that needs to be done quickly as we are discussing — for the most part — the lithographic reproduction of color in halftones. As everyone knows, at DRUPA we are seeing the rise of digital printing technologies and there are predictions being made here that digital printing will overtake lithography by the year 2020. That’s twelve years from now. GRACoL was founded in 1996 and that’s twelve years ago, so we don’t have a lot of time.”

KRD
June 2, 2008 

 

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