‘Full Speed Ahead: How to make variable data PDF files that won’t slow your digital press’ is a concise guide that provides objective information and advice to anyone with a stake in Variable Data Printing (VDP): graphic designers, print buyers, production managers, press operators, owners of PSPs, and developers of digital presses and composition tools.
The free guide is edited by Martin Bailey, chief technology officer for Global Graphics and the primary UK expert to the ISO committees that maintain and develop PDF and PDF/VT. A number of leading vendors and supporters in the VDP sector have sponsored the guide, including HP Indigo, WhatTheyThink!, Digimarc, Delphax Solutions, Racami, Kodak, HYBRID Software and HP PageWide Industrial.
Everyone in the digital print supply chain can speed the production of VDP jobs thanks to the new independent guide to the ‘dos and don’ts’ of optimising PDF files for the fastest, most efficient processing by digital front ends (DFEs).
The impact of poorly constructed PDF files on production schedules has increased as press resolution, colourant count, speed and width rise, greatly increasing the data rate required to drive them. This increase in data places additional demands on the processing power of the DFE and risks slowing down the digital press: a delay of half a second on every page of a 10,000-page job adds 90 minutes to the whole job, while for a job of a million pages an extra tenth of a second per page adds 24 hours to the total processing time.
In parallel, the range of print sectors taking advantage of VDP has also grown significantly. VDP has been introduced into wide format, labels and packaging and into some areas of industrial print for décor, textiles, product decoration, and ID cards. Regulation has increased requirements for the tracking of high-value goods and pharmaceuticals. Incorporating unique identifiers in the packaging of those products in a variety of overt and covert ways is partly addressed by using VDP.
Bailey said the main aim of the guide is to ‘provide practical recommendations that help ensure that VDP jobs don’t slow down the print production workflow, without affecting the visual appearance that the brand owner, buyer or marketeer is trying to achieve. If every label, page, carton or T-shirt is different, at least some of every instance must be rendered, colour managed, half-tone screened and delivered from the DFE to the inkjet heads at engine speed, and that’s a lot of data. If everyone in the chain works together to optimise VDP PDF jobs, processing is much more efficient because presses are kept running and jobs will be delivered on time.’
The content of the guide is organised so that readers can easily find concise, practical and, importantly, actionable information relevant to their role in VDP projects. Illustrations, photos and explanatory diagrams together with examples of real print jobs help to explain the issues clearly. An early chapter provides useful definitions of the different types of variable data explaining the difference between trackable and traceable, unique and personalised. Other chapters cover ‘What file formats are used for delivering VDP?’, ‘Who is responsible for optimisations?’ and ‘Technologies for printing variable data.’ The content then provides more technical detail in a chapter called ‘Making efficient PDF files’ covering topics including optimising images (for example, by ensuring that images are not placed with excessively high effective resolution) and optimising transparency.
Richard Lee, the CEO of Delphax Solutions, stated, ‘The need for clear communication on best practices for PDF creation is key to a smooth workflow process and something that we see required on a regular basis across our installed base. Our customers do not always design the documents that they print, and often receive files from many different sources, and not all of them are familiar with PDF creation for print. Even with powerful RIP platforms, this can cause issues with recreation (in print) of the design intent, poor document design for personalisation or missing or incorrect resources, all of which can affect delivery times and bottom lines. Having another tool such as this guide to offer our customer base and wider network will benefit not only our customers directly, but allows them to communicate and support their end-customers, strengthen their relationships, and ensure everyone is educated in the foundations of digital workflows for print.’
‘We live in a world of short-run, high-volume print production with fast turnaround from order to delivery. When the press is running, sellable content is being created. Stopping, or even slowing down, because of bad PDF content is revenue lost,’ explained Tom Bouman, worldwide workflow product marketing manager, HP PageWide Industrial.
Randy Vandagriff, senior vice president print and vice president, Eastman Kodak said, ‘With VDP being used for everything from credit card bills and bank statements to direct mail flyers and personalised catalogues, creating efficient files has never been more important. This guide is full of practical tips for the beginner and advanced operators alike.’
‘Variable data printing is gaining more traction as brands and retailers look for new ways to personalise consumer engagement or enable item level tracking,’ said Scott Wilcox, VP Client Services for Digimarc. ‘Best practices like those described in ‘Full Speed Ahead’ empower customers and partners to efficiently produce connected package and print experiences, fight counterfeiting and diversion, and enable automatic identification and data capture across the supply chain.’
HYBRID Software’s CTO, Nick De Roeck, added, ‘This guide will provide advice to the whole industry, from designers and brand owners to manufacturers and print providers. Our customers look to HYBRID to produce PDF files containing variable data that will not slow down their expensive digital presses, and these guidelines provide practical advice to make this possible.’
Eyal Raz, DFE product manager for HP Indigo, added, ‘There is a saying in Hebrew that translates as: ‘Appetite comes with the food’ which is to say that very often, trying something for the first time brings an appetite for more. And the same goes with VDP. We see that brands and customers have an increased appetite for ideas, tools and capabilities – in particular when it comes to VDP. Our goal is to provide the full set of tools and know-how to meet the need, including clear, detailed instructions to put them in action. I am convinced that those who follow the guidelines as suggested here, will see a higher return on investment – and get the most out from the press and workflow as well as enjoying the full creativity of the prepress process.’
‘Personalisation in marketing communication and packaging is growing rapidly to support demographic and population segment demands. Whether it is for the sake of targeted marketing or security, understanding how to use variable data printing to support these requirements is critical. This guide is a great primer for anyone who needs to design and produce to these new requirements and breaks down what can be done and how to do it,’ said Dave Zwang, Zwang.com.
To download a free copy of ‘Full Speed Ahead: how to make variable data PDF files that won’t slow your digital press’ go to www.globalgraphics.com/full-speed-ahead
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