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Packaging plays catch-up with PDF standards

March 19, 2007

Packaging plays catch-up with PDF standards
After two years of consultation, the Packaging Subcommittee of the Ghent PDF Workgroup (GWG) has released its long awaited specifications. They have been adapted from the Portable Data Format workflow standards already adopted by certain commercial and publication printers. The fact that packaging — and labeling by implication — needs far more specialized controls accounts for the longer development time.
The GWG defines PDF as the ultimate exchangeable graphic file format for packaging — and labeling by association — based on industry standards and market demands and needs. Besides manufacturers, the workgroup also included some major brand owners who are keen to see their suppliers take the guidelines seriously.
The definition criteria are generic to the packaging industry and are applied indiscriminately throughout the design and printing stages. Importantly they apply equally to flexo and offset and other print processes. PDF-X/Plus — built on top of PDF/X standards — forms their basis, but the Packaging Specifications do not always conform to PDF/X because these ISO standards do not necessarily apply to packaging environments. The ISO says it plans to release PDF/X-4 later this year as part of the next version of its packaging workflow specifications.
Members of the Packaging Subcommittee represent more than 30 companies in Europe and the USA. They include prepress, converting and repro organizations, as well as brand owners, vendors, consultants and educational institutions. The final version of the packaging specifications is downloadable free at
In the USA, initial field tests for PDF file exchange between designers and brand owners involved Kraft Foods and Southern Graphic Systems. Square, a French graphic production company based in Lyon, worked with the GWG as the European test and development site for the new packaging specifications.
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