PDF Processing Steps (ISO 19593‐1) is designed for labels and packaging workflows, and it specifies a standard way of encoding processing steps such as die and fold lines or dimensions into a PDF file. It provides an unambiguous way of marking the technical content that’s required for the steps of a production workflow other than printing.
Prior to the formulation of this ISO standard, designers could use ad hoc naming conventions and methods to describe the graphics associated with processing steps. That means that somebody at the print site would need to examine the submitted file and identify how each spot name or layer needed to be processed, which increased manual handling time and the risk of error and of wasting material.
The benefit to converters is that they can control technical marks without needing to analyze each file and create a different setup. This means they can automate common digital press workflows, such as starting a print run with a few iterations of just the cut and fold lines for checking registration with dies and other finishing equipment. The main print run will then usually need most of the processing steps turned off, so just the live graphics are shown and there’s no risk of cut lines being visible on the final print. A few more copies of just the technical separations may be printed at the end to detect if registration with cutters and converting equipment has drifted during the job.
Christopher Graf, chief marketing officer at Hybrid Software, says, “The support for PDF processing steps has a very high value for many of Hybrid Software´s customers. It contributes substantially to the digital transformation of their conventional production workflows. It is specifically important for sheet optimization and finishing steps such as laser cutting. With the new Harlequin version 12.1 inside our Cloudflow RIP, we can now offer a complete process based on the ISO 19593-1 standard from structural design import to final output, including finishing.”
Lieven Plettinck of Esko comments, “As the co-chair of the GWG Packaging Subcommittee, where this started, and the project leader in ISO TC130, I am glad and proud that Processing Steps is getting widely adopted in the industry. That is the goal we had, when all of the contributors in GWG and ISO TC130, were putting time and effort into this. Esko believes this standard, and its adoption is a step in the journey towards eliminating inefficiencies and errors in the packaging and labels supply chain.”
Dietrich von Seggern, managing director, Callas Software, adds, “The Processing Steps standard has seen almost immediate uptake in the industry. That is probably because standardizing the identification of processing information such as die or fold lines, to clearly separate them from print, has come at exactly the right time to drive automation in packaging and labels, an industry that is currently developing so quickly. Automation has always been the core of our own product design. I know of printers starting to use Processing Steps – but since PDF creators supporting Processing Steps are not yet common, they’re adding the Processing Steps using our tools, deriving the metadata e.g. from a set of possible spot color names and normalizing the PDFs for full automation using Processing Steps. The standard definitely has potential not only to enable further automation in packaging and label, and we will keep our eyes open to identify potential use cases in other industries as well.”
Global Graphics Software’s CTO, Martin Bailey, and a UK expert to the ISO committee says, “The PDF Processing Steps standard is an excellent example of a really useful contribution to industry efficiency being proposed to the ISO committee working on standards for the graphic arts. In that committee, we were able to build on our experience in ensuring that the final text is unambiguous and addresses the identified need.
“In terms of our own product development Global Graphics’ Harlequin RIPs have supported the new standard from version 12.1 which we announced in May this year. I’m very proud to say that Harlequin can be configured to selectively turn each PDF processing step, or ‘everything that’s not in a processing step,' on or off. This means that if you just want to print the graphics without cut and fold lines you can do so, or if you are driving cutters and other finishing equipment you can turn off the live graphics and export the file to a vector graphic format.”