Assembly Required? (PDF workflow)
Packaging's path to PDF has most commonly involved software add-ons. Will new all-in-one workflows change that?
by Jessica Millward, Associate Editor
THOUGH COMMERCIAL printers have jumped wholeheartedly on the PDF bandwagon, their packaging brethren have been less enthusiastic. Concerns regarding PDF's suitability for packaging prepress have thus far encouraged hopefuls to add on PDF elements, rather than invest in "one-stop shopping" products. Packaging-specific capabilities bundled within new all-in-one systems, however, should enlist a legion of PDF converts.
"When it comes to software solutions, the packaging market has been the orphan of the printing industry," laments Bert van Hoof, VP/engineering, ScenicSoft. Unfortunately, the PDF workflow hasn't proven otherwise, largely because previous versions weren't designed to handle the color needs of package print. Mike Rottenborn, VP/customer service, Artwork Systems Inc., describes package printers' approach to PDF as cautious. He explains, "… Core PDF technology historically lacked support for key features such as transparency and spot color support." While much will change through release of Adobe Acrobat 5 and PDF Version 1.4, doubts about packaging PDF may linger.
As packagers become aware of the expanded capabilities of PDF for prepress workflow, they are faced with two different methods of incorporating it into daily operation. Most packaging printers have been introduced to PDF via plug-ins and add-ons. The "all-in-one" workflow solutions, until recently, seemed geared towards commercial, CMYK-only printers.
"Unfortunately, most classical PDF editors are not well adapted to file and image edits for the nuances of packaging," says Stephane Georges, software product manager for German-based DALiM Software. Because of that deficiency, he continues, many package printers don't seek out all-in-one software.
The challenge of the "assembly-required" PDF workflow is management. As Rottenborn asserts, this solution may involve less initial investment, but it does require "a level of integration and internal support that may be out of reach for some companies." Georges concurs, noting that in such a workflow, "edits to a file for content require one set of add-on tools, while edits for packaging applications (distortion or trapping) require yet another set of tools."