JDF™ and XJDF™ - Two CIP4 products
The introduction of the Job Definition Format™ (JDF) and its associated Job Messaging Format™ (JMF) by the CIP4 organization in the year 2000 was a major innovation for integration tools. Through many subsequent JDF implementations, workflow automation in the print production process has improved significantly while minimizing the need for custom implementations. Since 2000, the JDF/XJDF standard has been continuously improved and refined in order to maintain relevancy to modern software tools.
In 2018, the new Exchange Job Definition Format™ (XJDF) and the messaging Format XJMF™ were published. Due to evolving and more-demanding workflow requirements in the printing industry, a comprehensive redesign was required in the structure of JDF. However, both formats can be automatically converted into each other and both formats (legacy JDF or modern XJDF) are often successfully deployed in parallel in the graphic arts industry.
The parallel development and maintenance of both versions of the specifications by CIP4 provides options to industry stakeholders wishing to implement JDF, XJDF, or both into their product offerings and production environments.
Job Definition Format (JDF)
JDF (Job Definition Format) is an industry standard designed to simplify and automate information exchange across the graphic arts industry. It is structured to enable the entire industry, from design, submission and e-commerce, through production, finishing, and sub-contracting to implement workflows that embrace and automate the varied workflow solutions and equipment found across the marketplace today. JDF enables integration of heterogeneous products from diverse vendors to create seamless workflow solutions without requiring custom integration development.
The JDF Specification helps to define the entire print production process from order-entry to final delivery logistics, as well as the print product life-cycle in a very detailed manner. It is the master document for system integration and product description in JDF capable workflows.
JDF is a comprehensive XML-based file format. XML was chosen to ensure the maximum interoperability possible between different platforms as well as ready interaction with Internet-based systems.
JDF is a basic, fundamental protocol that is used by other workflow software. That is, only software developers and integrators have the need to learn technical details of the JDF format. However, it is It is beneficial for workflow designers in the graphic industry to understand the overall concept and benefits of this technology.
CIP4 has specified descriptions of product details, production details and operational data in JDF. Thus, with the help of this format, not only can the intended finished product be precisely defined in a non-proprietary manner, but also all production processes to produce it can be based on the available manufacturing capabilities. This means that production can be controlled very effectively and automatically through the implementation of JDF technology. Furthermore, devices can communicate the status of a production process so that an MIS is always precisely informed about what is currently happening in production.
Overall, workflow systems based-upon JDF increase automation capabilities in print production significantly. Typically, this leads to a large reduction in costs, a lower error-rate in production, faster throughput, and a significant improvement in meeting ever-tightening production deadlines.
The most prominent features of JDF are:
- JDF has the ability to carry a print job from genesis through completion. This includes a detailed description and timeline of the creative, prepress, press, postpress and delivery processes.
- JDF can bridge the communication gap between production devices, and Management Information Services (MIS). This core-capability of JDF enables near-instantaneous job and device tracking as well as detailed pre- and post-calculation of jobs in graphic arts production.
- JDF implementation brings the ability to bridge the gap between the customer's view of a finished product and the manufacturing process, by defining a process-independent product view as well as a process-dependent production view of a print job.
- JDF can define and track any user-defined workflow without constraints on existing supported workflow models. This includes serial, parallel, overlapping, and iterative processing in arbitrary combinations, and in distributed locations.
- Ability to do so (1, 2, 3, and 4) under nearly any precondition, and not required to use all JDF in all aspects.
ESP Color Case Study
Based in Swindon, ESP Colour is a long established industry recognised innovative business who maximise every technological opportunity to streamline its business performance by developing and utilising the latest software available to improve and enhance their offering.
Druckerei Köller + Nowark GmbH
Köller+Nowak (K+N) is a full-service commercial printer with 21 employees and a total turnover of about 3m EUR (4.2m USD). The JDF implementation at K+N is the first to utilize Cloud Computing, making it the first “JDF Cloud Network” ever established. It’s a vision of the printing industry’s JDF automated future.
Imprimerie Rochelaise is a fifty-year-old company, privately owned, which employs 49 staff members and generates 8,35 million € turnover. They print all types of folders, brochures, catalogs, posters, flyers, etc. The combination of JDF integration and customer integration makes the case of Imprimerie Rochelaise particularly innovative.
Point CZ s.r.o
POINT CZ, s.r.o. provides complex services in the field of flat sheet and digital offset printing and subsequent book-binding processing. Since 1993, the company has built up its position as one of the strongest polygraphic enterprises in the Czech Republic. This case study is based on a whole project which was focused on implementation and extension of the information system (IS) use during enhancement of company’s internal efficiency.
Based in Tilburg near Breda in the south of the Netherlands, W&R Etiketten produces labels for various industries, ranging from food, transportation and logistics. The overall objectives of the integration project are twofold: reducing administrative overhead due to growing number of smaller jobs and obtaining more insight in production.
The figure shows a simple model of JDF integration. When creating a cost estimate , the MIS initially records many data about the print product and its production. If this estimation converts to an order, some of the data will eventually be sent to prepress, press, and postpress, for example, technical details about the intended product, some business data (such as customer details, delivery date, etc.) and the overview of the most important process steps. This information transfer is symbolised with a red arrow in the figure. First, prepress will process the JDF and add new entries, such as ink zone presetting values for the press (green arrow). The RIP might also generate composite previews for press and postpress, for example, for quality assurance purposes (pink arrow). In addition, the imposition software could forward the cutting and folding positions to the cutter or folder (blue arrow). Finally, all these devices should send operational data back to the MIS (black arrows).
JDF and JMF are XML-encoded. That is, each JDF or JMF document consists of a tree of XML elements including their attributes and values. The permitted XML element names are defined in the JDF specification (CIP4 2020). Since JSON has become increasingly popular in the last decade, CIP4 is currently working on a JSON representation of JDF/XJDF.
For a typical JDF, XML elements define the product to be manufactured and, if applicable, its sub-products, as well as the production processes needed to manufacture this product.
Each product (part) and also each production process is described by an XML element called "JDF". These are designated with "JDF nodes". Of course, different node types differ in the attributes and also in the allowed sub-elements. For example, each JDF node describing a process can contain different resource elements. Resources are descriptions of physical objects (e.g., materials like paper or paint etc.) or conceptual objects (e.g., file names, parameter sets). In the JDF specification 1.7, about 100 processes and 170 resources are defined in detail. Many CIP4 experts have specified all these printing processes and resources down to the smallest detail.
Main features of JDF:
- JDF is designed to streamline information exchange between different applications and systems.
- JDF is intended to enable the entire industry, including media, design, graphic arts, on-demand and e-commerce companies, to implement and work with individual workflow solutions.
- JDF will allow integration of heterogeneous products from diverse vendors to create seamless workflow solutions.
- JDF goes together with the a message description standard and message interchange protocol "Job Messaging Format" (JMF) that allows, for example, sending feedback back from devices to controlling software. The JMF protocol between the parties supports dynamic, real-time interaction.
Please download the JDF specification 1.7 here.
In addition, here is the link to older JDF specifications (JDF archive) on Confluence
...and to the JDF Schema, the current version (1.7) as well as to older versions.
Interoperability Conformance Specification (ICS) for JDF is a set of specifications developed by CIP4. ICS documents specify the interface requirements how JDF modules (e.g., MIS, Prepress controllers or Press controllers and devices) should interoperate if they comply to the same ICS. Please follow the link below to access these ICS documents.
There are JDF examples on the CIP4 Confluence website. Please follow the link below. Note that you have to open the files with a simple word processor if you just want to study them.
Exchange Job Definition Format (XJDF)
XJDF (Exchange Job Definition Format) is a simplified version of JDF. Whereas the original versions of JDF were based on the idea of a complete electronic job-ticket, XJDF (JDF 2.0) assumes that the job-ticket exists only as an internal representation within a management application. Management applications can be but are not limited to MIS (Management Information Systems), Production control systems or Prepress workflow systems. XJDF describes the interface between management applications and applications that execute instructions.
In other words, XJDF is designed to be a pure information-interchange interface. This leads to a significant reduction of complexity compared with the original JDF design. This reduction in complexity leads to faster, simpler, and more robust integration of devices and applications in the graphic arts.
ISO's Print Product Metadata standard 21812-1:2019 is based upon concepts defined by XJDF job description that can be included in a PDF document.
Whereas JDF is based on the idea of a complete electronic job ticket, XJDF assumes that the job ticket exists only as an internal representation within a management application. Management applications can be but are not limited to MIS (Management Information Systems), Production control systems or Prepress workflow systems. XJDF describes the interface between management applications and applications that execute instructions. In other words XJDF is designed to be a pure information interchange interface. This yields to a significant reduction of complexity compared with the original JDF design. The reduction in complexity leads to faster, simpler, more affordable and robust integration of devices and applications in the graphic arts.
Like JDF, XJDF is also XML encoded. Instead of JDF nodes, XJDF nodes are now specified.
What are the main reasons that XJDF is easier to implement?
- Since the XJDF addresses a single device only, an XJDF node has no children. Therefore, the nested node tree we saw in JDF no longer exists. Thus, each device receives exactly the information it needs and does not have to search for the appropriate information in a complex structure.
- In JDF each print job yields to a separate JDF document. With XJDF, different products can be written to a product list if they are all to be processed in the same way by a single XJDF compatible device.
- There is no need anymore to store and update the entire workflow logic into a single document as with JDF.
The workflow logic is now hidden in the internal data structure of the workflow system, normally a private database. But isn't it a big disadvantage that now the workflow logic is not available in a standard XJDF document? No:
Back in the early days of JDF, the average run-lengths of jobs were much higher than today, and the average number of print jobs processed each day in a print shop was much lower. With a few dozens of print jobs per day, storing a separate JDF file for each print job is feasible. Today, however, a large online printer may run 10,000 or more jobs per day. Loading all these files into a workflow system in order to display the current jobs and their actual status would take much too long. Thus, a workflow controller such as an MIS operates a private database to speed up importing job data . This approach has been state-of the art for quite a while already. This means that in many implementations, the workflow logic has already been located within a workflow system for some time. The development of XJDF only reflects this situation.
Please note, that the descriptions of the processes and resources have essentially remained the same.
Please download the XJDF specification 2.1 here.
Moreover, here is the link to the XJDF Schema on Confluence
Interoperability Conformance Specification (ICS) for XJDF is a set of specifications developed by CIP4. ICS documents specify the interface requirements how XJDF modules (e.g., MIS, Prepress controllers or Press controllers and devices) should interoperate if they comply to the same ICS. Please follow the link below to access these ICS documents.
There are XJDF examples on the CIP4 Confluence website. Please follow the link below. Note that you have to open the files with a simple word processor if you just want to study them.