FESPA and ISO-TC130 The International standards committee for Printing and graphic technologies

by FESPA | 27/11/2018
FESPA and ISO-TC130 The International standards committee for Printing and graphic technologies

Graeme Richardson-Locke discusses current printing standards and the ISO-TC130 committee.

Over the last few years I have represented FESPA at ISO TC-130, the purpose of my attendance has been to keep FESPA informed on the development of printing standards that impact our community. As a printer, with many years of experience I have seen many businesses try to reinvent the wheel and resolve production issues using their internal skills. In many cases the issues were actually created by printers who made ill-judged but well-intentioned decisions based on information they’d been taught years before. Now, I for one, believe that when fixing problems, it is important that any production manager gathers input from everyone in the production team. There are many nuances in printing processes that are best observed by those at the ‘coal face’ and the best solution will always include their insight.

However, a broader view can contribute significant commercial advantages. The next step may be searching YouTube or speaking to suppliers. These research sources provide some useful advice along with some dubious information that is based on opinion and not science. In a printing market where automation is becoming a key factor in improving efficiency and reducing room for error the place for working to well defined standards makes complete sense. Whilst there may be use cases where standards don’t offer a perfect fit and reading the standards documentation can be a daunting task, it is worth the investment to identify the ones that do.

The primary value in printing standards is the degree of scrutiny that technical committees have to apply to reach a consensus across international borders. The most well-known standard is ISO 12647-2, the latest version being 2013, Graphic technology, Process control for the production of half-tone colour separations, proof and production prints in Offset litho. It offers a great start point for getting things right and setting up sustainable measurable processes. There are standards covering all key aspects of printing production from test forms, to measurement methods, to print and finishing.

Key standards for printing and graphic arts:

Digital Test Images - Prepress Digital Data Exchange

ISO 12640 CMYK standard colour image data (CMYK/SCID)
ISO 12640-2 XYZ/sRGB encoded standard colour image data (XYZ/SCID)
ISO 12640-3 CIELAB standard colour image data (CIELAB/SCID)

Colour Measurement Procedures

ISO 13655 Spectral measurement and colorimetric computation for graphic arts images
Standard Viewing Conditions
ISO 3664:2009 Graphic technology and Photography Viewing conditions.

Printing Ink Colours - Graphic Technology, Colour and Transparency of Printing Ink Sets For Four-Colour Printing
ISO 2846 -1 Sheet-fed and heat-set web offset lithographic printing
ISO 2846 -2 Coldset offset lithographic printing
ISO 2846-4 Screen printing
ISO 2846-5 Flexographic printing

Process Control - Process Control for the Production of Half-Tone Colour Separations, Proof and Production Prints

ISO 12647-1 Parameters and measurement
ISO 12647-2 Offset lithographic processes
ISO 12647-3 Coldset offset lithography on newsprint
ISO 12647-4 Publication gravure printing
ISO 12647-5 Screen printing
ISO 12647-6 Flexographic printing
ISO 12647-7 Proofing processes working directly from digital data

Colour Monitors for Soft Proofing

ISO 12646 Graphic technology. Displays for colour proofing. Characteristics and viewing

Characterisation Targets - Prepress Digital Data Exchange

ISO 12640 CMYK standard colour image data (CMYK/SCID)
ISO 12640-2 XYZ/sRGB encoded standard colour image data (XYZ/SCID)
ISO 12640-3 CIELAB standard colour image data (CIELAB/SCID)
ISO 12641 Colour targets for input scanner calibration
ISO 12642-1 GraInput data for characterization of 4-colour process printing

Standard Encodings and File Formats STANDARD

ISO 15076 Image technology colour management. Architecture, profile format and data structure.

ISO 22028 Photography and graphic technology. Extended colour encodings for digital image storage, manipulation and interchange. Architecture and requirements.

I have provided an extensive list to illustrate the point that there are a wide variety of standards in use covering the length and breadth of printing industry needs.

The committee that I attend on FESPA’s behalf goes by the catchy title of ‘BS PAI/43’. It is the shadow committee of ISO TC-130 and represents the British contribution to the international standards community. There are committees in many countries around the world who contribute to agreeing the best method to use, validated and objectively enforceable by a legal contract.

For a moment imagine you’re responsible for the print budget for a large brand and you spend a large sum of money every year on printed products across offset, wide format and packaging. You look at your print service providers and they all offer similar pricing, product specifications and delivery. Wouldn’t you choose to work with the supplier that works to an international standard? One that can validate their work for you with measured colour? The commercial print sector is more mature in regard to standards adoption, partly due to the scale of investment required in buying offset and production digital presses. They need to ensure printed sheets running off at many thousands per hour comply hence the in-line or near-line process control systems that are available.

Some plants with sufficient scale are processing files in fully automated workflows that are usually built around the ISO 12647 family of standards. If you are a smaller business running various wide format or screen print applications, you may have to calibrate and characterise your presses and key substrates to get your process control in place. When you have achieved this, your viewing conditions are consistent and monitors calibrated you’ll be on your way to an easier life. Just ensure your file handling is a PDF-X format that’s suitable and your printing will start to throw up very few headaches. You won’t need to tinker with client files and the whole environment will become predictable. Of course, you won’t make a good job from bad files, but you will pick up on problems earlier before they cost you your profits.

Once you’ve reached this point then the next logical step is to investigate certification. In order to move forwards with this process it is recommended to find a print certification specialist with UKAS (if in the UK) accreditation who can support you. Initially a gap analysis will clarify the steps required to reach certified status. This is of course considerably more valuable than making that statement that you’re work towards the standard.

A key benefit of this entire approach is that of achieving ‘Common Colour Appearance’ to offset standards across presses, sites and even countries.  

Building a business based on ISO standards is as good as benefitting from the advice of the best technologists from Fujifilm, Fogra, Kodak, Sun Chemical, X-Rite, Pantone, Global Graphics, Adobe as they’re all involved in the process. Oh, yes you can also add the top colour management consultants and colour scientists to this list.
I’m going to build on this blog, look out for the next one which will give insight into established and developing standards.
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