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How to write the application paper of variable data printing?

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PPML /VDX means “print markup language /variable data exchange”. PPML /VDX is a standard of variable data printing (VDP) job output /exchange based on PDF and PPML. It combines the advantages of PPML and PDF and supports the creation of documents including database information and variable content. The standard was formulated by the American Printing Technology Standards Committee (CGATS) and approved by the American National Organization for Standardization (ANSI) in early 2002. The standard number is ANSI CGATS 20。

background of PPML /VDX Standard

it is generally believed that the future printing industry will increasingly adopt digital printing technology (instead of or in parallel with traditional offset printing). On the other hand, many digital printing equipment suppliers are unable to achieve the expected sales volume, so they are looking for “killer applications” that can help digital printing enter mainstream applications

compared with traditional offset printing, one of the main advantages of digital printing equipment is that it does not need printing plate and preparation time, and each page can contain different content, that is, variable data printing (VDP)

unfortunately, VDP workflow is often considered difficult to complete. Because the data preparation before printing and the printing process itself require a lot of manpower, and all personnel need to have a certain level of professional knowledge in the corresponding field, the cost is quite high. Another reason for increasing the difficulty of VDP is that every digital printing supplier is implementing VDP in a special data format, so that users are often bound by special software tools and workflow

a few years ago, major manufacturers in the industry formed an organization called “printing on demand initiative alliance” (Podi) and formulated a personalized markup language (PPML) standard aimed at improving the interoperability between suppliers’ equipment. This standard specifies the standard way to define VDP operations. Many Podi members (and other manufacturers) have shifted their products from special format to PPML format. There are also some “open” front ends in the market that allow users to build PPML jobs, thus breaking the dependence on a single supplier workflow

although PPML is very suitable for the complex high-end VDP market, PPML is essentially a set of tag indexes used to indicate the elements to be printed on the page and their corresponding position and scaling information on the page. The PPML standard does not contain the definition of the tag itself. In other words, PPML is not a page description language (PDL), but only an index pointing to the “content file” storing page elements (defined in a PDL language). Therefore, in PPML, there are no restrictions on the format of content files that can be used. Suppliers can freely choose applications, PDF, tiff, JFIF, PCL, or even AFP. Therefore, PPML language itself does not guarantee that users can print a PPML file and its associated content file

such PPML filegroups may contain a large number of files, but there is no clear recommendation mechanism on how to associate such filegroups. When transferring between design sites and printing sites, a large number of files are far more difficult to manage than a single file

therefore, the CGATS SC6 /TF2 team established in 1999 began to develop a standard for the low-end VDP market. The standard developed by the team, called PPML /VDX, is based on a subset of the PPML standard and allows publishing software to use PDF files to store information required for variable data printing operations. The standard overcomes the weakness of PPML. The content adopts PDF /x-1a:2001 or PDF /x-3:2002 format, and requires PPML to be embedded in PDF files

the design tools and printing system based on PPML /VDX enable non professional users to reliably design and complete variable data printing. In the new software supporting ppml/vdx, users can easily create database information and variable content, and create files for final printing production required by variable data printing jobs through simple commands

PPML /VDX Standard enables designers to fully control the final shape, content and appearance of each part of the print. Even if each page of the print is different, it can enable printing producers to focus on product quality without spending time and energy on cumbersome work such as database operation and the correctness of printing parameters

it should be noted that PPML /VDX provides a framework on which software and hardware suppliers can create variable data printing jobs that can be printed at rated speed (or close to rated speed) on printers or digital printers. In many traditional variable data printing workflow, printing data is a bottleneck, and the variable data printing solution based on PPML /VDX will change this situation

basic working mode of PPML /VDX

PPML /VDX workflow includes PPML /VDX sender and PPML /VDX receiver. PPML /VDX sender system generates a set of files containing variable data printing job information, while PPML /VDX receiver system uses these files to complete variable data jobs. The PPML /VDX sender can be a software program or one or more people. Similarly, PPML /VDX recipients can be either software programs or one or more people

one or more files about a VDP job sent to the PPML /VDX receiver are called “PPML /VDX instance”. A specific PPML /VDX instance can contain only one file, or several or many files. If there is only one file, it will be a special form of PDF file called PPML /VDX layout file. Each PPML /VDX instance must contain only one PPML /VDX layout file. If the PPML /VDX instance contains more than one file, one of the files must be a PPML /VDX layout file. In addition, it may contain several or more other PDF files, or one or two files in XML format

the extension of PPML /VDX layout file adopts VDX, not Pdf to indicate that this is a PPML /VDX layout file rather than a “normal” PDF file

If any, the XML file in the PPML /VDX instance contains PPML data or JDF data. PPML data is the key part of each PPML /VDX instance. PPML data is either embedded in the PPML /VDX layout file or stored in a separate file (there is a URL link to the independent file in the PPML /VDX instance layout file). JDF data is optional. If the PPML /VDX instance does contain JDF data, the JDF data can be embedded in the PPML /VDX layout file or placed in a separate file

PPML /VDX layout file

as mentioned earlier, each PPML /VDX instance contains one and only one PPML /VDX layout file. PPML /VDX layout is a special form of PDF file, which includes some data structures that describe the organization of variable data job elements. In addition to these data structures, PPML /VDX layout files may also contain some or all of the text and image codes required to complete the variable data printing operation

it should be noted that although PPML /VDX layout files are PDF files, they cannot be browsed by PDF reading software (such as Adobe Acrobat Reader). This is because the structure of PPML /VDX layout file is different from that of ordinary PDF file. PPML /VDX layout file is mainly used as the “container” or “package” of data structure (as well as text and image), which itself is not a “file” in the usual sense

if you open a PPML /VDX layout file in adode acrobat, you may see the following information:

warning: This is a PPML /VDX file

This file may not display properly in your viewer.

the above English means “warning: This is a PPML /VDX file. This file may not be displayed correctly”

file organization and structure of PPML /VDX instances

VDP jobs based on PPML /VDX include two parts: content data and layout data (as shown in Figure 1). There are many specific organization forms

the simplest way is to include all the information needed to complete the variable data
operation in a single PDF file, that is, the suffix is In the PPML /VDX layout file of VDX. The data structure in PPML /VDX layout file specifies the positions of different texts and images contained in the file and the corresponding attribute information, and describes how to use different texts and images in the actual variable data printing

there are four types of data structures in PPML /VDX layout files

1. Data structure: this data structure is used as a complex cross index table and “checklist”. PPML /VDX receiver can use this data structure to determine whether all components required for variable data printing operation are complete

2. Layout data structure: this data structure either contains a PPML data structure that describes the layout of variable data documents and the layout of text and image elements; Either include an index link to a separate file that stores this PPML data structure

3. Data structure: the data structure either contains JDF data structure specifying printing paper type, binding method and other information; Or include an index link to a separate file that stores the JDF data structure

4. Ppmlvdx data structure: the data structure serves as the shell of the above data structure, that is, the layout and data structure are encapsulated in the ppmlvdx data structure

ppmlvdx, and layout data structures must appear in each PPML /VDX layout file, and the data structure is optional. These data structures are in XML format, that is, each data structure is an XML element

the receiver in the PPML /VDX workflow is responsible for reading and interpreting the data structure in the PPML /VDX layout file, and using the information to assemble different text and image elements into the actual document

in more complex jobs, a PPML /VDX instance consists of a PPML /VDX layout file and multiple other PDF files. The PPML /VDX layout file only contains the necessary data structure and links to other PDF files, and the actual code of text and image is in other PDF files. For example, a job may consist of 10 or more files (as shown in Figure 2)

in this type of PPML /VDX instance, the data structure in the PPML /VDX layout file refers to other PDF files instead of pointing to the tag location in the PPML /VDX layout file (this is the case in a single file PPML /VDX instance)

of course, there are many other organizational forms, such as referencing independent JDF files through data structures

software and hardware supporting PPML /VDX /rip suppliers

the following software can output VDP jobs in PPML /VDX format

atlas software’s printshop mail application software is a powerful and easy-to-use variable data printing solution. Running on windows and MAC platforms, the software can generate output in PPML /VDX format (as well as output in other formats)

the company’s dl-100, dl-1000 and DL formatter run in windows and Mac operating system environments. These solutions include, InDesign, or acrobat plug-ins, as well as server based solutions designed for mass production. These solutions provide advanced typesetting control to generate output in PPML /VDX or other formats

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