PDF is Critical to Wide Format Workflow
The standard file format that’s both print-ready, and secure for collaboration is, of course Adobe PDF (portable document format). Very few design professionals continue to use native CAD files for printing or sharing due to security concerns and the software required to print and view correctly; even more so when you consider viewing tools such as tablets and iPads.
As PDF has matured and become the standard for collaboration, certain compatibility issues have arisen; correct formatting for printing; and true PDF fidelity in terms of scale and dimensions.
When wide format PDFs don’t print correctly, users routinely point to their plotter as the culprit. The problem, however, may involve several elements in the PDF workflow.
Adobe is the software company that developed the PDF file format. Initially, PDF files could only be created using Adobe Acrobat Pro software. Now, they can be created with a variety of applications such as AutoCAD, SolidWorks and Bluebeam.
Having a true Adobe compatible file is critical for successful collaboration. Adobe provides a free Acrobat viewer that many use to view and print PDF files. Both this viewer and the PDF file format are continually updated and released several times each year.
Another critical piece that’s often misunderstood is the Adobe PostScript printer driver for direct PDF printing.
The PostScript driver communicates directly with the application, so it receives different shapes, texts, images, details and dimensions that the application contains. This interpretation is key – correctly taking the file and combining the raster and vector data into an intelligent PSF file. This enables the driver to perform changes outside of the application you have used for viewing / printing. A good example of these changes are scaling up or down.
Best Practices for PDF Wide Format Workflow
Replace Your Plotter with New Technology
Expecting older or outdated plotters with little or no manufacturer support for current Adobe PDF files is unrealistic. PDF files require up-to-date processing controllers and print technology to print wide format documents effectively.
There is often no driver support for outdated plotters. And, the older plotters simply don’t have the power to print PDFs correctly.
Another key best practice, keep your operating system, design software and print drivers up to date.
Does Your Plotter Have Genuine Adobe PostScript?
Printer manufacturers like Océ and HP use genuine Adobe PostScript because they understand the importance of producing PDF prints without errors for the manufacturing and construction industries.
Certified PostScript controllers are licensed and generally at a slight premium over non-PostScript printers – but, keep in mind, this ensures proper and correct prints. Using a third party interpreter can be less expensive, but when compared with the cost of errors on the shop floor or in the field because of missing dimensions or scaling issues, a true Adobe processor becomes extremely cost effective.
Make Sure Your PDF Files are Print-Ready
There’s nothing inherently wrong with applications that create PDFs, or a contractors network like iSqFt for downloading PDF files for bidding. It’s just that they’re usually using PDFs created for collaborating on the screen, not the printer. An extra step may be required to “optimize” or “flatten” the PDF. This step takes elements like external links, layers, and embedded objects, and makes them print-ready. More and more companies now maintain a license of Adobe Acrobat Pro or Bluebeam Revu for flattening PDFs.
Consider Professional Printing Software
HP SmartStream, HP Click, Canon Direct Print & Share, or device-independent OpCenter PlotWorks, are examples of software that can be deployed on your workstation, in your workgroup, or company-wide, to provide a standardized method for submitting PDFs for printing.
I’ve been using HP Click software on a daily basis for almost a year. It’s a free download from HP. I can’t recall the last time I had to use the cumbersome Acrobat Reader for printing a PDF.
The first thing HP Click software does when you drag and drop PDFs into it, is complete an error check and present a warning banner if something might not print correctly. The preview screen is accurate and it uses a direct print process that bypasses the windows print driver. Not only does bypassing the windows driver help reduce print problems, it speeds up the processing and gets to the printer faster. HP got it right with this one.
A software solution for wide format that can process multiple file types, resize, check for errors and preview BEFORE being sent to the plotter, can drastically improve workflow efficiency and reduce project costs.