We sat down with AFPC Board Member Michele Pracchi, Senior VP of Corporate Software Development, Océ, about what makes AFP and the AFPC special and how he sees the future of presentation architectures unfolding.
Q: What do you see as the single most important value AFP capabilities bring to an organization?
Michele: I think AFP’s biggest asset is its built-in data integrity. That’s what makes it capable of such high-performing data processing: It’s so well structured, it streamlines everything, placing ready-to-process print data where it needs to go accurately and efficiently. It’s the best-of-breed print data architecture for production environments because of that.
Q: Why do you feel the AFPC is important to the print industry?
Michele: The AFPC does a lot for the industry, I think. It supports both new and existing AFP users by preparing them for the future of printing. First it was with color at outstanding print quality, and now that that challenge has been met, things are moving forward with object containers and other technical facets. To that end, it’s made great strides in merging transactional and graphic arts workflows, bringing the best of both worlds.
The AFPC has proven a tremendous asset to the print industry in a lot of ways, but I think its major, kind of umbrella contribution is that it honed AFP to be an open, well-maintained standard throughout the print industry. The global group effort to make AFP all it can be is what allows it to compete with non-transactional formats today. The Consortium prepares AFP for the future, increasing its already high value in the print market.
Q: How do you see the marketplace in ten years? How will AFP and PDF work together, and do you think there will be more options for organizations to look to?
Michele: I think both worlds will continue to exist much in the same way they do today, but a new niche will develop from PDF being embedded in AFP, which can bring a lot more to the table for variable data printing jobs created in AFP.
Q: What is the one thing about AFP that you think we should know that we likely don’t?
Michele: I think anyone who doesn’t use AFP must not know just how high a level of functionality AFP provides. That’s fast becoming a poorly kept secret, though. [laughs]
Q: In your opinion, what was the most important evolution of AFP you’ve seen over the years?
Michele: The move from monochrome to color, which was pulled off remarkably quickly when you think about it, and how soon after it was finished that it caught hold in the market.
Q: Do you see adoption of AFP into more cutsheet shops, or is it still primarily leveraged in continuous feed organizations?
Michele: Yes, there are many Océ (Canon) customers printing AFP in cutsheet shops, just because it’s such a solid architecture. Can this be seen as a sort of AFP revolution in those environments? I doubt it. But those kind of use cases do exist.
Q: In what industries do you see AFP being leveraged the most today? Where do you expect adoption to increase in the next five years?
Michele: Transaction and variable data printing today, extending into graphic arts tomorrow. That is, for as much as a high level of customer by customer customization will be required.
Q: What, in your mind, sets AFP apart from other presentation architectures?
Michele: It has a very strong feedback channel, which, coupled with its built-in data integrity, goes a long way in ensuring fidelity in printing.
Q: What do you hope to accomplish through your efforts with the AFPC?
Michele: I’m hoping to stay in touch with our members, who are leaders in the industry, so we can work together to drive the future of print, making sure AFP is in a leading role and does not become superseded by other page description languages. The competition is strong.
Q: What would you like to see AFP do that it isn’t doing right now?
Michele: I’d like to see AFP do more to provide for greater graphic capabilities directly in AFP, instead of just porting them in through other architectures through a side door. To that end, I’d like to see JDF and JMF become integrated into the framework itself. As far as ease of use goes, I’d love to see us put together a driver set to print directly from the application, a la Windows Printer Driver.