In the latest of our interviews with AFPC leaders, we spoke with Dick Moerkens, Senior Vice President, Research and Development, Océ, to discuss the past, present and future of AFP and the AFPC.
Q: What do you see as the single most important value AFP capabilities bring to an organization?
Dick: I see many important values that AFP brings into production environments, like security, high-processing performance, investment protection. However, if I had to point out one, it would be the inherent data integrity of AFP. That integrity ensures mission critical applications are printed correctly and efficiently, where and when they are supposed to be produced.
Q: Why do you feel the AFPC is important to the print industry?
Dick: I think the AFPC has two major roles. One, as a change agent for the print industry. These changes can help capture new business by adding new functions across vendors. At the same time, changes among individual vendors can spur further innovation as the AFPC fosters an exchange of ideas between vendors. Secondly, AFPC helps maintain AFP as an industry standard. It ensures the existing mission-critical implementations remain compatible and efficient, while at the same time being standardized.
Q: In your opinion, what is the biggest value the AFP brings to the print industry?
Dick: AFP ensures integration and consolidation of the vendor vision into one uniform format and standard. This is a very important value, as it ensures continuous functional improvements across a uniform, defined architecture. That level of definition is important, as it helps with AFP’s interoperability.
Q: Do you see AFP becoming more broadly deployed beyond transactional print? If so, in which types of output?
Dick: While AFP originated in the transactional world and continues to develop further in direct mail and business communication segments with the somewhat recent addition of native PDF support via containment architecture, I would say until today AFP has not gone far beyond these environments. It hasn’t gone deeply into pure-PDF segments. AFP’s advantages, like data integrity and data security, are not yet that important in those environments. Nevertheless, I think there’s a high potential that these exact advantages will contribute to future penetration in atypical AFP markets, supported by trends toward print centers striving to be able to print all types of applications regardless of their point of origin.
Q: How do you see the marketplace in ten years? How will AFP and PDF work together? Will there be more options for organizations to look to?
Dick: Just like today, AFP and PDF will coexist in transactional and graphic arts environments. I think PDF will continue to get more into variable environments due to its simplicity – a PDF document can be created by anybody. But the real answer for high-performance processing is not yet found in PDF. Therefore, I would expect them to be more closely connected, through continued improvements on PDF handling within AFP, than ever before. The strength of AFP’s security, efficiency and data integrity combined with the graphical ease of use of PDF, I think represents huge potential for all print users. This kind of integration will enable more users to reap the benefits of intelligent prepress processing and metadata creation applications, significantly streamlining the printing process.
Q: In your opinion, what was the most important evolution of AFP you’ve seen over the years?
Dick: I think that if you look at the impact on users’ business opportunities, the biggest evolution, from a purely line-based, monochrome mainframe datastream into an architecture that is accepted by and meets the requirements of full-color graphics arts users, including ICC color management. Also, PDF containers is a very, very big evolution.
Q: Do you see adoption of AFP into more cutsheet shops or is it still primarily leveraged in continuous feed organizations?
Dick: I think a key advantage of AFP is that it’s independent of the technology and paper feed. These days, many print centers are using mixed equipment, and as a result, the acceptance of AFP is growing in cutsheet environments. With the increasing number of high-volume cutsheet devices entering the market, I think AFP’s device-agnostic advantage will become more and more important.
Q: What, in your mind, sets AFP apart from other presentation architectures?
Dick: High security, bidirectional communication and high processing performance, to degrees that are very different from other architectures. Additionally, the data integrity of AFP ensures mission critical applications are printed in time and correctly, where and when they are needed.
Q: What do you hope to accomplish through your efforts with the AFPC?
Dick: I hope to increase the efficiency of the print industry, and for that to happen, a well-suited print data stream is a major precondition, and I believe AFP has the major leading role there.
Q: What would you like to see AFP do that it isn’t doing right now?
Dick: I would like to see a big alliance between PDF and AFP, to merge into one unified data stream definition. But that may be too optimistic. [laughs] But that would really be something. I’m glad to see ongoing progress toward greater interoperability.