ISO 12647

Within the International Organization for Standardization a separate workgroup occupies itself with defining standards for the printing industry. One of these standards is called ISO 12647. It provides printers with a set of quality control guidelines for their printing process.

What is ISO 12647

The ISO 12647 specifications includes standard process control aimpoints and tolerances for various printing methods and processes. ISO 12647-2 for instance covers the offset printing process. Standardizing production means that a number of production parameters need to be clearly defined, along with a specific tolerance on each. In the case of ISO 12647 these definitions include:

  • the color and transparency of printing inks
  • definitions of paper types
  • solid tones, which are described with CIELAB values
  • tone value increases (TVI), per paper type and color

Essentially these guidelines, combined with proper calibration and rigorous quality control tests guarantee a consistent and predictable quality in the (re)production of printed matter.

As a printer you can implement ISO 12647 by following a training, during which you will be taught about the standard and receive the proper documentation. The training will also include a hands-on part, in which test sheets will be printed to assure your printing procedures meet the quality control requirements. The teacher will discuss corrective measures to stay within the ISO tolerances.

Components of ISO12647

The ISO 12647 standard is split up in different parts, which each have a different number. Their names also include the year when the standard was established or last modified. Because the standard covers various printing methods, a printer only needs to implement a part of the full specifications.

  • ISO 12647-1:2005 describes the parameters and measurements methods. Essentially 12647-1 provides the basis for the subsequent print related settings.
  • ISO 12647-2:2004 defines the process control settings for offset lithography.
  • ISO 12647-3:2005 defines the process control settings for newspaper printing, more specifically coldset offset lithography on newsprint
  • ISO 12647-4:2005 defines the process control settings for publication gravure printing, which is used for high volume magazines, catalogues, etc.
  • ISO 12647-5:2001 defines the process control settings for screen printing.
  • ISO 12647-6:2006 defines the process control settings for flexographic printing.
  • ISO 12647-7 is still being work on. It will cover off-press proofing processes.

Benefits of working with a standard like ISO 12647-2

Adhering to the ISO 12647 specs can offer the following advantages to a printer:

  • Savings on paper and ink as well as make-ready time
  • Improved process stability
  • Better quality and consistency
  • Meeting the expectation level of print-buyers. There are large corporations and governments that insist that their printed matter is produced by a company that is ISO 12647 certified.
  • Better matching between proofs and prints

As a printer you can get a training on implementing ISO 12647. Various industry organisations, consultants and vendors offer this type of service. The printer can then decide:

  • to use some or all of the guidelines of the ISO 12647 standard as an internal guideline (or ignore them all, of course).
  • to fully adopt the standard and become an ISO 12647 certified printer. This requires certification by an outside party. The ISO organisation itself does not certify printers but the company doing the training may be accredited to offer this service. A new audit is needed all 3 years to renew the certification.

Additional sources of information

The ISO web site is about as dull as a site can get. They also expect you to pay for the official documentation. You can download the free PDF version of the BVDM Media Standard Print 2006 here. Please use the comment function if you are aware of any other good documentation about ISO 12647.