Government Printing Council

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In the commercial print market there are really no universally accepted standards for quality of various printing attributes.  That has resulted in situations where jobs the printer feels are just fine are viewed as unacceptable to the customer.  Because printing is still an art (not a science) there is significant room for differing opinions. 

Many years ago the Government Printing Office (GPO) decided it would address the quality issue problem in the Quality Assurance Through Attributes Program (QATAP), which actually sets standards for almost every attribute of a print job, including such things as marks, smearing, color match, trim size, etc., etc. 

The QATAP standards were developed at a time when all QATAP Level II high-quality 4-color printing was done on sheet fed presses, and when there was no such thing as high speed digital one color printing, let alone digital color printing. 

As high speed heat set web production became more prevalent, customers began to use if for their important 4-color jobs like magazines, tourism materials, etc.  For longer run lengths, sheet fed presses typically can not compete in price and production time with web heat set presses.  Agencies and GPO are aware of this, and expect and/or encourage bidders on major jobs who are going to be using web presses. 

Unfortunately, however, it is the opinion of most experts that printing attributes consistently achievable on a good sheet fed press cannot be regularly and uniformly obtained on most heat set web presses in use today.  This does not mean that the job on the web press is not good, does not have accurate color fidelity and good registration, and “look good” to the buyer and the end user—but it does mean that the web presses’ capabilities are different. 

GPO’s QATAP standards for Level II printing, which is most commonly used for 4 to 6 color jobs, are demanding, and in some cases impossible to meet consistently throughout a web run.  As a result, there is a need for specifications for Level II work that reflect the web presses’ consistent production capabilities in the real world.  

For digital printing, agency customers will often indicate that digital printing is acceptable, or even desired.  However, they also request that the job meet Level II QATAP requirements.  The problem is that GPO has determined that digital color printing does not consistently meet Level II quality standards.  For one thing, there is often a slight variation in color from the original to the end product.  While this may be acceptable to the customer, it would make the job rejectable under QATAP.  Although GPO has been working on digital print standards, more needs to be done (now) to enable agencies to utilize digital printing to save money on short runs, or for advanced copies of a longer run, to avoid having to start up the web presses earlier than might otherwise be necessary. 


Mission Statement:

The Government Printing Council supports the continuation and improvement of a centralized, open, competitive federal government print procurement system that provides quality printed products, at the lowest total cost to the agencies and the taxpayers


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