2005 Purdue–Silicon Valley Symposia

An Interdisciplinary Approach to Image Processing Research

Despite the promise of a paperless world, revenue from sales of consumables and hardware for electrophotographic (laser) and inkjet printing now exceeds $50 billion (U.S.) per year — and continues to grow. This is only a small fraction of the $400 billion worldwide annual revenue associated with all types of printing.

What are the opportunities for a researcher in image processing to contribute to this important technological area? Certainly, digital halftoning, which determines how dots are placed on the page to represent a continuous-tone image, is a core technology for printing. While it has been around for more than 25 years, some of the most exciting developments have occurred only recently. The needs in this area continue to be driven by relentless pressure to print faster with higher quality, and to do it at lower cost. But there is more — much more.

Halftoning is only one step in the imaging pipeline of a digital printer. There is also a need for image scaling, compression, various types of color transformations, and image enhancement. In addition, it is increasingly important to consider these steps in the context of the printer mechanism and the properties of the human visual system. Image analysis, mechatronics, and psychophysics are critical to characterizing the behavior of the print mechanism and human viewer that enables the linkage between the imaging algorithms and these elements of the printing ecology.

Beyond the hardware platform itself, we see additional opportunities for image processing to play a role. The development lifecycle of printers has been squeezed tremendously by the need to bring new products to market more quickly than ever before. Image-analysis techniques can reduce development costs by efficiently inspecting printer output for defects and overall quality. Also, when the printer is deployed in the field, image processing can help reduce the cost of service and support, and improve customer satisfaction by facilitating the diagnosis of print-quality defects. Here again we find an important interplay with the human user that calls for both psychophysics and human-factors methods. Finally, printing plays an important role in crime. The same tools used to reduce print-quality artifacts can be turned around and used to identify intrinsic signatures of the printer mechanism and to even embed an extrinsic signature that can encode auxiliary information on the printed page.

At Purdue, we have developed a broad-based research program that addresses a wide range of problems associated with digital printing. Our team of some 30 researchers includes faculty members and graduate students from Electrical and Computer Engineering, Industrial Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, and Psychology. In this talk, I will discuss the role of image processing in digital printing (as detailed above) in the context of our multidisciplinary research program in digital printing. I will illustrate these concepts with examples from our research activity.

Jan P. Allebach

Michael J. and Katherine R. Birck Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Purdue University


Jan P. Allebach received his BSEE from the University of Delaware (1972) and his PhD from Princeton University (1976). He was on the faculty at the University of Delaware from 1976-83. Since 1983 he has been at Purdue University where he is Michael J. and Katherine R. Birck Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

Allebach’s current research interests include image rendering, image quality, color imaging and color measurement, and digital publishing. The results of his research on image rendering algorithms have been licensed to major vendors of imaging products and can be found in millions of units that have been sold worldwide.

His memberships include the IEEE Signal Processing (SP) Society, the Society for Imaging Science and Technology (IS&T), and SPIE. He has been especially active with the IEEE SP Society and IS&T. For both he is a Fellow and has served as Distinguished/Visiting Lecturer and a Board of Directors officer. He was Co-Technical Chair of ICASSP-93 held in Minneapolis, MN; Co-General Chair of the 9th IMDSP Workshop held in Belize City, Belize (March 1996), and Co-General Chair of EI-99 held in San Jose, CA (February 1999).

Professor Allebach is past Associate Editor for the IEEE Transactions on Signal Processing and the IEEE Transactions on Image Processing. He is presently Editor of the IS&T/SPIE Journal of Electronic Imaging. He received the Senior (best paper) Award from the IEEE Signal Processing Society, the Bowman Award from IS&T, and an Outstanding Engineering Alumni Award from the University of Delaware.

In 2004 he was named Electronic Imaging Scientist of the Year by IS&T and SPIE. At Purdue he has received four teaching awards, including the 2003 Wilfred “Duke” Hesselberth Award for Teaching Excellence from the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering.