So, here's a look at where I spent the last week.

It all begins Monday at the sheet-fed plant. As its name implies, the printing presses there take one sheet at a time (as opposed to web printing, on a continuous roll; more below), which is used for heavy stock and/or high-quality projects. The cover to our publication prints there, on a ten-unit press, which means it can print five colors on each side.


That takes only a couple hours to review and make any adjustments, then we travel to the main plant, about an hour away. The interior pages are printed there on a web press, which prints from one giant roll of paper after another. The economics of such a press mean that it functions best when it's continuously running — so, sometime Monday evening, the first of our pages is ready for review, and then again every 2 to 2 1/2 hours until it's done.

This is the view first walking into the plant. I can just smell the chemicals looking at this.

The press goes through a mile of paper every two minutes. It can print up to six colors on each side at a time. To begin each signature, the plates are hung on the press, and some time is spent getting the color right, then we're called in to review.


The paper goes through the ink rollers, a dryer, and then a whole binding operation at the end, which scores and folds the pages. Though it's a roll, each set of 16 pages (eight on each side) is referred to as a sheet — and the printer does about 35,000 of those in an hour.


We wrapped up, without any problems, in the early hours of Wednesday morning. The trip home, though not nearly as bad as the trip out, was not without incident.


Sherry said...

Thanks for the pics and the information on how the press operates.

andy said...

One scary thing - where are the people ? A buddy of mine worked in the Travelers print shop in college - third shift. His duty was every half hour or so to reload the paper...rest of the time, read a book, read the paper...

Bram said...

Even though things are more automated, there's still plenty of people around the machines. For each of those big web presses (they have two), there are two pressmen, each handling one side; one guy who's managing the paper; at least 2-3 people packing up and handling the pages as they come out; and there's a manager overseeing both the presses. During the day, there's also activity in the warehouse and bindery around the presses.

Liz said...

Cool - I feel like I just went on a field trip. Very educational. (I had flashbacks to grade school field trips...the Wonderbread factory, the Ford plant...good times).