50th: Long Road to Automation — From High Touch to Hi Tech

o Dr. Ing. Rudolf Hell showed the new Vario-Klischograph for both color and black-and-white, producing electronic engravings in sizes up to 12×16?, fully automatic.

To get a further sense of the industry’s state of technological development in 1958, here’s a sampling of headlines and excerpts from stories published that year.

“New Photocomposing Machine for Low Cost Production of Type Matter”–A new machine, the Optype, which uses a photographic principle for copying lines of type and justifying the right hand margin. . . is said to compose type at speeds up to 16 lines per minute. . .will sell for $6,950.

“Letterpress Forum Earns Praise with New Development Program”–Nine firms showed more than 2,500 graphic arts workers a dazzling array of new developments in the application of photographic techniques to letterpress printing. . .By closed circuit television, viewed at the New Yorker and Statler hotels, the companies unveiled the fruits of their research labor for an amazed and receptive audience.

“How Research Pays Off: Color on Newsprint”–RIT’s Graphic Arts Research Department has been conducting research for years leading to the development of a system of web offset process color newspaper printing, which would be low-cost, high quality and economical.

The passage of 10 years didn’t warrant doing a big industry retrospective in the June 1968 issue. Instead, PRINT 68 was the lead story. It reported that “automation is the watchword of the printing industry today,” and cited advances in computer typesetting, electronic controls and platemaking as examples. On the press front, a “massive sales drive” by Japanese manufacturers and a “very pronounced tendency to the in-line production approach” were noted.

o Printing in Space

Catching the space race fever of the time, PI also carried an amusing article titled “Printing Method Developed for Use by Lunar Astronauts.” The piece only owned up to being a spoof in its last line: Editor’s Note–Of course, you are now aware that this “new product” story is all in fun.

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  • http://ErikNikkanen Erik Nikkanen

    Lots of amazing technologies have been developed over the past 50 years but the Industry has also been wearing blinders for that period of time.<br />
    <br />
    Offset presses still have problems with density variation and ink water balance. The industry has long approached this problem as being a chemical problem when in fact it is a mechanical problem with the design of the ink feed of the press.<br />
    <br />
    Inexpensive and simple technology could have corrected this press design problem over 50 years ago and the development of press performance and knowledge would have taken a much different path.<br />
    <br />
    I hope over the next 50 years, the blinders will come off. Then things will start to make more sense and also more dollars for printers.