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An Old Friend Resurfaces --Waldman

August 2002
For me, what once was the most exciting surface in all of printing has resurfaced. Well, actually, it never really went away. But looking back almost 30 years, I can remember that when a customer specified Kromekote it was a special project. And, yes, there was King James and Mark 1, and we were supposed to call these glass-like papers by the generic name: cast-coated. However, no one did, as every printer I knew used Champion's brand name, Kromekote, as the category nomenclature.

Time marches on, and new varieties of paper—both domestic and foreign—have paraded through. Couple that with on-press varnishing techniques, aqueous and UV coating, and some of Kromekote's luster may have faded. I also can recall when many designers no longer wanted a cast-coated finish as their tastes changed to less glossy and dull stocks.

More Good Memories

So the excitement of printing that special project on Kromekote had become just another memory in a mind cluttered with so many memories of this great industry. That is until I met Garth Geist in a small booth at the On-Demand show in New York.

If you're a regular reader of my column (anybody?), then you're aware of my belief that single-pass office color laser printers like the Xerox Phaser 7700 will eventually play a large role in short-run printing. Garth is director of digital media for Smart Papers, and his impressive knowledge and enthusiasm for the future of digital print and the role of paper soon enveloped me in a fascinating conversation.

Garth suggested that I try KromekotePlus on my next Phaser 7700 project, as he has seen some excellent results using the updated version of this old industry great for digital printing. Smart Papers now owns Kromekote—complete with the original mill that continues to make the super-shinny paper.

Understand that although I will always have ink flowing through my veins that I'm no longer out there competing against you guys trying to make a living by selling impressions. I'm a consultant who writes and works on various industry projects.

However, in order to experiment and learn, I will do some short-run work for friends. In that vein, I promised my friend Richard, a glass artist, that I would print 300 copies of his 81⁄2x11˝, four-color, two-sided brochure which I had put together. Garth sent me enough 6-pt. C/2/S KromekotePlus cover to do the job.

The results were amazing. The final product looked as good as anything commercially printed. It was bright and snappy with images that popped with color. All of my fond Kromekote memories came back in a rush as the paper did its part, admirably, in making the job special. Each sheet looked like the one before and after.

Kromekote's hard, mirror-like appearance is actually a deception as the stock is very porous, enabling quick drying. Commercial printers have long known about the ability to work and turn short-run jobs on this seemingly glass-like surface without the offset problems associated with other coated sheets.

This porous surface minimizes dot gain and provides micro-pores for laser printing toner particles. Garth pointed out other technical factors why Kromekote is a natural for digital printing, like the Parker Print Surface (PPS) reading of 0.4 which, I guess, would impress a true paperholic.

But, as impressed as I was with KromekotePlus, Garth claimed that Smart Papers' special laser grade, Kromekote Laser High Gloss, has a unique coating formulation that further enhances toner adhesion. Garth was also quick to point out that the results would be even better on the more sophisticated machines like an Indigo, NexPress and iGen3. I'm sure it would. But, for me, it was nice seeing a great golden oldie surface resurface for what should be a bright digital future.

Easy, Inexpensive Job

Speaking of the digital future, Rich's brochure cost about $65 for consumables, including paper and toner. The Phaser 7700 costs about $9,000 to buy, and setup is as simple as loading paper in the trays, making cost of ownership low. Plus, in the spring of this year, both Xerox and HP introduced single-pass lasers in the $2,000 price range.

Also, both companies have more slated for the fall and don't think their competitors are asleep. In a few short years, single-pass office laser printers will get even better, cheaper with a lower cost of consumables.

Whether you like it or not, single-pass office laser printers are going to have an enormous impact on our industry. As desktop digital printing begins to emerge as a force, all printers should be thinking about how to maintain their viability with customers. Perhaps the thinking and planning should start now.

—Harry Waldman

About the Author

Harry Waldman is a consultant and has been in the printing industry for 30 years. As a former company owner, he was well-known for implementing cutting-edge technologies. He has been on many advisory boards and received several honors for his industry contributions. Waldman is also an author. His book, Computer Color Graphics, published by GATF Press, enables readers to learn today's graphic software quickly by teaching the essential concepts. He can be reached by e-mail at harry@harrywaldman.com.
 

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