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ITEMS of interest

April 2002

Also showing will be Agfa's next-generation, external drum, thermal platesetter, the eight-up, 45˝ Xcalibur 45, which can output 20 full-format plates per hour at 2,400 dpi, in either manual or automatic operation. It features a patented imaging system that sends laser energy through a Grating Light Valve (GLV; based on technology originally developed for high-definition television), where it is carefully controlled and calibrated.

The GLV's micro-shutters modulate the laser light to produce individually addressable writing beams. This swath of beams ensures an exceptionally fast writing speed at a relatively slow (190 rpm) drum rotational speed. The micro-shutters bend to open and shut precisely, delivering a controlled "swath" to the plate surface. This writing swath reportedly allows the system to image contiguous, flawless shapes—a very different approach from other systems that create individual spots.

Also announced was Agfa's new direct-imaging aluminum plate, Thermolite Plus, which is currently in alpha stage, but is expected to be commercially available in the third quarter. Designed for on-press imaging, it offers a run length of up to 100,000 impressions, depending on printing conditions. It reportedly will allow presses such as the Heidelberg Speedmaster 74-DI and the Komori S40D to handle higher volume print jobs.

The improved plate offers a higher degree of scratch resistance, making handling easier, and has greater resistance to pressroom chemicals. It is also suitable for alcohol-free printing. In addition, Thermolite Plus requires no chemical processing and is non-ablative. There is no need for vacuum extraction or filtering and operators need not wipe the plate or perform any further adjustments after imaging.

In the proofing arena, Agfa will demonstrate what it claims is the first six-color ink-jet proofing system to deliver dot-for-dot halftone proofs. New screening technology works with the Grand Sherpa to deliver a color-accurate halftone rosette that is said to replicate every characteristic of the final print.

According to Agfa officials, the new technology renders the dots and the colors in such a way so that output is color-managed and an exact halftone rosette is reproduced, resulting in a screened, contract-quality proof. The screening technology will be available in the fourth quarter.

Finally, IPEX will also provide a world stage for Agfa to demonstrate its integration with Autologic, which it acquired in 2001. This will include showing several of each company's offerings for the commercial printing and newspaper markets working together in a seamless workflow.

Printers Are Not That Type Any More

COLORADO SPRINGS, CO—Harry Sommerfield is one of the remaining few inside a building made for his kind.

Sommerfield, 89, is a retired newspaper printer—one of 12 printers who live among the 148 people inside the majestic Union Printers Home here.

Decades ago, the sprawling complex at Pikes Peak Avenue and Union Boulevard was the exclusive retirement home for printers—men and women who made their living setting type and producing the nation's publications.

Today they've almost vanished, their profession a victim of the computer revolution, do-it-yourself desktop publishing and declining union membership. Sommerfield came to the Union Printers Home 30 years ago, retiring from the Alpena, MI, News as a Linotype operator.

Known for his red fedora, Sommerfield was the home's postmaster and bingo caller for years. He's lived in the home longer than anyone. If you ask, he'll show you how he once ran the Linotype machine.

"You press the buttons here and pull the lever there," he demonstrates, working an imaginary machine in front of him.

Years ago, everyone in the home would have known exactly what he was talking about. Today, just a few understand.

"It's dwindled down," notes Connie Miller, administrator and executive director at the home. "We used to be full of printers. But that's all changed."

In its heyday, the Union Printers Home had two dormitories and boarding rooms in the main building. Food came from the home's dairy and farm. There was even a hospital on the grounds.

At its height, as many as 400 printers lived in the sprawling complex of sandstone, Victorian-era buildings.

Today, the farm, dairy and hospital are gone. The dormitories hold only storage. Residency has been opened to the public, serving skilled and assisted-living seniors, who pay through state and federal programs. Printers who pay privately still are offered special rates.

But there are fewer of them, contends Bob McMichen, former chairman of the Union Printers Home board. It's all because of one thing, he says: computerization.

"I can do more with my computer at home than 10 printers can do," he adds. "It's one of those things you have to accept. You don't fight it…It's the passing of the hot-metal era. It will never be what it was because they don't need that many people to put out a newspaper."

Decades ago, newspaper composing rooms were noisy, bustling places that smelled of cigarette smoke and molten lead. Linotype operators set type in lead, and makeup people arranged chunks of type to fit on a single page. Proofreaders read the finished product to make sure everything was in place.

Today, most newspapers don't even have composing rooms. Typesetting is done on computers. The once-powerful International Typographical Union, based in Colorado Springs and founder of the Union Printers Home, dwindled in membership. Eventually it merged with the Communication Workers of America (CWA), based in Washington, DC. An era was gone.

The CWA union is not just for printers. Its dues-paying members work with electronics, television and publications. They're all eligible to stay at the Union Printers Home, says Al Rudy, assistant to the president of the printing sector for the CWA.

But most of the communications field is on the East Coast, and retirees choose to stay near their families.

—Jeremy Meyer

Reprinted with permission of Knight-Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

Fishing for Higher Direct Mail Success

LYNDHURST, NJ—As more and more direct marketers utilize one-on-one targeting methods, it behooves your customers to find even more methods to jump out of the mail pile and be noticed.

Pop 'N' Fold Papers, based here, believes it has created multi-dimensional, personalized mailers that capture both the attention and delight of readers. The technique allows for variable data placement and short-run quantities of 5,000 or less and uses most digital color copiers/printers that can print on Pop 'N' Fold's specially treated card stock patterns.

"This is a radical development in on-demand printing," states Harvey Hirsch, president of Media Consultants and founder of Pop 'N' Fold Papers. "The potential is enormous for direct mail—both direct-to-consumer and business-to-business—and greeting card industries, as well as printers and others working in industry-specific sales and marketing venues. If the goal is to reach target audiences with attention-grabbing messages, our one-on-one, on-demand marketing products will help do the job."

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