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PI's 40th--We've Come A Long Way, Baby!

June 1998

Serving the Graphics Arts
THEN--Objective: To provide graphic arts and allied industry executives with news, trends and selected articles of general trade interest.

Front-page News: "Assembled Cylinder Press Moved Intact—At the height of one of the worst winters to hit the Philadelphia area in recent years, Periodical Press accomplished one of the toughest jobs in the history of the company. They moved their entire plant in just 33 working days, an almost impossible task for a plant of such size.

"Walls were knocked out of their cramped building and 34 two-color, flatbed letterpress machines completely assembled, except for feeders and delivery tables, were swung out by giant cranes to waiting addition, 80,000 square feet of composing room, bindery, make-up, proofing, remelting, storage and typesetting departments (including 17 Linotypes) had to be shifted on a tight, 'round-the-clock schedule."

Feature Articles: Reportedly the second largest typographer in the country, Typographic Service—referred to by the trade simply as "Typo"—grew from its base of six original stockholders to include 17 partners.

In another story, new developments shown at DRUPA 1958 highlighted Mettenheimer copper plating and cylinder-making equipment for gravure printing; a line of high-speed letterpress machines from the Albert Frankenthal Co.; a new cutter equipped with an eight-station memory channel; gathering and stitching equipment from The Mueller Bindery; ALOS vertical copying cameras; and various electronic engraving devices from Dr. Ing. Rudolf Hell.

As a reflection of the times, a column called "Selling—Man to Man" provided helpful tips for graphic arts salesmen.

NOW—Objective: To provide commercial printers, as well as companies associated with the graphic arts trade in the United States, with news, trends and selected articles of general trade interest.

Cover Stories: Subjects range from technological trends and developments—such as digital prepress operations and workflow management solutions for automating the production process, topics that we covered in our January cover story—to printer-interest feature stories—such as our June cover story about Quantum Color, a $28 million, state-of-the-art company that opened shop in 1992, despite industry experts' predictions that the startup was "suicide" during the stalled economic times.

Feature Articles: June features include articles on digital cameras and scanners; managing and proofing digital color; newspaper printers that increase revenues with commercial work; materials handling in an integrated pressroom; and paper pricing.

Departments: Industry News; Across the Nation (installations); Facts & Figures; Editor's Notebook; Items of Interest; Digital Digest; Around the World; New Products; Supplier News; Printer News; and Industry Calendar.

Amazingly Antiquated
THEN--New Products: The Harris-Cottrell rotary offset press, which delivered at "amazing speeds" of up to 750 feet per minute; the Consolidated Jewel offset press, capable of 7,500 impressions per hour; the nuArc Rapid printer—a combination vacuum frame/arc lamp; the NC pasting (automatic tipping) machine, an "ingenious attachment that is easily installed on a Miehle vertical press and automatically pastes multiple forms in sets without hand labor"; and the Mullens dampening process, which used an air doctor blade and water control feature to permit letterpress paper to be printed by offset lithography.

Advertisements: In one early ad for a paper distributor, the illustration depicts four fish swimming one over top the other, with one or two words per fish: "Are you...angling...for greater...profits?"

In another, the copy reads: "Photostats—Clean, sharp, quality prints...accurate in size...speedily produced to your exact specifications. Available in matte or gloss finish."

A third ad, for a trade shop, features clip art of a man turning a handle on a printing press that's spitting out dollar bills. The copy reads: "We make money for you."

New Products: An entire issue could be dedicated to the products available today. And that's exactly what Printing Impressions does with its July issue of the Master Specifier.

As "the graphic arts industry's most complete guide to equipment, products and services," the Master Specifier includes descriptions and specifications of printing presses, reproduction equipment and digital output devices; press accessories and supplies; prepress electronic imaging; photographic and platemaking equipment; paper; ink; binding and finishing equipment; computerized management systems; general equipment; and miscellaneous products and services.

Timeless Aspects
ALWAYS--Quality and Customer Service: Certain issues transcend time, especially those crucial to the life (or death) of a product or business, such as quality and service. Throughout the ages, no other aspects of business have been more important than the level of quality and service a business provides its customers. This is particularly true in the fiercely competitive industry of printing.

Need proof? In 1958, in the very first issue of Printing Impressions, the subject of quality was present in nearly every article. Furthermore, almost four pages were dedicated to an article called "How Better Service Can Pay Off."

In the intro to the article, the editor noted: "The following address was delivered at the Fifth Annual PIA Sales Conference last month in Chicago. The address had such timely impact on printing industry members attending the conference that Printing Impressions has reprinted it as this month's special feature."

Forty years later, the issues of quality and service are still addressed in nearly every article; however, today, the emphasis on these issues, as well as job turnaround times, is greater than ever. In an industry where technological changes are made at warp speed, the cornerstones of the printing business—quality and service—must not only remain constant, but must constantly improve.

Despite the passage of time, Printing Impressions' mission has remained the same. Today, with a circulation of nearly 90,000, Printing Impressions continues to disseminate information for "the benefit of everyone in the industry," just as its founder had intended.

As the masthead clearly defines, Printing Impressions is "America's most influential and widely read publication for commercial printers."

Yes, we've come a long way, baby!

An Industry Comparison (1958-1998)

Craftsmanship vs. Computerization
Then: A highly skilled press operator, armed with only a loupe and his own good judgment, would judge the quality of a printed piece.

Now: Densitometers, spectrophotometers and color management software determine whether a printed piece matches the contract proof.

Run Lengths
Then: Run lengths tended to be longer. Print buyers would order more than they needed. The extra pieces would be warehoused, then taken when necessary.

Now: Short runs rule the printing world, and on-demand printing is the name of the game. Print buyers order the exact quantities they need. The job files are archived, then used when more pieces are required.

Then: Since run lengths were longer, makeready wasn't that big of an issue. It was simply up to the press operators to prepare the jobs quickly.

Now: Short runs have necessitated faster makereadies. Push-button controls and automated features allow operators to set up jobs quickly and easily.

Then: Printers used four different inks: cyan, magenta, yellow and black. Newspapers used black ink only.

Now: Printers still use the same basic inks, but often add PMS colors to the mix. Eight-color presses are not uncommon. Waterless and stochastic screening make colors more vibrant and rich. Newspapers often use at least spot colors.

The Birth of the One-stop Shop
Then: Trade typographers provided composition services, service bureaus output film/plates, printing companies and trade binderies produced the job.

Now: Print buyers expect services under one roof. Printing companies have either added electronic prepress services or gone out of business. Most printers also offer basic finishing services.

Then: The print buyer supplied the mechanicals, which were shot on camera. Strippers took the resulting film and worked their magic on light tables. Finished products were printed on a letterpress.

Now: Desktop publishing has changed everything. Print buyers supply a disk—or even the film. Scanners have replaced cameras, imagesetters have replaced light tables. Computer experts knowledgeable in Quark, PageMaker, PhotoShop and other prolific programs preflight customer files and output to film. In some cases, the prepress employee can send files directly to plate or press.

Electronic Media
Then: If you wanted to deliver your message, you had three options: print, television or radio.

Now: Electronic media complements printed products. Annual reports can go on CD-ROMs. Brochures can go on a Web site. Some experts predict that the Internet and other media will make print obsolete. Others believe that print and alternative media will work together.

Then: Cutters would cut, folders would fold.

Now: Most back-end equipment boasts computerization and is systems-based. Operators can store job settings on built-in computers, then call these settings up using a touchscreen. Auxiliary equipment loads/unloads products.

—Jerry Janda


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