Dome Printing--Matching Proof to Plate
In an age of consolidation, Dome Printing—a $20 million, family run commercial printing operation servicing clients the caliber of Intel and Sutter Home—is a prime example of what good management, a clean production process and industrial-strength digital color proofing can do to retool a once-traditional printer.
BY MARIE RANOIA ALONSO
Perfection is one word that must be very near and dear to the Poole family at Dome Printing. Family patriarch and president of Dome Printing, Ray Poole, and his three sons, Tim, Andy and Robert, operate the Sacramento, CA-based commercial printing facility.
What makes Dome Printing unique? For one thing, the plant is very, very clean. A visitor could "white glove" any office of Dome Printing and probably end up leaving lint on an otherwise immaculate work area. Dome seems to be maintenanced with what can only be best described as due diligence and extreme care. If there were such a thing as a commercial printing operation that was "too clean" it may, in fact, be Dome.
"We are very particular about our operation. We pride ourselves on order, neatness and efficiency—even our houses are neat; we really value taking care of our belongings," admits Tim Poole, vice president at Dome.
All four Poole men walk the plant religiously, day after day. Ray, a non-traditional entrepreneur who has worked for more than three decades to redefine the path of success in commercial printing—an industry to which he was not born, rather, an industry to which he applied boundless energy, spirit and ambition, starting in 1969 when, with one press, he started Dome Printing—is in charge of all executive management aspects at Dome; Tim oversees the daily operations of the company; Andy directs traffic in the pressroom and bindery; and Robert keeps the prepress department in order.
To track down any given Poole executive at any given moment, the best tactic is to call their portable phones—which the foursome have holstered to their belts, almost reminiscent of smoking guns from the days of the Wild, Wild West (except these guns ring—a lot).
Take a virtual tour of Dome Printing's facility.
The digital prepress area—sporting several Macintosh and IBM power workstations, a newly installed Heidelberg/Creo Trendsetter Spectrum digital halftone proofer, an autoload Creo Trendsetter thermal CTP platesetter and a Creo Renaissance copydot drum scanner—is linked together with the Creo PlateMaster server.
The pressroom is also clean and modern, featuring two busy web presses—a five-color, Heidelberg M-110 heatset press and a two-color, Heidelberg V-30 coldset web—and three fully utilized sheetfed presses, including a six-color Heidelberg Speedmaster with aqueous coating tower, a six-color MAN Roland with aqueous coating tower and a four-color, 28x40˝ Heidelberg perfector with aqueous coating tower.
The bindery is equally impressive—and more than meticulously mapped out—with Polar computerized cutting systems and Stahl combination folders from Heidelberg, Muller Martini perfect binding and saddlestitching systems, Rollem perforating, scoring and slitting systems, Dick Moll Regal folder/gluers and diecutting technology from Bobst and Heidelberg.
"Heidelberg is a household name at Dome," reports Andy Poole, plant manager of the family run facility. "We've added two multicolor sheetfed presses with aqueous coating towers in the last two years. Both presses include all the bells and whistles possible, including automatic blanket and back cylinder washers."
And more new equipment installations loom on the horizon, according to Andy Poole. "Scrutinizing our pressroom, our web business represents about 50 percent of what we print. Currently, our increase in volume continues to be heatset business and, if we continue at this rate, I could possibly foresee another heatset web in our near future."
Dome is not afraid of growth, nor does this family of Poole businessmen seem remotely leery of investing in cutting-edge digital prepress technologies, as their CTP and digital proofing track record illustrates.
Dome has been operating digital color proofing gear for nearly 10 years, the bulk of which were devoted to thermal and dye sublimation proofing technologies from 3M, DuPont and Eastman Kodak. Last December, Dome installed Creo's Spectrum digital halftone proofing device, which became the latest digital prepress member of the Dome family.
Why Spectrum? In Dome's case, there existed three main selling points: the same RIP approach between proofer and platesetter, the capability to image four- and eight-page digital proofs, and the comfort zone of Imation Matchprint Laser Proof materials. Tim Poole and his younger brother Robert, prepress director, explain their decision to install the proofer, calling attention to the three major investment perks Dome forecast for its move to Spectrum.
* The Spectrum digital halftone proofing system uses SQUAREspot thermal imaging technology, the same RIP and the same screening that the Creo platesetter uses to image plates, which, in Dome's opinion, was the key selling point. This assures that the digital proof is a true representation of the screening on the plates.
* Spectrum ties the entire process together—with the option of four- or eight-up page proofs on the same output device. For Dome, the Spectrum was perfectly suited to simulate all print projects and press sizes. "The idea of having a digital color proofer that was an eight-up device appealed to us," explains Bob Poole. "We felt it would fit very well into our existing workflow and, in many ways, we believe we've added a device that is far superior to conventional proofing."
* Focusing on the proofing media, Imation Matchprint is the premium seal of approval, at Dome, for digital proofing materials. Matchprint Laser Proof materials, used by Spectrum, employ pigment-based colorants similar to the pigments used to produce analog Matchprint materials. The pigments supplied are from the same sources as standard offset printing inks, allowing for a consistent color gamut throughout the proofing and printing processes.
"We wanted a digital proofing system that would use the same RIP as the platesetter, so rather than purchasing two devices—a platesetter and a digital proofer—it made more sense to consider one piece of equipment that performed both functions," Tim Poole explains. "Creo's Spectrum allows us to image plates, film and color proofs on a single unit, which, for us, was the next logical step to ensuring that Dome remains on the leading edge of CTP technology."
Bob Poole states vehemently that maintaining dot fidelity between proof and plate is critical to the output of superior quality presswork at Dome. Spectrum proofs, he contends, are designed to produce matching proofs and plates from machine to machine—a necessary reality for Dome. "With Spectrum, we're getting the dot match," he reports. "We're starting to understand just how much we can do with this level of process control."
For example, Bob Poole continues, the Dome prepress team he directs is now simulating different dot gains for different substrates, in an effort to better predict final output. The prepress team is also preparing plates for a single job on the company's two Creo machines, the Trendsetter and the Spectrum, and combining the two technologies on-press. "With the Trendsetter and the Spectrum," Bob Poole asserts, "we keep up with all of our proofing and plating, even on peak loads. Our remakes are virtually zero, and we're averaging 150 to as high as 300 plates a day."
"Virtually zero." That tiny, but mighty, phrase has a nice ring to it—especially when the topic at hand is remakes for printing plates. At Dome, the phrase also rings true in the primarily Heidelberg-equipped pressroom, where Andy Poole reports, hassles with press-side makeovers are virtually headache-free, thanks to Dome's highly utilized digital prepress operation and Dome's discovery of new digital proofing opportunities.
So, what's next for Dome?
What will be the next digital imaging device to win over the support and investment dollars of the pioneering Poole family? Is prepress the targeted area for more digital investments, or will the pressroom get the next hit of Poole resources, as Dome updates to compete in a consolidation-heavy marketplace? Will this meticulous printing operation consider the move to digital color printing for short-run, on-demand applications?
"We have researched the effectiveness of installing a digital printing press, possibly a Heidelberg Quickmaster DI or GTO-DI. Presently, we believe that having imaging technology direct-to-plate is more efficient than imaging directly on the press," Tim Poole reports. "On-demand printing, with variable data, is finding its way into the direct mail, packaging and label markets."
Even so, Tim Poole prefers to reserve the right to give his final analysis on digital printing and its potential impact on traditional printing processes. "I am still unsure of the impact variable printing will have on the general commercial printing market. Direct mail markets will be affected, though, and it should be assumed that printing companies which specialize in direct mail have already started the migration to digital printing."
Time will tell, Tim.