Still working on this one……
The booklet contains bleeds which extends the color off the edge of the page and is trimmed off. The design was created in Adobe InDesign.
The Image Transfer Lab runs a Ryobi 3302 HA 2 color offset lithographic printing press. To create a full color document, it requires two runs through the press. Cyan and black were printed on the first run. At the next run date, careful alignment and registration was made to ensure that yellow and magenta fit into it’s place and that the other color densities were met.
The signature sheets were printed with the final output pages in the proper position so that when folded the pages are in order. Two right angle folds were efficiently done with the Mathias Baurle folder; which is a buckle folder. The booklet is then saddle stitched using the Bindery-Mate stitcher. This makes the document lie flat and it opens completely. The booklet was trimmed into fished output using the Challenge 265 paper-cutter.
On March 26, the DIGM 3350 met at Gulf States Label Co. Their location is near Clay Road and the Sam Houston Tollway. The printing plant specialty is custom labels using flexography. Mike Williams, President/Sales, began our tour with some details about the outfit. The company has been in business for 11 years and a total of 30 years of experience under their roof. He introduced Bob Nicolosi, as our guide from that point forward. Bob is the one in the company for technical expertise.
We entered the print manufacturing area. Bob began by discussing the difference between flexography and offset lithographic printing. Mainly, flexography is a direct method that uses relief plates. Their presses are very different from all the rest I have seen on these field trips. Rotary flexography was invented in the 1950’s. Some advancement has been made in the dies and plates; otherwise the process remains as it was in the early days. Bob continued by giving us an overview of the cylinder and plates. We were shown plates in varying stages of completion and a set of plates for color separation. The flexible plate is mounted on a metal cylinder. The first press was in makeready mode and not quite ready for us.
The 16” press was running a job. The group made its way over to the 6-color machine. This is an in-line press that has separate tower for each color and a drying unit at the bottom of each tower, so that color with be dry before the next is applied. This press is capable of running 500 feet per minute. A die-cut was being used to cut the unwanted sticker portion away from the backing. This portion was being fed onto its own roll above the press. The output was sheet of label that the customer was planning on feed through their own laser printer.
We went back over to the other press and the pressman was not doing so well. Bob took matters into his own hands and restarted the press (or as Mr. Stokes said rebooted).
We stopped by the Production Department. These ladies are finishing the job by putting the labels on cores, rolling them up and counting by measuring increments of 10”. Bob talked about his start in the printing business. In 1977, he began by rewinding labels. He reminisced about the old-style, a more hands-on than today. He continued by telling us that the problem labels were spliced out of the web and flagged for the production department to be aware.
We finally got a look at the 8-color 10” press in action. We walked down the side of the press. It was very easy to tell all the parts of the process. The ink reservoir was full and the ink was thin. The Anilox Roller provided ink from the reservoir and the doctor blade wiped the excess. The soft plate with raised images was wrapped around the plate cylinder and was being inked. The impression cylinder rolls the opposite direction of the plate cylinder with the substrate passes between the two. The impression cylinder pressed the web-fed labels into the raised images. The web then goes through an in-line dryer. There was also a die-cut being use on this press. Just like the other, the sticker portion that was not label was cut and removed, while the labels remained with backing. The unwanted material was spooled above the press. I found it very interesting.
I would choose to do business with Gulf States Label. I believe that they are a leader in their business. They created a niche that will sustain economic uncertainty and they know their stuff. What really impressed me was the fact that went through the UL certification process and became Authorized Label Suppliers. Bob spoke about the process briefly. Another fact that makes me what to do business with Gulf States Labels was Bob continually saying “It’s what the customer what’s…” I know these folks take care of their clients.
I think this is my favorite trip so far. I really got in there and saw a process that was all theory. I would still like to see more flexography, such as packaging and other applications. I think this is the most flexible printing process; but Bob burst my bubble when he discussed the initial cost for a top of the line 12-color in-line press would run about half million. I won’t be buying my own flexographic press any time soon. Guess I’ll stick to Serigraphy until I graduate.
The DIGM 3350 class did not have to venture far this week. Between the U of H campus and downtown Houston was the manufacturing printing plant called Chas. P. Young Co. CPY is under the corporate umbrella of Consolidated Graphics, one of the nation’s industry leader in printing production. This organization provides many services, more than we covered. Our focus remained on lithography. Robert was our tour guide. He graduated from our program in 2009. I remembered him from speaking at an IGAEAUH meeting.
Our first tour stop was the Sales Area. This is where the Executives live. The real control of the company also resides here, Sales and Finance. The salesmen bring in a requests for an estimate. Three estimator price the job and return it back to sales. When the sale is made, the project moves to preproduction. A Customer Service Representative (CSR) is assigned to the client to assure the project is done right.
We ventured down the hall to the Pre-press department. This is where the client sends their image file. A color proof from that file is produced to check all the variables and to get an OK from the client. If the client does not provide their own file, the graphics setup charge run around $200/hr.
Right next door is the Plate Room. The Platesetter used by CPY is a Fuji Luxel VX-9600. I looked the machine up:
•2 laser array – violet
•can produce up to 43 plates per hour
•8 resolution choices
•aluminum violet photopolymer plates
•weights 3882 lbs.
Our next stop on the tour was the Press Room. In one area, there was 2 40″ 6 color, sheet-fed lithographic presses. One of the presses was down, so we got to get really close and checked out the delivery system between towers. Of course I asked what something was that nobody knew what it was. The other machine was in the process of make-ready, which includes setting up press, installing the plates and preparing all the systems. Each tower has its own plate and produces one color. These six towers produce CYMK plus a spot color and an aqueous coating that dries almost instantly. This seals the ink, protects the output and allows for faster processing.
They also have a Ryobi, just the one in our image transfer lab. It is 18″ 2 color lithographic press. CPY uses theirs for business stationery and small runs because it is more economical.
Next we got to take a peek at the 4-color cold-set full web press. The cold-set attribute means that the substrate is of newspaper quality. This press has a variation on the printing method. It is called blanket-to-blanket. These two cylinders act as each others impression cylinder, so it is eliminated. Because of this, the press is categorized as a perfecting press or duplex. Two color are printed per side using the same lithographic process as other presses. The difference is this press can run 500-700 ft/min and the web rolls are less expensive.
Our last stop was the Bindery. There was a Challenger paper-cutter like ours. Folding machines were being run and mail was being prepared to go out. The process that had everyone’s attention was the saddle stitching line machine. the signatures were hanging over a bar that dropped them in order along the conveyor belt, then they are stitched and trimmed on three sides. Very efficient.
I would do business with CPY because they are an established organization, backed by a powerful industry leader. They are service-driven. I think that the organization would go out of their way to make sure I was happy as a customer. It’s easier to keep a customer that trying to gain a new one. I know CPY understands this.
I remember hearing Robert speak about his experience through CGX‘s Leadership Development program. That was a year and a half ago. When I saw his face, it all came back to me. I found the career information and am going to apply.