Printing RWCR CS3

The Story of the Printing of Real World Camera Raw with Adobe Photoshop CS3

While I have been to other press checks and seen both newsprint and magazine web presses in operation before, the trip down to Kendallville, Indiana to visit Courier Printing was particularly interesting. Not only was this a new state of the art commercial offset web press, they were printing Real World Camera Raw with Adobe Photoshop CS3 the newly released (well, as of November 8th, 2007) book written by the late Bruce Fraser and myself.

The day, October 23, 2007 started off as a dismal rainy day. I had originally planned on riding my motorcycle down (about a 160 mile trip from Chicago) but I had looked at the weather forecast Monday afternoon and bailed.

Courier excels at printing high-end books including a lot of Peachpit’s better reproduced books. As you can see from the sign above, Courier was ready for me. Well, they thought they were…

…while they were prepared for a motorcycle riding book author, they weren’t prepared for me armed with a camera and in the mood to completely document the day. Above left, Christina Bitner, plant manager, welcomes me with her hand ready to shake. Above right, Christina and Peachpit’s account rep, Athena Lakis, pose in front of the “Best Places to Work” flag. They kept smiling even though they didn’t really understand the camera bit.

Athena guides me back into the press area for our long (and I mean really long) walk out to my press.

We had to keep an eye out for forklifts skirting all over the plant. We ended up walking past a variety of different presses, the plate ready room and binding and finishing equipment.

We walked by two big web presses and finally arrived at the press I was to be at that day. MAN 3.

This is the inside of the “press room”, an air conditioned, sound insulated room that houses the press controls as well as viewing lights.

And, it was clean…very clean. Not at all like the majority of press rooms I’ve been at before.

Above, Vinnie, Steve and Christine layout the press sheets and the proofs for me to view. Seems they were just a bit worried as the press setup didn’t quite match the proof.

Comparing the Kodak Approval with the actual press sheet, the press sheet looked better. Steve Richardson, the pressroom manager, was very happy to hear that. Seems some people can’t look past the proof and see something better when it smacks them in the face. The Kodak Approvals were a bit cool in the neutrals but the actual press sheet was dead neutral–something I didn’t have ANY problem with.

In addition to Steve coming in and out all day, my main pressmen were Kurt Burmau (above left) Vince (Vinnie) Crup (above, far right) and Hans Brinker (at the light box). These guys were great, but they weren’t too sure about me. Seems most clients don’t walk in with a camera firing (usually from the hip–literally) and it took a while for them to warm up to me. I told them what I was doing; a story about the printing of the book for and even showed them the web site. They thought the shots I showed them from Antarctica were pretty cool so they were willing to give me the benefit of the doubt.

My primary job was to make sure the images looked the way I was expecting; which wasn’t all that hard. I had done several color tests and created profiles that in the end were pretty much right on. But the press was running two, 24 page signatures for a total of 48 pages per form with the day’s run to be nine forms (or just at 400 pages). So it was my job to oversee the process. However, Lisa Braziel, my production manger at Peachpit, had sent me this warning via email a couple of day before I went…

And promise me….no making corrections on PRESS. It has to be life-saving, or obviously critical color adjustments which is why you’re going. But don’t make prepress correction files and re RIP them.

I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that, but some authors feel that presschecks mean they can find mistakes and fix them before the book prints.
Huh uh!.

I called her about midday Central time (she’s in Berkeley) and said I only had to stop the presses twice and made only one plate change. It was REAL QUIET for a moment before I fessed up and told her I was just kidding. (I’m pretty sure she was getting all set to blow a gasket so her relief got me off the hook for the prank).

My main job was to make sure the registration was tight and the density was good with a neutral gray.

Here, Vinnie is working on nailing the registration. He would loupe the registration bars and make very gentle adjustments at the computer interface for the press to align both the upper and lower registrations.

The main controls for the press allowed for both color and registration from two main control panels.

Above left are the ink densities which once set would be kept in check with an inline spectro measurement. Above right is the registration control panel.

I found two things rather humorous; the little toy dolphin (I didn’t ask why) on top of the computer display and the “Beer Button” (above right). The Beer Button is the main power shut off for the entire press and all components. If you push that button, everything comes to a screaching halt and all power is cut. This is for emergencies and so named the Beer Button because if you hit it by accident, the presses will be down for hours and the person hitting the button gets to buy beer for everybody (except the guys that have to bring the press back on line I guess). Needless to say, I steered well away from that button.

Here’s Kurt grabbing a folded signature off the line and popping it open to check on the color and registration. We all did that throughout the day.

The stuff we pulled ended up in the circular file…

Most of my time (aside from when I was running around shooting) was spent leaning over the main viewing area.

Here I am louping a section of one of the pages.

Here’s a closeup of Bruce’s Tiger shot from Chapter Four.

My other responsibility was to check the “The Book”, a three ring binder with the pages laid out as they would appear in the book. The actual signatures were double-checked and marked off to make sure all the pages were where they were supposed to be. They were (thank goodness).

The press we were printing on was a MAN Roland commercial offset web press. It was one of three LITHOMAN presses capable of up to 40,000 impressions per hour. The web width can be up to 77 inches (we were printing on 45.75″ paper for our two signatures/form). This is a really, really big and expensive press but it’s primarily known for the tightness of the press and the densities it can achieve. The chart above shows the feedpath of the paper moving through the web.

It starts at the paper end where large (50″ diameter) rolls of paper feed into the 4-color dual sided printing section.

Here’s a shot looking down the line from the top of the press.

The business part is where the press uses offset cylinder blankets to transfer the ink from the plates to the paper. In this configuration there are both upper and lower presses for double sided printing. The unique aspect of this system is that the entire line is direct drive (meaning no drive shafts) with reduces vibration, increases tightness of registration and makes for quick shut downs and startups.

The ink system is pipe fed from large ink reservoirs (which I never saw) that makes for very consistent inking and reduced switching.

The 4-color lower stations (above and below) are where the plates are loaded and the blanket cylinders pick up the inked image and transfer it to the paper running through the web at up to 3,000 feet/minute.

From the press setion the paper moves through the web and into the heater/dryer section.

The ink is a soy-based heat set ink that allows for near dry conditions at the end of printing.

After the heater/dryer comes a series of cooling cylinders to take the heated ink & paper down from over 240ºF (I think that’s what they said) down to room temperature.

After the cooling section comes the splitter section where the two signatures are split apart.

Steve shows me the area where the splitter rips (with a fine cut) the single form into the two signatures.

After the splitter comes the folder.

After the first folder comes the chopper and secondary folders and the chopped (not final cuts yet) signatures come out on a conveyer belt.

There’s an upper and lower conveyer belt to carry the signatures from the press area around to the back where the signatures are wired up and laid out in preparation for finishing and binding.

The conveyer moves the printed pieces around two corners to the back end.

Each signature is sent off to two wrapping stations where the sheets are collected and bound.

I didn’t catch this guy’s name, but he was one of two guys “catching”.

The sheets are measured and moved down the line to a station that wraps wire bands around plywood end panels to protect the printed sheets.

From there an automated arm collects the bound pages and stacks them on palettes for storage until binding.

While the press room was very clean, obviously, anywhere there’s ink there’s going to be some color showing up. Back up in the press section this station is where cleanup is done. And I guess Han’s mother doesn’t work there! :`)

Each form had eight plates; four uppers and four lowers. The plates first went through a plate bender (above left) to form the exact bends needed for the plate loading system. Above right, the next form’s plates are leaned onto the correct station prior to loading.

I didn’t get to see the RWCR plates being made. There were prepared well in advance. The image above is a shot of the same section of four plates; yellow, magenta, cyan and black (from left to right).

Each form change required cleaning the blanket cylinders to make sure none of the images would transfer over to the next run.

The LITHOMAN presses have a plate loading feature that allows for quick plate changes–about 12-13 minutes for changing out both the upper and lower plates. Above left, Vinnie and Hans push the buttons to unload the current plates. Above right shows a used plate backed out.

The plates are dragged out of the press area and stacked up out of the way.

The new plates are hand fed to make sure they are properly positioned then pushing a button automatically loads them into correct position.

Above, all four plates have been loaded.

Here the upper plates are being reloaded. The old ones removed…

…and the new ones loaded.

The plates are used only once so they get rather unceremoniously dumped in the used plate cart.

I asked about that and why they couldn’t be reused. The main reason is that it just isn’t worth trying to take care of the used plates. They are incredibly delicate and it’s more economical to just make new plates for additional print runs.

What I found really cool was that while the plates are being changed, the web is never broken. So, cleaning the blankets results in ink getting kinda mixed all together as the paper feeds through the web. They run the web clear which results in some pretty interesting patterns and colors on the paper.

Here the waste paper is being run through the chopper. I grabbed a sheet but then forgot to take it home with me. Oh, well, at least I got a shot of it.

Once the sheets run clear, the press speed is ramped up until the inked plates start producing printed pieces.

The first sheets come out off color until the ink spreads on all the blankets and come up to density.

As the sheets come off the line, they are checked for irregularities. Above, Kurt and Steve are checking sheets.

Once the press is up to speed and the color is good, somebody grabs an armful of sheets to leave a blank space in the line to let the catchers know that the good stuff is starting down the line. Above, Vinnie does the honors.

At the back end, the conveyer shunts the waste sheets to a collection bin (the paper is sent out for regular paper recycling but not as the high end stuff). Above right shows when the waste paper is done.

The press I was on, called MAN 3 by the guys, was a new press under warrantee. As such, it was under constant watch for anything that might go wrong. Steve pointed out that one of the roller’s pressure readouts was wrong. The MAN Roland tech on hand (the guy in the burgundy shirt, center) and Steve decide that at the next form change, that roller will be switched out. Indications were it shouldn’t take too long.

Here are the guys pulling out the old roller and preparing to install the new roller.

One part of the process meant that the web would have to be cut. Above, Kurt cuts the web and puts on double-stick tape in preparation for a paper splice.

Yes, double-stick tape. But it was “special” tape made for splicing web press paper.

Here are the guys working the new roller in place.

After the roller is replaced, Vinnie threads the paper through the rollers and gets ready to do the splice.

I’m not sure it really takes three guys to stick the paper up, but everybody is ready to pitch in.

The splice is made…

…and the new sheets start rolling off the line.

Above right, the MAN Roland guy notices that the new pressure sensor isn’t giving a good read out. It’s decided that another tech, an electrician will need to come in later in the afternoon to do a “calibration”. In the meantime, Hans hears the horn klaxon indicating a paper roll is going to be changed, so he runs off to oversee.

Of course, I’m right on his trail to see it and shoot it.

These huge (45.75″ wide and 50″ diameter) rolls are spinning around pretty fast, but the MAN Roland LITHOMAN has on the fly paper roll changes. The press doesn’t even have to slow down. Above you can see the new roll spinning and just make out the black index mark that is used to check speed.

As the old roll runs down, the new roll is up to speed and whack, the old roll is cut off while the new roll sheet is spliced into the web on the fly.

Above you can see the old roll flapping down. The roll will be removed and the process repeated throughout the day.

The end rolls are gathered up while a forklift moves new rolls, still covered, into place.

This was a really big roll of paper. The weight of each roll was about 2,500 lbs. (I think).

The paper used for the book was Influence Plus matte in 60 lbs. weight. It’s a prime #3 paper with good brightness (about 88) and good opacity (about 93.5). From what I gather, each roll is about 51,500 linear feet. I really can’t recall how many roll changes we had but I can recall that klaxon going off 3-4 times that day at least.

Here, at this cleaning station, I got to see some REAL INK…

…and I did a closeup of Vinnie’s shoe while he wasn’t looking. Seems he and his wife just installed new carpeting at home and he has to make REAL SURE he cleans up after work. The color carpeting? White…

Hans shows off his relatively clean tee shirt.

Ahhh, lunch! Athena asked what I might like for lunch and being from Chicago I kinda wanted to stay away from pizza (not sure how good it may be in Kendallville) so I chose Chinese. Egg foo young! It was really very good.

After lunch the other MAN Roland tech guy showed up to inspect the new roller and pressure sensor and decided that at the next form change, he would calibrate the sensor. They figured it would take about 15-20 minutes.

While the tech worked on the sensor, the press guys took a short (well, sort of short) coffee break. In the shot above left, you see–and I swear they were doing this–the MAN Roland guy searching Yahoo for a metric conversion calculator. Seems the pressure needed to be read in Newton Meters or Kilogram Force Meters but the meter they had read in foot/pounds. The second tech was on the phone speaking German.

He ended up hooking his laptop to the press for some sort of settings.

But after about 45 minutes, the press was ready to roll again.


And checking yet another signature. . .

until the book was finished. I got out of there about 6:30PM.

Upon walking outside, I was greeted by a rather remarkable sight…a really glorious sunset.

While the day started dreary and wet, it ended in golden light…which I took to be a really good omen. While Bruce was not able to be there, I somehow got the impression he would have been very pleased. Below, here I am holding the final printed book!