Our Newest Edition - The Variquik Web Press
The fellow wearing the New York Mets cap, is Steve (no we don't have a photo of Steve. He wanted to remain anonymous. He does wear a NY Mets cap though. You will have to use your imagination. -ed). Steve is a press helper and he is carrying the plates for a job over to the press bench for the Heidelberg ZP-102. Steve has been at Thomson-Shore for about three years, and for the last year or so has been in training to operate the "ZP". The "ZP" is a perfecting press which prints both sides of the sheet in a single pass through the press.
The Heidelberg perfecting press is an amazing piece of equipment. The press is roughly the size of a school bus and costs around three quarters of a million dollars. It has two printing units, one in front of the other. The sheet passes through the first printing unit and one side of the paper is printed, the sheet is then reversed by the perfecting mechanism and passes through the second printing unit where the back side is printed. This all happens at a rate in excess of 13,000 sheets per hour. The "ZP" is used to print sheets up to 25 x 38 inches.
The press operators are very proud of their machines, the presses and the press room are spotless. Each operator is intimately acquainted with their machine and performs all of the routine maintenance. Thomson-Shore still has the Heidelberg single color press that I trained on 16 years ago. It has many millions of impressions on it and is still in excellent condition but due to advances in technology, the press is now used mainly for training. I may ask T-S to give me the press when I retire, instead of the traditional gold watch.
Steve is up on the cat walk adding ink to the fountains of the two printing units. As the helper, he is responsible for keeping the ink fountains full, mixing solution for the water system, loading paper into the press, unloading finished sheets and keeping the press supplied with paper and plates and operating the feeder. Steve also helps with washups and maintenance.
In the text department, Thomson-Shore has four Heidelberg perfecting presses, one Planeta 50 inch perfector and two single color presses. When the presses are all running, it makes a glorious sound, like locomotives in a busy train yard. Occasionally, you will hear the pressman make a noise like a steam whistle, then yell back to the press helper at the feeder "let 'er rip, let 'er roar, 'cause that's what we're here for!". That is the helper's cue to throw the switch that sends sheets down the feed board.
The cover presses are over in the northwest corner of the press room. The pinnacle of a press operator's career is to operate a color cover press and the ultimate is to run the four color press. Competition for a spot on a cover press is fierce. Before we visit the color press area, allow me to caution you about something;
Press operators are notorious pranksters and their favorite prank is the "hot ink" trick. The hot ink trick goes like this; the press operator calls the novice over to the ink mixing table and asks them if they have ever seen hot ink being mixed. Of course, the unsuspecting victim answers "no". The press operator then proceeds to mix up a batch of ink, adding various exotic ingredients from cans and bottles. As the ink is mixed with the knife on the marble slab, the prankster passes his hand over the ink and notes that it is "heating up". The victim is invited to hold their hand over the ink so that they too can feel the heat. When the victim puts their hand over the ink, the press operator pushes it into the puddle of ink. You have been warned about hot ink but I won't tell you about the search for the elusive paper stretcher and other tricks because I don't want to spoil all of the fun in the press department.
The color presses are all Heidelbergs, noted for reliability and precision. T-S has several two color presses and a new four color press. The presses have one printing unit for each color, thus, the four color press has four printing units. Unlike the perfecting presses, our color presses only print one side of the sheet at a time. The four color press, using a technique known as four color process, can print a full color image using only four ink colors, cyan, magenta, yellow and black (CMYK).
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