Summer 1995

Volume 11 Issue 2


  • Thomson-Shore Lays Plans For $10,000,000
  • Manufacturing Maximums And Minimums At T-S
  • Here's Our Electronic Pre-Press Update...Version 6.1
  • Printer's Ink Hardcopy Information

  • Thomson-Shore Lays Plans For $10,000,000 "An Anti-Retirement" Expansion Program

    Over the past several months we have been working on the plans for a significant capacity expansion for Thomson-Shore. The ideas have now been firmed up to the point that financing has been secured, a property tax abatement involving investing $10,000,000 in additional plant space and equipment has been applied for and granted, the first equipment has been ordered and ground has been broken for a 60,000 square foot plant expansion. Here are some of the more interesting details in this extravaganza...

    For the last seven years we have been printing in one plant and binding in another. The two plants are across the road from each other but we still have to move approximately 20 tons of printed paper across the road each night.

    Our two current plants are about 60,000 square feet each and the new addition to one of them is going to be an additional 60,000 square feet, for 180,000 total. Since we will not need that much additional space all at once we will keep part of the original plant for miscellaneous storage and lease out the rest. This will still allow us to do all of our printing and binding in one plant and it should definitely improve internal communication since almost all the people will be in one building. The new building is scheduled to be up and ready to occupy in January.

    The first major piece of equipment to go into the new space is a Variquik Press. This press is an all new concept in Web press printing and it represents our first venture with a Web.

    The Variquik prints from a roll (a la Web presses) but it does it just a bit faster than a sheet fed press (slower than a traditional Web press). For this decrease from traditional Web speed you raise the quality level up to that of a sheet fed press.

    So... the Variquik is a bit better than a sheet fed press in speed and significantly better than a Web press in quality... but the changes aren't done yet.

    The Variquik utilizes six impression (printing) cylinders. It is a perfector press so it prints both sides of the sheet at the same time, the same as a traditional sheet fed or Web press but this only requires two impression cylinders. To print a 6 x 9 or 5 1/2 x 8 1/2" book on the Variquik we will have available four impression cylinders. Since only two cylinders are used when you are printing a single signature there are two idle cylinders that can be made ready while the other two are printing... thus the press does not sit idle while you hang the next two plates. The Variquik is sold based on a claim of "zero plate make-ready" and while it's not really "zero", it will cut down plate hanging time by about 70%. In our scenario, if it takes 12 minutes to make the 2 plates ready on a regular press and then 13 minutes to print 1500 copies of a signature, you have spent 25 minutes of press time to print that signature. By comparison, on the Variquik press you will spend 4 minutes making your plates ready to print and will print the 1500 signatures in about 11 minutes for a total of 15 minutes, or an overall press time savings of about 40%.

    In addition... for the Variquik you buy paper in rolls (Web presses and the Variquik use rolls) and this is about 10% cheaper than buying paper in sheets. The Variquik press also produces printed and folded signatures whereas a sheet fed press will not fold the sheet so folding is an additional operation.

    The next, but not the last, advantage is that the two remaining printing cylinders on the Variquik (we only need 4 of the 6 cylinders to produce "zero makeready" printing for 5 1/2 x 8 1/2" or 6 x 9") are sized to accommodate 7 x 10". These 2 cylinders will not allow us to use the zero makeready feature for 7 x 10 since that requires 4 cylinders but it does allow us to print 7 x 10" on the same fast press as 6 x 9" whereas we now print 7 x 10" on a much larger and slower press than we use for 6 x 9". So, our 7 x 10" capacity and speed will both be increased.

    The last advantage is also one of the most significant. This is that a book will be printed and folded in one day... and in the same plant... whereas now those two operations require 4 working days. Thus, production time will be shorter and customers will be happier.

    However, into each life some rain must fall and, alas, the Variquik does have a down side. The shortcomings include the fact that it will not print 8 1/2 x 11" books, it will not do reprints that we originally laid out for sheet fed presses and, lastly, it costs over $2,000,000. A brand new 40" Heidelberg Perfector (we have and will continue to use four 40" Heidelberg Perfector presses) costs about $750,000. So, it's not all a piece of cake.

    There are currently only 17 of these presses in the world and only 2 of them in the USA, so buying one does tend to make your heart beat a little faster than the American Heart Association recommends... but what the heck it's only money. If there are any unexpected negative surprises lurking out there they aren't going to cause cancer and our Thomson-Shore aerobics classes should have us protected against heart failure.

    To make this commitment a little more binding, we have an option on a second Variquik press. That one is due to arrive here in early 1997.

    The balance of our expansion (to get the tax abatement we are obligated to complete the $10,000,000 investment in 36 months), will be spent on electronic pre-press equipment, a new soft binding system and new case binding equipment.

    While these latter things will be significant they don't make my teeth chatter quite as much as the new building and the Variquik presses.

    As you read this, I'll be close to celebrating my 64th birthday. That's an age when your friends, enemies and associates ask if you're about to retire. Well I can honestly answer that this business is just plain too exciting now to even think of leaving. It would be like having a baby and walking away. I've got to stick around to see how well we can pull this whole thing off.

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    Manufacturing Maximums And Minimums At T-S

    Most books we print do not test the limits of our capacity but we do get occasional inquiries about books where the specifications are beyond our capacity. While all book printers are not going to have the same limitations, the following should give you an idea whether the specifications you have in mind might present a manufacturing problem.

    First of all, just because a book is within these limits does not mean it can be printed and bound efficiently... it just means it can be done. A 4 1/2 x 6" book that is 3/16" thick would be a considerable challenge... and expensive. In contrast, a 6 x 9" book with 256 pages is a piece of cake.

    THICKNESSES- For both hard and soft bound books our minimum thickness is 3/16". Maximum thickness is 2 1/8" for soft bound and 2 1/2" for case bound. This becomes a bit more complicated when you add in the fact that we cannot collate more than 21 signatures at once so a book with more than 672 pages (21 signatures at 32 pages each) has to go on the collator two times and then the two sections have to be combined by hand. This is not especially difficult, but it is inefficient.

    As to thickness, you need to know the PPI of the paper you're using. Our 60 lb Supple Opaque Natural is 358 PPI so 2 1/2" is only 900 pages. For our 50 lb white at 520 PPI, 2 1/2" is 1300 pages. Conversely, a 3/16" book requires 96 pages for 50 lb white but only 72 for 60 lb natural.

    TRIM SIZE- The minimum we can gather and trim, for soft or case bound, is 4 1/2 x 6". The maximum for soft binding is 11 x 14", for case binding it is 10 x 14". For any trim size other than 5 1/2 x 8 1/2", 6 x 9", 6 1/8 x 9 1/4", 7 x 10" or 8 1/2 x 11", we will not have paper in the correct size. We would have to cut stock for a non-standard trim size from stock for the next larger size unless your job requires more than 5000 lbs. If a job needs 5000 lbs of paper we can special order it. For trim sizes larger than 8 1/2 x 11", we would have no larger standard size to cut from. Here we could print on a smaller sheet in 16's instead of 32's but it would be the wrong paper grain... thus we'd need to special order the stock and it would again take 5000 lbs to do that.

    RUN LENGTH- Basically we work in runs from about 250 to roughly 7500. If your need is below 250 we would do it on the Docutech system. If your need is above 7500, you're likely better off seeking out a Web press printer.

    FOUR COLOR- We do 4 color covers and jackets and 4 color inserts up to 32 pages. If your book is 4 color throughout, it would be beyond our 4 color press capacity.

    While this is not an expansive list of capacities, this should give you an idea of the kind of limitation book printers have. But remember, pushing a printer's capacity to it's outer limits is not a very cost effective way to design a book.

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    I don't want to make a big deal of this so I'll put it in Trivia where no one will ever see it. It relates to an article in the last Printer's Ink that suggested that there are a few printers who do not pass on to the customer the discount they get on all of their prepaid shipments to customers, i.e. the freight bill is $200 but they get a discount of 50 to 60% so the real bill is about $80 to $100. However they bill the customer $200.

    At this point we have had comments from two different freight haulers that a couple printers are outraged that Thomson-Shore (through Printer's Ink) would point this out. The freight haulers on the other hand, were pleased that it's being made public.

    A customer wrote us saying their printer would not let them see their real freight bill when they asked for confirmation of their freight charge. That information, they were told, is privileged. It doesn't take a very active imagination to deduce why the printer didn't want them knowing the true freight charges.

    Perhaps we've beaten this dog long enough and I'll back off now... After lastly reminding you that Thomson-Shore DOES PASS ON 85% of the FREIGHT DISCOUNT on all prepaid shipments and 100% of it on collect shipments. Can you say the same about your printer?

    X X X X X

    Our Internet "site" is getting an awful lot of attention. The publication Worldwide Graphics had a couple of paragraphs on the two most interesting sites they'd seen done by book printers. One was R.R. Donnelley's that features company press releases and speeches by management. The other site they described as "a nicely done site that is not just a brochure; there is lots of good, helpful customer information here". That one was ours. We've gotten literally dozens of really favorable customer comments including one that our "site" has taken accessibility of technical information to an entirely new level. Why not see for yourself. Our Internet address is Check it out and send us a quote request on the Internet. The request form is laid out there. We'll fax back our quote within 24 hours.

    X X X X X

    We now have a layflat matte lamination available for covers. Prior to now, layflat film was only available in gloss so a matte lamination did not have the layflat characteristic. Now, however, for about an additional $.01 or $.02 per copy, depending on the trim size, we can offer you a layflat matte. While we automatically quote on layflat gloss film, if you want layflat matte, you should specify it.

    X X X X X

    A couple issues ago we mentioned a new "service" we can offer customers. This is in-house, hand made slipcases in very small numbers. If you have a favorite mother-in-law or two who you'd like to present a special, slip cased copy of your book, we can produce them for you in quantities from 1 to 50 for $25 each. They would be made from 1 piece of cloth and would not be stamped. Or, for an added $15, we could use the stamping die from your book and stamp the slipcase. Talk to your Customer Service Rep, Estimator or Marketing Associate if you're interested in this.

    X X X X X

    We have a CPI Team working on developing a perpetual customer satisfaction survey. We have used two MBA student summer interns to help us get a format worked out and they will be talking with people at Thomson-Shore to see what we would particularly like customer feedback on, and they'll also talk with some randomly selected customers to see what you all feel we should be asking you. Once this survey gets going we intend to publish the results to our people as well as to our customers.

    X X X X X

    In the 1995 University Press Book Show judging, Thomson-Shore once again printed and bound more winning books than any other printer in the nation and we produced more winning covers and jackets than all the other Ann Arbor printers combined.

    X X X X X

    When you send in copy or a file for a cover or jacket, be sure you send in laser proofs with color breaks & PMS numbers indicated. If it comes on a disk, a "read-me" file alone is not enough for us.

    X X X X X

    When we acknowledge an order to a customer, we include with it a confirmation of your job's specification as well as the final price. We send these out via mail or fax, as soon as the job is received. This is a good opportunity for you to see the specs we're using on our order and also what any change in specs from the original quote has done to your price. We strongly urge you to look these two things over when you receive them and call your customer service rep if you have any questions.

    X X X X X

    In our experience, notch binding is supplanting perfect binding rapidly in soft bound books but it is still rare in case binding.

    While we notch bind about 80% of our paper back books, we Smyth sew over 90% of the case bound ones. This actually suits us fine since we prefer notch binding for soft bound books and, as far as Smyth sewing goes, there is no one in the nation that sews as effectively as Thomson-Shore. The state-of-the-art sewing machine today is the Aster 2000. There are currently over 200 of these in the world but only 4 in the U.S. We have two of them and there is one in Wisconsin and one in New Jersey.

    As to our preference for notch binding in soft bound books, with notch binding there is less waste to dispose of, the signature size can be 1/8" wider and notch binding is stronger than perfect binding. So... in a split run of case bound and soft bound books, the signature sizes can be identical if the soft bound are notch bound and the two versions can then have identical margins. In perfect binding, the gutter margin is 1/8" smaller than the same margin for a notch or sewn binding.

    Another advantage of notch over perfect binding is that you can successfully notch bind coated stocks in soft bound books.

    X X X X X

    Although it seems hard to believe, neither white nor natural text paper prices have changed in the last 3 months... at least as I'm writing this. There is speculation that paper supply is still running behind demand and prices will go up at least one more time but that may turn out to be just wishful thinking on the paper company's part. At any rate, for the moment no news is good news on paper pricing.

    X X X X X

    In case bound books with printed cases, the two most popular case making materials have long been Kivar 6 and Kivar 9... at least for us that's the case. Kivar 9 was the heavier and, theoretically, more durable of the two. It was priced about the same as B grade cloth while Kivar 6 was about 1/2 that price or approximately $.15 per copy less. Kivar 6 was by far the most commonly used of the two, as you might suspect.

    Now, a new "improved" product, Kivar 7, has replaced Kivar 6, which is no longer being made. Kivar 7 is priced about the same as 6 but the manufacturer's tests show it to be a better product. It is still, however, considered to be less durable than Kivar 9.

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    Here's Our Electronic Pre-Press Update...Version 6.1

    We relegated the EP stuff to the back page this time but not because it is losing importance. It was just that it took a lot of space to tell about our expansion and, at least in my mind, the expansion plans seemed more interesting.

    This story will not have a big, overlying central theme, but will be sort of a series of updates about what's currently going on at Thomson-Shore in this vital area of Electronic Prepress.

    SyQuest & Optical Drive Compatibility: When you (or your typesetter) create a file to send to a printer you need a drive to copy the file on the disk. By far the two most popular drives, up until now, have been SyQuest drives and optical drives. We support both of these however there are some complications with them. Both SyQuest and optical drives are made by many different companies (i.e. they are practically generic) and each different manufacturer provides their own software with their drive for use in formatting the files.

    Unfortunately, some of this formatting software creates disks that cannot be read on other drives and we have (not often but occasionally) received disks that we absolutely could not read. There are a lot of procedures we can use to try and trick the disk into giving up it's information but sometimes we strike out and have to return the disk to the publisher to transfer it using the drive that it was created on. This can be done but it is irksome to the publisher and it requires additional production time.

    When you use SyQuest or optical drives, we recommend you use a formatting software package that is designed to support many drives and has generic modes to support virtually all standard SCSI drives. If you're in doubt about this, we suggest you use F.W.B.'s Hard Disk Toolkit Personal Edition. This is as close to being an industry standard as there is on the market. P.L.I. and Sony, two of the larger manufacturers of SyQuest and optical drives, actually recommend F.W.B. over their own software whenever there's any issue of drive compatibility... and if you're sending files to someone else to read, it's an issue.

    Zip Drives: A recent, new and successful player on this scene is the Iomega Zip drive. This is manufactured by just one company so compatibility is not a problem. The drive retails for about $200 and it includes a 100 Mb cartridge that sells separately for about $20. These numbers are real breakthroughs in price (less than 1/2 the price of an 88 Mb SyQuest cartridge) and if you haven't invested in a drive as yet, this is certainly the state of the art choice at the moment.

    However, SyQuest has already announced a new drive that will compete with Zip in features and price. It is their EZ 135 drive and it should be available soon.

    EP Seminars: Thomson-Shore has been talking with a consulting firm that specializes in putting on seminars that go over basic as well as advanced techniques for creating text files. At the moment it looks like we may be proceeding with this in the late Fall.

    Our idea is to combine their expertise (the people we would use are pretty much recognized as the best there is in Electronic Prepress seminars) with a person or persons from T-S, and doing one day sessions in various locations around the country. They would probably cover hardware, software, master pages, creation of graphics, procedures for using O.P.I., and whatever else you publishers tell us you want to hear about. The price would be in the range of $50 or less. We're not doing this to make a profit.

    If this sounds interesting to you, please give us a call and tell us what you think. If you don't know anyone else to talk to here, I'd be happy to hear your thoughts on this... or anything else for that matter. If you want to talk to me, just ask for Ned.

    O.P.I. Swapping Update: We have 4 jobs in process, all from the same customer, that are utilizing O.P.I. swapping to handle the halftones. We and our customer are learning things every day but we are not ready to receive a lot of work in this area yet. This is unplowed ground and we want to be sure of what we're doing before we generally seek it out. Our first customer is enthusiastic about the process and is convinced this is the best way to handle illustrated jobs but it's still in a "beta test" stage. If you are interested in considering O.P.I. for an illustrated job, please give Larry Meilleur a call and tell him what you have. He is developing our list of trial jobs and he can also tell you how it works and what you would need to do. At the moment we prefer jobs with a flexible schedule, 100 or fewer halftones and done on PageMaker or QuarkXpress using Mac platforms. In the meantime we are developing a written set of O.P.I. procedure guidelines that should be available in September.

    EP Customer Information Specialist: By the time you read this we will have a Customer Information Specialist in place whose job will be exclusively involved with communication on electronic prepress questions. This person will work in our Customer Service Department but will be very conversant with all of our electronic prepress technology. One of the reasons we are doing this is to give our customer services reps someone immediately available to answer any customer's questions that are too technical for them. This way the reps will not have to get a production person on the phone and most all the questions and answers about EP will filter through one person. The customer rep will still handle the jobs in the plant and the normal customer contact in the usual manner but for technical questions and advice, they will have the resources of a specialist to draw on. This should help us handle communication with you more positively and more quickly.

    Tips & Tricks:

    Quark users (Mac): When deleting a text or picture box try holding down the key combination: "Command+Option+Shift+K". A little friend will delete your item for you.

    PageMaker Users: If you have your save option set to "Faster" in the preferences this may cause your files to grow as you make changes to your document. After you're finished editing, go to the "File" menu and select "Save As", use the same file name and replace your existing file. This will do a clean save and reduce your file size.

    Mac Users: Try holding down "Option" while opening folders. This will close the window behind the folder you are opening and it keeps from having multiple windows on the desktop, it also saves memory.

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    Printer's Ink is a quarterly newsletter written by Ned Thomson, president of Thomson-Shore, Inc. A hardcopy version is sent out to approximately 20,000, world-wide. If you are interested in being added to our mailing list please contact us one of the following ways:

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