High Quality Reproduction Proofs Now Offered by Successful Printers to Their Customers

The advent of the reproduction proof press has brought about a minor revolution in composing rooms of many printers, particularly those specializing in setting composition for the trade and the plants which have added lithographic equipment to augment a purely letterpress operation. The day is long past when a satisfactory proof could be made on a standard proof press by using the sheet of coated stock held to the cylinder by a piece of string secured with a paperclip or rubber band.

Successful printers to whom the reproduction proof is the “product” they offer to customers have now set up proofing departments directed by skilled personnel who supervised the mixing of special formula Inc., the selection of paper stock, the packing of the cylinder of the press, and of course the careful production of the proof.

The press itself has become a highly engineered machine, in reality almost a full-grown cylinder press, but with the motive power still consisting of the strong arm of the operator. Old-timers would be amazed to see the batteries of such presses in typo houses all over the country.

With so much composition being set for jobs produced by lithography and gravure, the proofs must be of high quality—crisp and clean—if they are to be caught by the camera and transferred to the plate. While it may be true, as the writer has heard in discussions relating to reproduction proofing, that there are more prima donnas behind cameras than on the operatic stage, nevertheless, should the proof be less than desirable, the printing plate can never overcome that initial disadvantage.

New Methods Increase Production

Printers who operate this equipment are ever on the lookout for new techniques to increase production. To this end, they spend hours in trade meetings trying to find ways of by-passing some of the special headaches in the operation.

These problems involve the packing of the press, the proof paper, the ink, and drying methods, to mention the most important items upon which opinions differ.

Selection of paper stock seems to be the most controversial subject of all. Indeed, it is surprising that so few paper manufacturers have given attention to producing a sheet for this specific purpose. Perhaps one reason is the fact that printers themselves can’t agree on its requirements. Probably a majority would concede that the sheet should first of all be level.

Next, it should allow relatively fast drying, since proofs often go to the customer with strict time requirements. The paper should be non-curling, and it needs be coated on one side only.

Several glossy-coated printing papers now manufactured for general printing have proved dependable. Since dull-coated sheets also appear to be reliable, the users have divided into two main groups: the adherents of the glossy-coated stocks and those having faith in dull-coated paper. It is generally agreed that white is the best color, but even here the arguments persist, with light shades of blue dominating the anti-white viewpoint. Preferences indicate a weight range of 60 to 90 pounds.

Must Formulate Proper Inks

The second major field of experiment in reproduction proofing is concerned with pink. Again everyone has his favorite kind, but at the same time keeps an eye out for something more effective, often trying to score before he finds a mixture that answers his requirements. Several manufacturers have developed and now market inks especially for reproduction proofing because standard job inks are usually not adequate. For that reason the printer would be well advised to seek out his ink supplier and give him the information needed to formulate a proper ink. Basic requisites of most reproduction proof inks are stiffness of body and strength of color.

While paper and ink arouse most of the controversy in discussions of proving, myriad other details affecting the quality of the product must also receive consideration. Standard proof presses can perform with reasonable efficiency, particularly if handled by skilled personnel, but the shop requiring full-time press operation will lose an appreciable amount of production Time. The type of press which has a bed cut to .918-inch is the most desirable because it eliminates the need for a galley or bed-plate, both of which can materially impair the precision principle followed in production of the finest proofs.

The press itself must be kept free of dirt and grease, particularly on the cylinder bearers as the impression can’t easily be made uneven. The packing should be hard, and while the regular oil temp in a satisfactory, many printers prefer the beaded-glass type of packing. Rubber rollers, since they are less affected by temperature conditions, are considered superior to composition rollers.

The prevalence of dust, not usually considered improving operations, is a real concern in a precision set-up. Even ink coverage can be adversely affected, and in some instances fine-line type can be damaged by this agent. Controlled ventilation is probably the only positive method of overcoming this problem and that of humidity as well.

Dryers Insure Quick Delivery

Several available models of drying apparatus insurer quick delivery of the proof without smudging. The simplest of these, which can be constructed in the shop, consists of a box containing wire shelves and a standard electric heater with a small fan to circulate the heat. It must be used carefully to prevent overheating and damage to the proofs. With or without heating devices, it is good practice to slip-sheet the proofs with absorbent tissue.

Normally, a careful printer is concerned about his type metal. He is constantly aware of the casting difficulties which occur when the metal becomes contaminated. In reproduction proofing, where sharpness of image is imperative, he must be doubly cautious. Beyond that, he must ensure that his matrices are in excellent condition and that casting temperatures are as exact as the metal formula.

In all, a good reproduction proof from every impression is not accidental. It must be part of a quality operation in every aspect of production, both in state of equipment and in application of human effort. Certainly the product must represent the printer’s best effort if it is to be adequate for the many operations to follow.

This article first appeared in the July 1954 issue of The Inland Printer.


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