The last offset press at PRINT?

Blognosticator Head

I was trying to figure out how many times I have visited Chicago to attend the GraphExpo and PRINT shows. I think it’s nearly 40. I wasn’t able to attend for a few years because of travel conflicts, and I didn’t go a couple of times because I couldn’t afford to take the time away from work. But I have been making the pilgrimage since my first visit in 1970.

Komori press

This was the Komori Lithrone six-color press on display at PRINT13. The company was, as always, demonstrating the features of the press. The most impressive of those is the fast change-over that makes automatic plate changes in about a minute.

I remember the first time I attended the show. It was huge, much bigger than it is now. Press manufacturers like Goss had full size newspaper presses running at the show. Heidelberg had not one, but a half-dozen presses running on the show floor. These machines were captivating, and I remember many times having difficulty bringing press sheet samples home on the airplane.

At the height of the GraphExpo/PRINT experience I remember a bell that the managers of Heidelberg would ring every time a press sold. You would hear the bell ringing throughout the day, and people in the vicinity would applaud and cheer.

Then there was 9/11.

GraphExpo was in full-force on September 11, 2001. The show came to a complete stop that morning, and people attempted to get home from Chicago. There were stories about airplanes being diverted from their destinations to odd places like Lincoln, Nebraska and Plano, Texas, instead of Los Angeles or San Diego. Many people rented cars and drove cross-country to get home. And, I heard one story about a man who took a taxi to a used car dealership in Chicago, bought a barely passable car, then drove back to McCormick Place and announced that he was driving to Seattle. Did anyone want to join him? Minutes later, the car was filled with travelers and they drove all the way back to Washington in the car. He sold the car after the trip.

The 2002 show was a muted affair, with both exhibitors and visitors reluctant to participate. I remember it was like a trade show in a ghost town.

In the years since then, the show has grown back to full size again, with tens of thousands of visitors, and a tremendous number of exhibitors. But the presses started to disappear. Last year Heidelberg did not have a booth, and the word was that they would return to PRINT13 with presses, as it’s the show for printing. They were not there this year. Mitsubishi was not there this year. KBA was in attendance, but had no presses in their booth.

Komori had a large booth, and displayed the only multicolor press on the floor. The press was a six-unit Lithrone with a separate coating unit. It was encouraging to see the Japanese company still believes in printing presses. There were plenty of digital and ink-jet presses on display, including one I wrote about a couple of days ago from Komori (and INX and Startanics) that prints pressure-sensitive labels with ink-jet technology.

The printing industry is changing, certainly, and we are watching that change at the GraphExpo and PRINT shows. Thirty years from now I will be blogging about the newest anti-gravity printing machines from Komori, and the transparent aluminum printers being exhibited by Epson.

 

About Brian Lawler

Brian Lawler is an Emeritus Professor of Graphic Communication at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo and currently Guest Professor at Hochschule München. He writes about graphic arts processes and technologies for various industry publications, and on his blog, The Blognosticator.
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