Inside the modern printing press | Vets on Media

Photo by Brian Fore
Photo by Brian Fore

Ken Hadfield’s office may look like the typical print shop or advertising agency, posters and fliers cover the walls but with just enough white space in between to look tidy.

Some of them are art posters of animals, others are of models and some are even advertisements for the big corporations.

Like the poster to the left of the entrance with the presumably-topless blonde holding an enormous burger just above her chest, drawing attention to everything on the poster except the small, yellow star mascot in the corner.

It’s not just the photos, clients nor the attractive models that have made Hadfield’s printing company so successful, but the actual printing press itself and how it operates.

Hadfield started Rapid Digital Press in November of 2013 with a Memjet brand printing press developed by Kia Silverbrook, and Australian man known for having the highest number of patents for printing technology in the world.

The printing process starts with the sales team, a company called VetAd that acts as a service bureau that sells printing services and printed products and only hires military veterans, according to VetAd founder and CEO Lee Hanna.

“What we do is recruit veterans that want to create their own business and they end up being trained on the press, being trained on the agency, being trained on starting a business,” said Hanna, a Vietnam-era Army veteran who has also worked in the printing business with companies such as Reader’s Digest, TV Guide and Time.

Army veteran Geronimo Campanile works with clients as a VetAd licensee for southwest Phoenix by determining the size, quantity and material needed for printed products.

“I’m seeking new demand and they’ve got the technology to back me up,” Campanile said. “I can go out there and I’ve got a whole portfolio of products that we offer and I’ll show that to the customer.”

Once a design has been created, usually in the form of a PDF, JPEG or TIFF file, it is then sent to Hadfield via Dropbox.

Hadfield checks the file size, resolution and how many dots per inch (DPI) the file uses. If the file does not have at least 300 DPI, pixilation will occur to a degree dictated by the size of the printed product.

Hadfield then imports the file into a Caldera brand rip program that converts it into information that the printer can understand.

“It breaks down those files into a machine language and then sets a profile for the color and also matches that to the type of paper that I’m using for that particular print run,” Hadfield said.

The printing press can hold two rolls of printing medium on the back side, allowing Hadfield to instantly change between mediums between jobs.

Products placed outside usually use a tear- and water-resistant bilinear oriented polypropylene medium with a coated surface.

Other products are printed on a canvas-like polyester material with a microporous finish, a thick water- and vapor-proof Tyvek material, or a heavy-density, glossy photo paper commonly used for posters and maps.

Hadfield said two-thirds of his business is printed on a paper he designed that is brought in from local paper mills then coated and converted to the sizes he needs, usually 42, 36 or 24 inches wide.

Inside the Memjet printing press are five print heads each with 70,000 nozzles, slightly overlapping and calibrated to eliminate any seam on the print medium.

From the nozzles, inks of cyan, magenta, yellow and key, or black, fall in a “waterfall pattern” at a rate of 3.5 billion droplets per second, each droplet being slightly less than 1.2 picoliters, one picoliter being one-trillionth of a liter, according to Hadfield.

This process, what Hadfield calls “pass-through, water-based, ink flow technology”, allows the press to print 12 inches per second and does not require the print heads to be fixed on a sliding rail like most other inkjet printers.

The Memjet printing press requires a patented, quick drying, non-toxic, water-based ink and produces minimal amounts of heat.

“The technology is very green. You don’t have any pollutants, you don’t have to have solvents,” Hadfield said. “With no heat, you have very low energy use and you don’t have to worry about having a heavily air-conditioned space to keep the temperatures down.”

Once all products have been printed, they are delivered to the customer.

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