Development of Proof Press For Composing Room Use

— There Is a Wide Gap Between Crude Early Models and Today’s Perfected Machines

By R.O. Vandercook, Printing Equipment Engineer, June 1934

HERE are some facts that may possibly be of interest in regard to the development of the Modern Composing Room Press. I did not start out to build a proof press; having operated presses, I thought that much time could be eliminated in makeready and adjustments if proper attention were given to the fundamental construction of the printing press. The most important elements of the printing press are the impression members. I thought that it would be possible to build a press rigid and accurate enough to eliminate the correction by makeready of the errors in the press. The rigid bed principle seemed to offer the best way out.

My first experimental machine was what I called the Rocker Series Press. The idea of this machine was to have a segment of the cylinder rock over a horizontal bed, said segment to be so constructed as to have no deflection from the printing line because of various degrees of printing pressure; therefore, I built a model on this general principle. The results in actual impression far exceeded my expectations. I showed the model to one of the larger printers in Chicago whom I had known since I was a boy. He said, “Bob, that is a bully idea for a proof press, and there is not a good proof press built,” and he forthwith gave me an order to build for him the first of the Rocker Series Presses.

I then took up the proposition of automatic inking. It has always been maintained that unlocked type, from which most proofs are pulled, could not be inked automatically. I found by experimenting that it was possible to ink automatically a single unsupported letter without disturbing it.

Next came the proposition of grippers and feed. Because of the shorter distance of travel, I thought it advisable to use the under feed. The ordinary grippers would be very dangerous to use on this type of machines, especially by those who are not trained in handling presses; therefore, I found a way to make what I called “safety grippers” which made it impossible for careless workmen to nip the galley or form if the form were placed carelessly on the bed of the press. As compositors are not familiar with the set of inking rollers and considerable time would be required to take ink rollers on and off the press for washing and adjustment, a plan was worked out so that the rollers would never have to be removed from the press for washing, adjustment or storage. A single motion would trip the rollers and remove the weight of the vibrator and distributors from the composition rollers so when the press was standing idle the printing rollers would not be damaged by contact with metal.

My first automatic inking presses used angle rollers to distribute the ink on the inking plate. It was evident that it would be very desirable to get the ink distribution without the use of composition rollers for auxiliary rollers on the ink plate. I, therefore, put in parallel riders of small diameter in addition to the vibrator to ride on top of the inking rollers. I found by this method I could eliminate the distribution rollers on the ink plate. I also found that it was not advisable to put the ink fountain on composing room presses because the compositors were not familiar with its use and it would cause much more trouble than it would be of assistance.

All our machines have been built on the rigid bed principle because it is very evident that moving light weights instead of heavy weights make it easier for hand operation and greater rigidity and accuracy can be obtained in the rigid bed construction than with the heavy bed that moved over rollers which were always subjected to wear. Under the rigid bed principle, the weight of the cylinder relieves the impression strain, while with the movable bed principle, the weight of the cylinder caused additional wear to the moving bed supports.

The first year I began to build the machine was in 1909. I constructed 35 models, each one different, and built in each instance on special order for some

clients. Our Roller Series Press which inks both ways and prints both ways, was built on special order from the executives of the American Medical Association, who requested me to build a machine on which could be printed a great number of mailing galleys. The objection was that the machines then in use wore down the type and did not give clear, sharp impressions, but they were going to buy another one of these machines unless they could get a machine more suited for their purposes. They were going to pay $190.00 for another press, and my agreement with them was that if I could build a machine that would work better, they would pay me $190.00 for it. I had no drawings made for this first machine but worked it out part by part in the shop.

The machine was almost immediately accepted and put to work in the plant but not in the mailing room for which it was ordered. The press was kept in the composing room because it was found most efficient in taking page proofs of the magazine and all galley work. Immediately I was given an order for several more machines, one of which found its way into the mailing room.

Our latest catalog illustrates 24 different sizes and models of Composing Room Presses, each one better suited for some particular purpose, regardless of price. It does not show our Rocker Series Press. This model was discontinued primarily because careless boys had been injured too frequently, though, in many plants, it is now used to very good advantage.

We have recently installed the first of our page proof presses, power-driven, in the plant of the

Chicago Daily News. This power-driven machine is a great relief to the operators as they frequently have runs of several hundreds and sometimes thousands.

The greatest advance in printing press construction in the last few years has been greater care in construction so that makeready can be reduced to the minimum. This is brought about by grinding in the cylinders and bearings to very close limits, increasing the size and length of the bearings, and removal, as far as possible, of reciprocating weights.

The modern Composing Room Press, accurately and rigidly built, has proved a most valuable acquisition in eliminating costs of pressroom operation. It is so much less expensive to correct errors in printing surfaces before the forms are locked up than to hold up a production press to correct errors that should have been corrected before the form was locked up.

One of our most successful developments during the past few years is our No. 23 machine, which gives the highest speed production of good prints of any machine we have ever built. The speed of this machine is only limited to the skill of the operator in laying the sheets. Another development is what we call our No. 040 machine, which is able to take good test proofs of the largest size forms. But we can not use the regular imposing surfaces for this machine because they are not accurate enough for printing beds. There is no reason if the surface is used for imposing surfaces, why it should be held to limits of accuracy and so built that it will maintain that accuracy. We, therefore, will not attach our printing devices to any surface we do not build.

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