Weeknotes: Printing — 20th March 2022

Brighter, warmer weather this week has been a blessing after hunkering down inside for finals last week.

  • With Covid-related absence in my team, I ended up working on five distinct pieces of technical work, and unfortunately didn’t make as much progress with any one as I’d have liked. I did manage to sign-off on the architecture for a new product, but, didn’t get that far with a threat-modelling exercise.
  • My previous boss, Rik Still left the FT on Thursday. Preparing a leaving front-page & card was one thing, saying “tara for now” was another. Held it together pretty well, I think. The several years working together have been some of my most impactful & you’ve had my back at every turn, thanks Rik.
  • Commuting every day this week was a wonder for getting more casual reading in. It came at the expense of “spare time”, but this week I’m grateful to have had the time to finish reading “The Ungrateful Refugee”. (Instead of summarising: I will only recommend)

Print press on loop

On Friday I visited one of the FT’s print-sites and got to watch the weekend paper be printed.

  • Most newspapers are printed using through cold-set web-fed offset printing. Meaning a continuous stream of paper runs through rollers plated with sequential pages at extremely high speeds. It’s cut, folded & inserted further down the line - while the ink is drying.
  • The edition was finalised & ready for print (aka off-stone) at around 8PM. Aluminium plates were etched in massive machines, expertly mounted onto offset rollers and gradually several-stories of heavy press machinery started turning.
  • One small snafu (a tear!) and many quality samples later (as the control room optimised quality) — the press sped-up quickly to blink-and-you’ll-miss-it speeds — and out popped pristine newspapers. Cold-set printing is cold, and after picking up a copy my fingers were covered in ink. “Hot off the press”? Myth busted.

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© Alex Wilson 2022