Idle Chat


Thinking about Offset


Posted: 7 July 2010

I thought I'd take advantage of the Idle Chat Board and express some of my thoughts. Plus, I keep checking the forum for new posts and there aren't any, so I figured I'd make my own new post. And I can check it tomorrow. I know, I'm such a dork.

I miss offset printing. For five years I ran a Ryobi 3200 and before that I ran a one-color Plextor (for printing keycards for hotels). Currently, I am all digital and as far as I'm concerned - IT'S STILL PRINTING! But, I admit, it's not the same.

Yesterday, I took my daughter and niece to Chik-fil-A and while they were playing in the play area, I was looking through a Mohawk paper book. I was drooling over the samples in there with the effects that you just can't do digitally. Again, I am such a dork. LOL! Sooooo, I've been browsing eBay and spied a few Heidelberg Quickmaster QM-2s for less than $10,000. My wheels have been turning! Hell, I wouldn't mind getting one as a toy! Now, not only am I a dork, a crazy one at that. But at least it's a toy that can offset (pun intended) its cost, unlike my motorcycle or my drums (I'm not that good).

In all seriousness, I have been getting quite a bit of work that can be printed on a press. I know what you're thinking, "But Keith, you'll need a plate system and an operator!" Yes, and neither one comes cheap! And you'll remind me of all the idle presses out there. Well, they may be idle, not because of any lack of demand, but perhaps a lack of selling, value, or customer service!

I hear a lot of people talk about the death of lithography. I don't buy it. I think it's a matter of owners and press operators dying. And by dying, I mean they don't keep up with the changing business models and technology. Customers don't care what thingamajig their stationary is printed on. They want smaller quantities faster. And new presses are designed to do that with automatic features and CTP etc.

Wait a minute. I think I got off my topic. Where was I? Oh! Heidelberg presses on eBay. I never operated one but I would like to learn. Has anyone had experience with one? Am I crazy for even considering this? Well, I'm tired of typing. And would like to hear other people's thoughts.

. . . . .  Keith

Not crazy, Keith, just a glutton for punishment. A Heidelberg as a toy? You wouldn't be the first printer to lust after one. Let's admit it, we're all hardware junkies. But as you said yourself, with offset, the press is just the beginning. At a minimum, even if you run it yourself, you'll need CTP to produce plates. Want to really wrap yourself up in nostalgia? I happen to have a Brown 2000 process camera in excellent condition that I can let you have for, oh, I don't know, maybe a beer or two. I'll even throw in a very nice darkroom sink.

Now, if you're serious about going ahead with this without benefit of counseling, forget the Heidelberg. You'll get tired of fighting with that common blanket. Go for a Ryobi 3302 with Crestline dampeners that can probably be bought for about the same price. Keep in mind that anything for $10,000 or less is sure to have a lot of miles. You might want to retreat into a hidden corner of your shop with a handful of $100 bills, start a small fire, then throw those bills into that fire, one by one, to get a feel for the thrill of owning a clapped-out inkenspritzer.

Why do I recommend the Ryobi when I grew up not 50 miles from where they build Heidelbergs? It's the best press I ever ran, and I've run a few. Sold my 3302 in 2006 when I closed the print shop, and I really hated to see that last vestige of my life as a printer get carted away on a truck. She had been a faithful companion through many late-night hours. By then I had some practice - I had watched old "Jezebel," my Shelby Cobra, leave through the same door six months earlier.


You're right about the future of lithography, though. There's a sweet spot for midsize two-color offset presses that won't disappear any time soon: Two-color jobs in the 2,000 to 50,000 range. Digital is either one-color or full-color, and toner (or click charges) are not likely to ever go as low, or run as far, as a five pound can of ink.

One final thought. Being the junkies that we are, our first impulse when we want to grow our business is to step up to a bigger press. Which promptly takes us out of our niche and equipment synergy and comfort zone. By contrast, when a cab company feels the need to expand, they get more cabs, not a Mack truck.

Yeah, well, what do I know!

. . . . .  Hal Heindel

Mack truck! I like that analogy. That's the reason why I got a docucolor 252 and not their 700 - that would have been too much machine, and that bigger lease payment would have eaten me alive.

I forgot about your 3302 that you used to run. I should have mentioned, parked right next to my 3200 was a 3302 with Crestline. In fact, I ran it a couple of times. And if I were to get a new press (not likely, I have a better chance of getting a sailboat), I would go with Ryobi. Mainly because of my familiarity and Xpedx selling them. Like you pointed out about expanding, it would distract me from my niche.

I did consider a duplicator. But to get a top of the line model (which still doesn't print as good as a toner machine, let alone a press) it can set you back almost $20,000. And then there is the cost of the drums. And you need one for each different color you have!

Sooooo, I've been thinking of adding a foil fuser. It's a machine that sticks foil on top of toner. Now that would be a nice value-added service to go with my current product line. I do a good bit of invitations and business cards.

Thanks for taking the time to "chat," Hal. Like you said, we're all hardware junkies. I just need to stick with "toys" that will fit with my current business. Although, I do have an old hand operated press in my basement. It can only do 6x9, but hell, it's ink on paper that I can play with!

. . . . .  Keith