‘You can’t have an industrial revolution, you can’t have democracies, and you can’t have populations who can govern themselves until you have literacy. The printing press simply unlocked literacy,’ wrote Howard Rheingold and even in 2017 the role of the printing press remains just as crucial as it was when the first Bible was printed. The printing press is called ‘the greatest weapon in the armory of the modern commander’, the life and soul of good writing, an anchor for students looking to read incisive texts, and…yes, this is where good stories generally begin. And yet we rarely look beyond the small printers that the new age has thrust upon every home and small or big office. We do not even know much about paper and a simple question like ‘which paper will you prefer?’ can leave us fumbling for the right answer.
I remember an incident from more than a decade ago when my son who was studying for a degree in architecture wanted to get some of his work printed.
‘We’ll need to go to Nehru Place,’ he said, ‘at four in the morning.’
‘Why can’t you print your stuff on our inkjet?’ I asked.
He smiled and told me that professional works need commercial printers. I left it at that and accompanied him to Nehru Place the next morning. I do not remember the machine that I saw there and it could have been a Konica Minolta, a Xerox, a Ricoh, or even from Canon… all that I remember is that I was impressed at the speed at which it delivered, the clarity and colour intensity of the output, and the way technology seemed to be connected with every phase.
A couple of weeks back I had the singular good fortune to be invited by the Canon team to watch their printers at work. The Canon imagePRESS C10000VP and Canon DreamLabo 5000 were there besides other machines.
I stood breathless before the massive imagePRESS and felt the same wonder that I had felt more than a decade ago. I looked at the way technology and aesthetics had come together… and my mind was indeed full of questions.
‘This imagePRESS can give you 15,00,000 A4 prints in a month, works at a print speed of 80 to 100 pages per minute, and can give a print quality of 2400 x 2400 dpi,’ the technical expert said. I was told that one could use a variation of GSMs ranging from 52 to 350 and even print banners upto 30 feet.
‘Must be having massive paper feed trays?’ I asked.
‘There are two feeding units,’ I was told, ‘so when one unit has been used, the switch-over is seamless and you get enough time to fill the first unit. Each paper cassette has a capacity of a thousand sheets.’ Sounds simple. And wonderful. I was also informed that the computer terminal attached came with the printer and the task first had to be assigned to it before the printing process began.
‘What about colour inconsistency during a large print run?’ I asked.
‘These printers have multi-density adjustment technology and are capable of giving automatic real-time density correction,’ I was told, ‘Well, the in-line spectroscope sensor enables daily colour calibration.’
Frankly, I was overwhelmed by all this technology talk and wanting to escape, asked, ‘I’m sure even this machine must be picking multiple sheets and so there must be copies that need to be weeded out?’
‘Not at all,’ was the answer, ‘the pick-up uses air separation and air suction so such errors are just not there.’ I was also told that there is automatic paper size detection and the printing speed varies for different sizes. For instance, A4 sheets get printed at 100 ppm whereas a 13” x 19.2” sheet would have a speed of 51 ppm. And the really charming feature is that these machines do both simplex and duplex printing. Even document stitching and stapling is done to complete the job.
A lot of us are completely befuddled by paper GSM and sizes. Let me add here that for leaflets, pamphlets, and magazine pages one uses anything between 70 to 120 GSM. Good quality posters need 120 to 170 GSM. Magazine covers, labels, and stickers need 180 to 230 GSM. For printing brochures it is advisable to go for 230 to 300 GSM. And the most sought visiting cards need 300 to 350 GSM. Reports, statements, books, and projects can go with 60 to 100 GSM. For bar codes and book covers, 100 to 300 GSM suffices. I learnt this stuff when I was struggling with print issues during my days with corporate communications – and believe me, this was any day easier than tackling media teams during media negotiations. The Canon imagePRESS makes sure that the output a reader holds in his hands makes him smile and encourages reading… if it happens to be a book. I’ve heard a lot of horror stories of text-books being so shoddily printed and produced that studying becomes a chore. Well, it is time that reading became a pleasant activity… and the first step towards this is to be conscious of print quality, paper, and book production. Our politicians and decision-makers need to wake up to fact that literacy has a lot to do with printing and print-runs (NCERT books are often in short supply).
There is another kind of printing output that we are all familiar with… wedding albums! I have seen really horribly printed albums but the one that the Canon DreamLabo 5000 did is simply unbeatable.
This machine does high quality PODs, single prints, portraits, greeting cards, post cards, calendars, posters, and lay flat premium photo albums. The DreamLabo uses a 7-colour dye-based inkjet, produces longest and lightest albums, does not tamper witht he natural feel of paper, prints on glossy, metallic, lustre, and satin paper, and can take RGB/CMYK input. When used in combination with the automatic Double-sided printing function up to 12’x25’ size, the DreamLabo 5000 is capable of printing approximately 1000 pages of A4 size content and 2300 pages of 4’x6’ size content per hour.
By the way, the commercial photo market in India is worth Rs 4000 crore and out of this almost 20% goes to digital printing. This means that our country has a digital photo market worth 800 crore. No wonder then that Mr. Kazutada Kobayashi, President & CEO, Canon India, says that ‘India is undergoing a massive transition from the conventional analogue and silver halide technology to digital high definition photo printing. The DreamLabo 5000 is a robust product that aims to revolutionize wedding photography in India.’ Canon is partnering with Capital Colour Lab in Mysore and launched the 4th DreamLabo 5000 in the country. Their aim is to capture 15% of digital photo album print space in India by end of 2018.
I was surprised to learn that vendors in South India are early adopters as all the DreamLabo machines installed so far are in that region. I guess it is time for large photo studios in other parts of India to wake to the arrival of new technology and start realizing that photo albums need no longer be heavy and boring.
And no, the Canon DreamLabo isn’t going to affect literacy levels at all… but it can certainly make memories communicate through the pages of an album that isn’t ingloriously heavy and beams at you through clear and bright prints even after years.
Printing, I must add here, is something that most of us take for granted and accept even substandard and clumsy output be it a book, a poster, a magazine, a pamphlet or even a wedding album. The time to demand for excellence in printing is here and now.
06 June 2017