Viewed from the front - a first class piece of industrial photography
A view of the platen from the bed position showing the use of lays
When I started work at the age of 16 I started out helping a printer on a very big press for about 6 months. Then I was “given” a Heidelberg Platen as my first press to work. A German printer on the night shift kept leaving notes with tips and some days he would come in early and show me a few things. There were two Heidelberg platens and the apprentice on the other one was also a source of skills. I worked with that press for about a year, and there wasn’t much I couldn’t do on a Platen. sometimes also printing on a british Thompson. 10x15 platen.
The Heidelberg is really a icon and is often used in movies when vision of a press is called for. Their unique windmill set of grippers is just so interesting and spectacular. Normally the sheet was controlled through the entire feed, print, deliver cycle, but if an exact print register was required the printer would “run on lays”. This means each sheet is released into a set of lays just during the print step, and then the grippers close on it again and it gets delivered. This allows exact print position. I have uploaded a few 1960’s images from the handbook, one of which shows the lays schematically. A nice piece of airbrush and design with a tint block printed through. The publications from Heidelberg were always printed letterpress and fine examples of the craft. The halftones are clear and perfect and the impression is “kiss”, as it should be!
Our Heidelberg is a very good one from the early 50’s. These presses just keep going if they are cared for well and we still have the tools and accessories too and the sound of a platen puffing away is a joy and never forgotten. I can be walking down a street in Paris and be pulled up by the familiar sound. Sure enough nearby is a little, busy printshop. The maximum sheet size is 10x15 but it doesn’t mean you can print out to that size. A platen makes the print all over instantly and there is a limit to the print size imposed by the strength of the press. The ability to roll ink over large areas can also be a limiting factor. We run it nice and slow at about 2000 sheets per hour. Back in the 60’s we would average that speed. We filled in time sheets - every 3 minutes was a unit and set times were allowed for each operation. Oiling and cleaning 30 minutes, makeready 30 minutes, washup 15 minutes, running was expected to be 2000 per hour. Every day should equal 8 hours. Of course we worked harder than that but still booked maximum times thus getting time in front which was handy if you hit trouble! Therefore by having this system the management never really knew what presses were efficient or even who were hard workers. There was never any allowance for bad rollers, curled stock, press wear etc. It all got levelled out. They had a room full of young women who spent all day adding up the previous days tallys! Pre computer, they used strange adding machines.