January 9, 2009

John and I along with our friends Susan and Brad, went for a FREE tour of our local newspaper today.

The paper was founded in 1886 and today boasts a daily circulation of 100,000 in 19 Virginia counties. This large circulation and the demand for color in the printing process made a new press a necessity — especially since their old one had been in service since before World War II.

This is the main building where they have all their offices. Total employees of this company number only 430! There's another 460 carriers.

In October 2003, The Roanoke Times was the first United States daily paper to install a Heidelberg Mainstream 80 printing press. This is the new 47,000 sq ft building built to house the new press.

A glass walkway was built to connect the two buildings, which were on opposite sides of the street. It serves two functions as you will see here.

One of the many offices we saw. This one has subdued lighting and is where page layouts are set up on computers for printing.

We passed through the mail room and crossed the walkway to go to the press machine building.
Susan and our guide (in yellow).

See the tracks running along the ceiling overhead? They are used to carry each individual newspaper from the printer across the walkway to the mail room for inserts. This avoids the necessity of workers going to the press room for the newspapers!

Once across to the new building, we could see that the tracks continued through the doorway area and up above us overhead.

The Times’ double-wide shaftless press is configured as six four-high towers with 40 couples, seven pasters and automatic reel loading.
That's Brad and John heading towards the Press Control room - the box-type enclosure ahead which runs, controls and checks the press by computer.

The Times will now have up to 48 pages of full-color compared to the “limited” color it had with the old press. The Mainstream prints up to 80,000 copies per hour, doubling The Times’ prior printing capacity. (There's John, Brad and Susan)

This machine has seamless printing. It prints the pages, cuts them, collates them and folds the paper before sending it on it's way to the mail room!! IMPRESSIVE!

You can see a section of the newspaper stretched like a canvas across this area. Unfortunately, the paper is not printed until late evening, around 11PM, so we were unable to see it in action.

Printing press is 40 yds long, 35 ft tall, weighs 470 tons.

We have been on the "upper level" floor shown in this break-away diagram. Now we are heading to the lower level where the paper is loaded. The press is actually an impressive 5-levels high!

The press will use 26 rolls of newsprint daily.
Each roll weighs 2,000 lbs and feeds through the press at a rate of 29mph.

A view of the lower level. Tracks in the floor allow the easily rolled paper to be seated on a dolly and moved along the tracks to each machine.

Two rolls of paper already loaded into the machine.

The Ink Supply Room. These 3 tanks each hold 2,000 gals of colored ink. The tank of black ink is even larger, holding just over 4,000 gals. It takes 70 gals ink daily to print the paper. Refilling of the tanks is needed every 5-6 weeks.

The aluminum plates for printing pics in color are burned here in these machines. They need to burn four plates - one for each color.

Samples above of the aluminum plates that are burned.

A close up view of how the newspapers are carried from the press, across the ceiling, through the walkway to the mail room for final processing. They were clearing out a few left over copies.

Next we went back through the walkway to the Mail room

In addition to the press, the Times also purchased a Heidelberg Magnapak inserter. Two new NP2000 gripper conveyors (overhead tracks) of 1,800 ft completed the mail room upgrade.

Much of the final product is defined, produced and customized in the mail room. It is an important key to securing additional revenue for the publisher.

The funnies section of Sunday's news is printed by an outside facility then shipped to Roanoke. The hoppers automatically feed and insert advertising fliers. The funnies and all fliers were ready on Friday to be added to the main section of Sunday's paper.

What an interesting tour of our local newspaper!

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