The Lithoman Can Span Arizona’s Meteor Crater with Print in One Minute

Illustration for article titled The Lithoman Can Span Arizona’s Meteor Crater with Print in One Minute

Print media is slowly becoming more like the trees they're printed on: dead. Yet the Wall Street Journal alone commands a daily circulation of 2.1 million. That's a lot of pulp and ink. Or about 5 hours of work for the Man Roland Lithoman.


The Lithoman is a high-speed offset printing press. Offset printing exploits oil and water's natural abhorrence of each other's company to transfer ink to paper. First, art and text are transferred from negatives onto the printing plates, in much the same way traditional photographs are—through a light-induced chemical reaction. Each of the four primary colors gets its own plate, typically constructed from aluminum or plastic. These plates are then loaded into the press and first dampened by water. Then comes the ink. The ink will only adhere to the image area (the art and text) while the water will only wet the non-image areas. The inked image is then rolled onto a rubber "blanket" before it's laid onto paper—hence "offset printing."

All this happens at ludicrously high speeds. The latest iteration of the Lithoman can create up to 40,000 copies of a 64 page magazine every 60 minutes. It's got a maximum total output of 3.2 million pages per hour and 3000 feet of print every minute— that's 28 complete Wall Street Journals every second, or a million every 19 minutes.

[Offset Press Man - Manroland USA - Offset Printing Wiki - How Offset Printing Works]

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I know the Watch Tower society (ie, Jehovah's Witnesses) have a pretty wild printing operation. I think they use Lithomans also, and if I recall right, the US branch prints a congregation-worth of a particular issue in about a second and a half.