Does anyone know about printing presses?

Discussion in 'Design and Graphics' started by Smileyguy, Jul 12, 2008.

  1. Smileyguy macrumors 6502

    Nov 29, 2004
    Hi everyone,

    Not sure if anyone will be able to answer my question, but I thought this forum was as good a place as any to start.

    I'm thinking of starting a small quarterly magazine here in Ireland. However, I need to keep costs as low as possible and am looking at alternative ways to print it. I want it to be free, but I'm not interested in selling ads (because I hate doing it, however if I find somebody else to do this, great).

    So I need printing to be as cheap as possible, and I'm willing to put some of my own money in at a loss or to organise some fundraising events if costs are low enough to make this effective .

    I'm wondering if I could buy an older, small printing press to do the job at home. I'm willing to do this if it means printing costs will be low, but I have no idea if this is possible or realistic. I don't mind using older technology or having low production quality if it means I can print cheaply, as I think I could incorporate these aspects into the design of the publication quite well.

    In essence, what I'm trying to do is not too dissimilar to this:

    But I know nothing about printing devices, so I'm trying to learn. I'm trying to find out things like:

    1) What sort of presses should I be looking at to print a few thousand copies of a small magazine? It will probably be A5 in size.

    2) Am I wrong in thinking my printing costs can be reduced significantly by going the DIY route?

    3) I know there are photocopiers with binding facilties. I'm wondering if one of these would be a good investment that would then enable me to publish each issue cheaply.

    I really know nothing about this, and I have no idea if anyone here does, but if anyone has any suggestions, ideas, links etc, I'd really appreciate it.

    Thanks very much.
  2. Toppa G's macrumors 6502

    Jun 19, 2003
    The exurbs, MN

    A couple questions for you...
    a) Are you considering a single-color press or envisioning a multi-color or even full-color product? Trying to print multi-color pieces on a single color press can prove challenging as you try to register each color on the pages.

    b) How many pages are you thinking your magazine would be?

    And now to provide some insight to your questions:

    1) There are any number of ways to approach this - the big factor is going to be budget. You could find an old AB Dick (now Presstek) small-format press for $1000-$2000. Better models are available once you get into the $3k range.

    2) With the increasing presence of digital black/white and full-color presses, some of which have book-binding capability built in, it may be more cost-effective to find a print provider that has this type of equipment. Otherwise, you'll need to have all of the following:
    a) Some means of making printing plates - with AB Dick models, paper printing plates are available that can be made relatively cheaply. I don't remember a lot of specifics about how to make those plates.
    b) A press. The press will need rollers, ink, blankets, fountain solution, wash-up solvents, etc.
    c) Some sort of finishing solution - if you wanted to make saddle-stitched (magazine-style) booklets, you'd need a stitcher of some sort. If you were willing to feed manually, you could get a decent manual stitcher for a couple thousand dollars. You would also need a folder to fold all of the sheets in half (tabletop one for a couple thousand dollars would be fine).

    3) A copying device with a bookletmaker is going to run tens of thousands of dollars, and can easily run over $100k.

    Hopefully that'll be a start for you. I've been working in large commercial print shops for a few years, so I may not have referenced the most economical components for this type of operation, but I think it's a pretty reasonable ballpark - anyone else with more small-format experience is welcome to shoot me down. :D

    Good luck!
  3. Smileyguy thread starter macrumors 6502

    Nov 29, 2004
    Thanks, that's very useful!

    I'd quite happily go for a single colour press (and a B&W mag) if it means saving costs. Colour would be nice in the publication obviously though, even if just for the cover and some inside pages, but if a single colour press is cheaper and awkward for multi colour printing, I'll do the whole thing B&W.

    Pages - I suppose that will depend on what the technology allows. 100 would be a nice target, especially considering it'll be a smaller size and only out quarterly, but it can be considerably smaller (50 pages for example) if printing a bigger publication means more expensive equipment is needed.

    As for my budget, $5000 would be a stretch for my initial investment. I'd rather it was closer to $3000, but if the press, folder and stitcher will each cost a couple of thousand, it may be prohibitively expensive overall.

    I'd only be willing to make a big up-front investment if it meant actual running and printing costs were low compared to what I'd pay to have the job done commercially.

    Thanks for the help, I learned lots from your post.
  4. mperkins37 macrumors 6502a


    Jan 17, 2007
    Phoenix, AZ
    You could sell advert space in the magazine to local retailers & groups to defray the startup costs...
  5. covisio macrumors 6502


    Aug 22, 2007

    Hi Smileyguy,
    I don't know how competitive the commercial printing market is in Ireland, but here in the UK it is saturated and therefore very competitive. I just did a quick quote from a company we use. A 100 page A5 booklet printed full colour cover with black and white inside pages is coming out at 2134 Pounds Sterling for 2000 copies with small incremental increases for each subsequent 1000. This may give you a benchmark to see how economical it is to print yourself.
    Instinctively I would say it is not in your interest to print it yourself (apart from perhaps personal satisfaction) because as well as your initial layout for equipment you have to factor in your substantial operating costs, the biggest one being paper. Combine this with the massive learning curve you would experience I would say you will find it very hard to get back any initial investment unless you started printing stuff for other people to get your volumes up. Then you are no longer just a magazine publisher, but a print shop.
    Like I say this is based on instinct but I would think if you did an honest financial analysis of costs you would soon see that it would be better to get it printed by a commercial printer - you can shop around to get the best price and you won't have the capital outlay to worry about.
  6. Jim Campbell macrumors 6502a

    Jim Campbell

    Dec 6, 2006
    A World of my Own; UK
    In all honesty, I'd consider a good quality A3 B/W laser with automatic duplex (prints front and back of each sheet on one pass through the printer). If you autocollate as well, then you'll only need to fold and staple each issue, which is easily do-able (if repetitive and thoroughly boring). Alternatively, you could take the output pages to a print shop, who wouldn't charge a huge amount to finish the product for you.

    If you go for one that prints oversize A3+, you can even bleed artwork off the edges of the page and guillotine them down to standard paper size.


  7. CanadaRAM macrumors G5


    Oct 11, 2004
    On the Left Coast - Victoria BC Canada
    Laser consumable costs (toner, fusers, drums, etc) and paper costs will kill you. You're looking at about US$ 0.18 per double sided A3 sheet in B&W and $1.60 or so for colour, plus the paper. This is for primarily text with limited photos and graphics.
    So if you're doing 12 sheets, that's between $2.50 and $12.00 per copy just for the printing consumables, let alone the binding, distribution etc.
    There's a reason that web press/newsprint is economical once you get past a certain minimum quantity.

    Your best bet would be to contact your local newspapers and find out if their printing plant will quote you on production -- especially if you can live with flexible delivery schedules and can use their end of roll papers.
  8. Jim Campbell macrumors 6502a

    Jim Campbell

    Dec 6, 2006
    A World of my Own; UK
    Which is roughly £1.25 per copy, which is not that unfavourable in comparison to covisio's full print quote above.

    FWIW, the last time I costed something along these lines, I got numbers that were a hair lower than yours, although I don't have the figures to hand. ISTR, if you weren't averse to doing the finishing yourself, the costs were feasible on small runs where they came in comparable to, or cheaper than. a run on a press.

    However, as is always the case with print, the price is massively sensitive to quantity, which the OP hasn't specified.

    I should add that uour suggestion about contacting the local paper is quite splendid, by the way, and certainly warrants consideration by the OP.


  9. Toppa G's macrumors 6502

    Jun 19, 2003
    The exurbs, MN
    I would think that with low volume (a few thousand copies), a sheetfed offset solution would be more economical than a web run. Your paper selection is much better with offset, and an offset print shop can run a few 16-page forms, fold, and stitch with final trim.

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