Old tech meets new tech

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By Benjamin Kwiecien

A look ahead

By Benjamin Kwiecien

The RCCD Printing and Graphics Center, which is responsible for all on-campus printing, is hoping to see a major technology upgrade.

In order to do the massive amounts of printing required by the school district, the Graphics Center uses a printing press that operates by pressing a series of ink-covered plates onto paper that is being run through.

Under the current system, it is difficult to prepare and develop the plates for use.

Using digital technology, the image intended for print is first edited on a computer.

Once the image is ready, it is sent to a machine which etches each part of the image to be pressed onto a series of film.

After the film is ready, it is manually arranged and tested to make sure each part is accurate.

Upon verifying the accuracy of the film, each frame is used to burn its image onto a blank metal plate.

In order for the plate to be ready to go to the press, it must additionally be developed so that the image on it can come out.

The entire process can be very time consuming, especially considering the level of care and handling that needs to be committed in order to produce and develop the plates. The development process in particular uses hazardous chemicals which are difficult to dispose of.

Rich Finner, associate professor of graphics technology and director of the RCCD Printing and Graphics Center, informs Viewpoints that there is a plan in the works to purchase a vital upgrade to the press system.

“We are fairly sure that we have $35,000,” said Finner, referring to VTEA (Vocational and Technical Education Act) funding that has already been granted, “and the district has committed to give us $30,000 for vocational stuff.”

The last $30,000 has not been granted yet, but is waiting to be approved by Virginia McKee-Leone, interim vice president of Academic Affairs, and Julie Pehkonen, occupational education specialist. It is believed that the likelihood of receiving approval is very high.

When combined, the $65,000 grant money is going to be used to purchase $117,000 worth of machinery. Since $65,000 does not equal $117,000, the machinery will be leased to the department, and the difference will be paid off over the course of four years.

In order to generate funds to pay the balance on the lease, the Graphics program plans to charge its clients slightly more for producing plates, but this is not expected to have an impact on sales or the end cost.

With the new machinery, it will be possible to create the plates directly using just a digital image. This will be a great boon for the program since a great deal of work will be eliminated, making the printing process safer, more efficient and less costly.

Since there will be fewer waste generated, it will benefit the environment as well.

The most important benefit, however, is that it affords students at RCC the opportunity to become familiar with this technology, which is the industry standard in printing. The current system at RCC is obsolete, making replacements crucial from an educational standpoint.

While the funding has not been finalized, the lease has already been agreed upon, and the equipment is expected in May.

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