Magazine article Editor & Publisher

New K.C. 'Star' Plant Going Up Downtown

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

New K.C. 'Star' Plant Going Up Downtown

Article excerpt

It's the beginning of the end for last large letterpress shop in U.S.

In about two months, The Kansas City (Mo.) Star hopes to break ground on a $199-million production plant occupying three acres on two city blocks next to its current downtown headquarters. Its planned start-up in early 2006 will see the country's last large letterpress shop shuttered.

In fact, letterpress gave way to lithography in the 1970s, when the four 10-unit Hoe Colormatic presses -- the oldest one dating from 1964 -- were converted to di-litho. Little more than a transitional strategy for most of its users, printing directly from litho plates was superceded in the 1980s by a PMC conversion that added blanket cylinders. So, for much of the past 20 years, the Star has been printed offset on the twice-converted letterpress machines.

At the new plant, editions will roll off tower presses from one of two unnamed manufacturers now in final negotiations with the Knight Ridder daily, circulation 266,264 weekdays, 379,664 Sunday.

"We need four presses," said Production Vice President Randy Waters. "We're looking for 80-page capacity, with 40 pages of process color" to produce a six-section newspaper from 50-inch-wide webs. Beyond that, he added, "we're looking to take advantage of split production," using a double folder to run two products.

The Star anticipates printing more color on news pages and in ads, and will be able to produce more pages in more sections.

If its cost can be justified, computer-to-plate (CTP) output will be part of the modernization, Waters said. Though still concerned about the cost of consumables, he said the trend is positive and "the plan is to go to CTP," with back-up for conventional plate production from page films. Waters is confident about the success of digitally driven, direct output of laser-imaged plates, but believes CTP requires further study. "We think it brings value," he said.

Four stories at one end, the structure's press hall will rise about twice that high at the other. In all, the building will enclose 430,000 square feet, and accommodate 400 employees. Largely encased in glass, it will permit occupants of neighboring buildings and passing vehicles to see production operations. The in-city plant's configuration is such that "we'll have to go up for storage rather than out ," said Waters. …

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