I remember as a kid watching old episodes of Superman in black and white at the Daily Planet. Sure, I thought Jimmy’s flash was neat. I liked Clark’s typewriter. But my favorite thing about the newspaper was their web offset printing press. It was huge. I imagined stepping inside one as if it were a locomotive.
Well, the truth is, while technology has gotten better and tighter, mechanical printing presses are still just about as gigantic.
The highest quality printing presses you’ll find are from companies with decades of experience. Companies like Heidelberg and Manroland were one of the first to produce behemoth presses that consumed rolls and rolls of paper bigger than a VW Beetle. Here’s a tour you might like: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q_qBSz0_Els .
Later on, Japanese companies jumped into the fray with their own presses by the names of Toshiba and Mitsubishi. While the Japanese did almost everything as well as the Germans did in the 70’s and 80’s. Making printing presses wasn’t one of them.
The vibration and color registration fidelity of the Japanese machines just don’t compare well with the German originators. And as you’d imagine, the costs and time to produce your catalogs, magazines, books, textbooks, and brochures reflect those differences as well.