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Step & Repeat

Based in Hagerstown, Maryland (US), Phoenix Color®, a division of Lakeside Book Company, is a premier full-service, full-color printer with over 40 years of excellence in the printing industry. Phoenix Color® produces memorable, value added components, heavily illustrated books, and specialty commercial products using various materials and decorative technologies. They have been servicing the publishing industry since 1979 and have formed lasting relationships with some of the biggest names in book publishing.


A key aspect of their success lies in their pioneering imposition techniques a critical process in printing where the arrangement of pages is optimized for efficiency. Keith Keefer, Prepress Operations Supervisor, shares insights on Phoenix Color's utilization of software solutions DALIM ES and DALIM TWIST to revolutionize their workflows.


Phoenix Color incorporated DALIM LITHO into their production process in 1996, signaling a transition towards a new workflow system using DALIM SOFTWARE. The purchase of DALIM TWIST followed, which allowed for the creation of a range of workflows. With the emergence of PDFs as a viable file format, Phoenix Color converted their existing files from PostScript to PDF, setting the stage for increased automation in their workflow. This conversion led to the development of automated systems for creating printing plates and arranging impositions; all managed through DALIM TWIST, a system that remains integral to their operations today.


Some years later, they expanded their toolkit by investing in DALIM ES. This decision was based on solid factors: the system promised to bring about time and labor efficiencies while improving accuracy. Initially, DALIM ES functioned primarily as a digital asset management system, helping customers manage their assets.


Keith Keefer has been a regular at DALIM SOFTWARE user meetings for over two decades, gathering extensive experience with DALIM ES. His knowledge led to the realization that DALIM ES could be effectively integrated as a front-end system for DALIM TWIST.


Phoenix Color's Palette: More Than Just Pages

Phoenix Color® has carved a unique space in the market focusing on book components rath- er than the more common multipage documents like magazines or books. The cornerstone of their production is crafting book covers and printing children's books. The decision to adopt DALIM TWIST workflows was motivated by the system’s streamlining capabilities for producing children’s books.


All page impositions were carried out within DALIM LITHO. A DALIM page (patented format created by DALIM SOFTWARE) was crafted to function as the imposition template, into which pages were filled as needed for each form. Following the creation of the initial form, a fill list facilitated the dropping and automatic refreshing of pages, yet the overall process required manual intervention. 


Phoenix Color can print all components of children's books, encompassing covers, jackets, and interiors, complemented by a comprehensive bindery service. They predominantly employ notch binding, Smyth sewing, and perfect binding options. The facility is equipped with its own die-cutting and high-speed folding machinery. The interiors of children's books are typical- ly printed using a four-color process, while the covers can feature up to eight colors. Specialized printing on metalized stock is also offered, which requires the use of opaque white inks along with standard process or spot colors.


However, the production of book components constitutes a larger share of the business, as the cover is essential in selling the book. They take on many projects for New York Times bestsellers’ book covers. All special finishes are applied in-house, including foil, embossing, spot UV coat- ing, and film lamination to enhance the covers' visual appeal and tactile quality.


Workflow Evolution

The development of their workflows has been driven by demand; each successful implemen- tation has led to requests for more. Today, DALIM ES and DALIM TWIST manage the brunt of all workflow operations. Of course, with these advancements comes a realignment in labor requirements. Nevertheless, operators are still needed to handle processes that cannot be auto- mated. Visual inspections, particularly for color trapping in eight-color print jobs, are crucial— because no system is foolproof.

The process of printing the interiors of books has been greatly optimized through automation. For instance, the 32 pages of a section are seamless ly arranged into an imposed form by a designated workflow. Printing is done on 40-inch Heidelberg sheetfed presses, typically using a four-color over four-color setup, although some projects require a five over-five configuration. This system ensures that each sheet can be printed on both sides through tumbling or perfecting methods.


The workflow incorporates page numbers and a digital guide corresponding to the page's trim size. This guide is implemented through DALIM TWIST to verify proper bleed margins. Historically, such guidelines were manually drawn to indicate the final trim and bleed for client previews.


These guides, however, are not printed on the final product. Instead, along the edge, there is an informational text that details the job number, creation date, sheet dimensions, color separations, and the technician responsible for the job.


According to Keith Keefer, managing these pro- cesses with DALIM TWIST is a unique way of doing things.


The Art of Imposition

Creating impositions varies by project. Book covers differ from interiors; for a book, whether 32, 64, or even 128 pages, it's arranged on a sheet, often measuring 23 by 35 inches. This job goes through a DALIM TWIST workflow to set up the imposed form, which is then quality-checked and sent to the customer for approval. Following con- firmation, printing plates are created.


Covers follow a similar route. Customers receive individual proofs of covers, known as a 'one-up,' for their review and approval. Once approved, the imposition is arranged based on the sheet size and the quantity needed for the press run.


Phoenix Color® has 11 presses of three different sizes, ensuring the right fit for each job.


Regarding the book pages, the imposition must account for the folding requirements. After receiving the green light to print, these pages are configured into DALIM TWIST and assigned to a press.


The components remain as one-ups until a printing schedule is determined. Depending on various factors, such as the print run size and press availability, they may be arranged in layouts of two, four, or even eight on a larger press and sheet. The books are designated to be printed on either of two specific presses, which operate with configurations of five-over-five or four-over-four.

The flexibility of DALIM TWIST and DALIM ES streamlines the setup process significantly. Operators need only input basic parameters such as the sheet size and the desired imposition lay- out. After naming the file, they proceed to upload the files for production.


With DALIM ES and DALIM TWIST, a substantial volume of files is processed across two facilities — one in Maryland and the other in Indiana. The Indiana plant files are uploaded using DALIM ES, which triggers the DALIM TWIST workflows.


Once processed, the files are downloaded again for local use.


The approach to preparing plating files mirrors this process. It involves creating the layout for the imposition and defining the sheet size, with the additional step of applying specific press curves for printing. The sheet size is determined first, and then the layout is transferred onto a printing plate.


Once a cover is approved for printing, platemakers utilize DALIM WEBLINK, which provides a visual front-end interface for the DALIM TWIST processes, to initiate production. Through this system, the printing plates are generated automatically.


Maximizing Output with DALIM SOFTWARE

The company can impose and plate between 100 to 200 jobs daily thanks to the operation of 11 presses, with each press handling an aver- age of 10 jobs per day. This equates to around 110 jobs a day, and if each is a four-color single-sided print, the output is approximately 440 plates a day, adding up to the production of around 13,000 plates monthly.


Considering the traditional method, assem- bling these forms manually—a process known as stripping—would have involved many workers, often filling an entire room manually cutting and arranging film. Now, the process is much more efficient with MergeXP. While DALIM ES provides the front-end interface, DALIM TWIST does the heavy lifting in the background.


The financial efficiency gained from integrating DALIM ES and DALIM TWIST into the pro- duction process has been substantial, playing a crucial role in Phoenix Color®’s success.

About the author
As a content manager with a multicultural background, I am dedicated to creating impactful content that extends my reach globally. I seek meaningful opportunities and challenges that engage my passion for helping others and solving problems through innovative content creation.