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A Sheet-fed press, as the name implies, feeds sheets of paper into the press. Sheet-fed presses can handle a wide variety of stock styles, sizes and weights, even plastic substrates. And they can also offer on press coatings and spot varnishes, and that gives you a lot of flexibility. Because paper for a Sheet-fed press is cut into sheets, rather than being supplied on a roll, wider and sometimes more interesting varieties of stocks are available for Sheet-fed presses. Consequently jobs such as high-quality brochures, pocket folders and packaging are often printed on sheet-fed presses.
Presses vary in size, taking paper sizes from 30x40 inches to 120x160 inches and even larger. The number of ink units can vary from a single unit for one color work to presses that can print 12 inks in one pass. Each blank sheet of paper is picked up by small vacuum feet then moved forward into the press by a second set of vacuum feet. Banks of rollers keep the paper moving toward the inlet of the press until grippers can grasp the edge of the sheet and pull it into the press for printing.
Here you can see the vacuum feet picking up the paper in slow motion. The feet on the right make contact with the paper first, then the secondary feet on the left lift the paper and move it forward toward the inlet of the press. This is quite an engineering feat and that's even before the ink starts hitting paper. The press must be brought up to standards for ink coverage and registration using computerized controls and the experienced pressman's expert judgment. During this process--which is called make- ready--many adjustments may be made to bring the press setup to the optimum settings. Once this is done, the live press run begins.
Sheet-fed presses are capable of very high quality printing, including high line screen projects such as coffee table books and fine art prints. Coatings such as flood coatings overall or spot varnishes can be applied right on the press, enhancing the look and feel of the finished piece. Sheet-fed presses produce fewer impressions per hour than web presses, so they're not usually used for long-run jobs such as textbooks or publications. But if your next project requires the high-quality and stock flexibility afforded by sheet-fed presses, ask the printer if it's right for your job.
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