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Hot off the press

Mohan Kumar Shetty /Dubai
Filed on April 15, 2018 | Last updated on April 15, 2018 at 09.45 pm
Hot off the press



The printing press runs in clockwork fashion, but it is the passion of the staff that keeps the machine going.

When the first edition of Khaleej Times was launched on April 16, 1978, it was printed only in black ink using a Linotype UK Hunter Rotary press, a hot metal typesetting machine that cast blocks of metal type for printing.

This was the same machine that was largely featured towards the end of the movie The Post, where an operator enters text on a keyboard and letters and numbers are formed in a line called matrices. The assembled lines are then cast as a single piece, called a slug, in a process known as hot metal typesetting. 

Hot off the press (KT15137415.JPG)

Mohan Kumar Shetty, Head of Production and IT Operations

It was a revolutionary machine at the time, used by big newspaper companies around the world. In the UAE, it allowed the first English daily to be more readily distributed to the English-reading and speaking residents and visitors, thus increasing the spread of information on the affairs of a fledgling nation. 

 For 10 years, from 1978 until 1988, Khaleej Times was typeset on a Linotype VIP typesetter using Bromide reels (black and white proofs on photographic papers) and printed on a Linotype UK Hunter Rotary machine that could churn out 30,000 copies an hour of 20-page, 630mm-long (24.8inch) cut-off newsprint. 

Colours came in 1988, when we installed Harris Graphics USA NCH 400 Web printing with colour heat set printing units. This press was capable of printing four coloured pages and 16 pages in black and white, producing 35,000 copies per hour. 

For typesetting, we used Compugraphic France MCS 100 typesetting system with 10-inch floppy drives and we operated on Editwriter 7700 as output device with bromide output.

 The front and back pages of Khaleej Times were in full colour, as well as the inside front and inside back pages. The length of the newspaper was the same as it is today: 578mm (22.75 inch), but with a wider cut-off.

 In 1992, we were the first in the Gulf region to go for Digital Technology International USA (DTI) news publishing system with Apple Macintosh workstations for editorial operations. 

We acquired Agfa family of image setters and we were able to take fully-assembled pages on films instead of bromides. The system worked with the database running on Sun Solaris servers.

 In 2003, we moved the printing operation to Al Qouz Industrial Area 1 from the old plant, which is now the present Mazda showroom along Sheikh Zayed Road, near Oasis Centre.

There was no interruption in the production as the new building was equipped with state-of-the art equipment available. We installed MANRoland Cromoman 50 web printing press with two lines, which can print a total of 28 pages in full colour - out of which 12 pages were in glossy paper. The speed of the machine produced 50,000 copies per hour.  

 As always, there has been careful attention to detail and high standards. By 2004, we already had semi-automatic CTP (computer-to-plate) imaging technology, where images created on desktop publishing application were directly output to a printing plate.

 In 2008, we revamped the DTI news publishing system to Integrated News Publishing system, adding advertisement system with CTP and pre-press systems with interface to Press console PECOM system for real-time capture and evaluation of production data.  

 Simply put, we were the first in the region to have a fully integrated workflow system with direct production and printing data to plate technology. In 2015, we had a fully automatic line, which we upgraded in 2016 with fully-automated Fuji and Nela system.

 At present, the machines are run by a staff totalling 150, including engineers, maintenance crew, technicians, binders, and utility men. The number of people has grown from around 75 production staff 40 years ago. 

 The printing press runs in clockwork fashion, but it is the passion of the staff that keeps the machine going. 

 More than half of my life has been spent with Khaleej Times. I can honestly say: it is the best place to work - where you help produce newspapers every day. I have been a part of the major installation and operations of all machineries and systems for the last 30 years - from the black and white newsprints of yesteryears to the present-day glossy newspapers. Nothing is monotonous, and more importantly, I'm part of an institution that chronicles the history of the UAE. 

(As told to Angel L. Tesorero) 





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