In 2008 News International built the largest printing works in the world at Broxbourne, a series of twelve presses that take up an area the size of twenty three football pitches, at a cost of Â£350m. The plant uses rolls of paper that each weighs two tonnes and processes three hundred and thirty thousand tonnes of newsprint annually.
Printing a newspaper now relies on phototypesetting which allows last minute alterations to be made with a click of a mouse. Copy deadlines are calculated to the last minute to enable editors to include late breaking stories and keep up with a constant stream of digital news. As well as the text there are separate teams working to produce all the images and adverts, checking the quality and accuracy of each before passing them on to be included.
To compete with glossy magazine advertising colour reproduction in newspapers has been greatly enhanced with stringent monitoring of proofs against colour monitoring tools to keep the advertisers happy. The increase in picture quality has been a bonus for the readers too. For papers that are printed at a number of different sites, such as USA today, the files are transmitted via satellite using a system that automatically checks for errors and requests retransmission if any are detected, without the need for human intervention.
The Broxbourne site contains five Manroland Colorman XXL 5-86 triple width presses which can print broadsheets with up to 120 pages and tabloids with 240. After printing the paper passes through one of five 4:7:7 folding machines whose six Formers can process up to five separate sections. The paper itself is fed by two Uveritas reel preparation lines that can handle sixty of the two tonne reels every hour and can hold 10,000 tonnes of newsprint at a time. The copy is handled by five Polaris Platesetters that use YUV laser diodes with a maximum imaging capacity of 220 plates per hour. Once printed, the newspapers are processed in the mailroom on five Ferag lines that are each made up of three MTS Stackers processing 30 bundles a minute that are strapped and palletised by five DAN high speed machines, as the presses produce up to 86,000 papers every hour.
Competing in a digital age has transformed newspaper presses to push production boundaries ever harder and faster to the levels that are demanded today.