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Printing Impressions-August 2002 Column
An Old Friend Resurfaces for a Digital Future
For me, what once was the most exciting surface in all of printing has resurfaced. Well actually, it never really went away. But looking back almost 30 years, I can remember when a customer specified Kromekote it was a special project. And, yes there was King James and Mark 1 and we were supposed to call these glass-like papers by the generic name cast-coated. However no one did as every printer I knew used Champion’s brand name, Kromekote, as the category nomenclature.

Time marches on, and new varieties of paper, both domestic and foreign, have paraded through, couple that with on-press varnishing techniques, aqueous and UV coating, and some of Kromekote’s luster may have faded. I also can recall when many designers no longer wanted a cast-coated finish as their tastes changed to less glossy and dull stocks. So the excitement of printing that special project on Kromekote had become just another memory in a mind cluttered with so many memories of this great industry. That is until I met Garth Geist in a small booth at the On-Demand show in New York.

If you’re a regular reader of my column (anybody?), then you’re aware of my belief that office single-pass color laser printers like the Xerox Phaser 7700 will eventually play a large role in short-run print. Garth is Director of Digital Media for Smart Papers and his impressive knowledge and enthusiasm for the future of digital print and the role of paper soon enveloped me in a fascinating conversation. Garth suggested that I try KromekotePlus on my next Phaser 7700 project as he has seen some excellent results using the updated version of this old industry great for digital printing. Smart Papers now owns Kromekote complete with the original mill that still continues to make this super shinny paper.

Understand that although I will always have ink flowing through my veins that I’m no longer out there competing against you guys trying to make a living by selling impressions. I’m a consultant who writes and works on various industry projects. However, in order to experiment and learn, I will do some short-run work for friends. In that vein, I promised my friend Richard, a glass artist (, I would print 300 copies of his 8 ½ x 11 4/c 2-sided brochure which I had put together. Garth sent me enough 6 point C/2/S Kromekoteplus cover to do the job.

The results were amazing. The final product looked as good as anything commercially printed. It was bright and snappy with images that popped with color. All my fond Kromekote memories came back in a rush as the paper did its part, admirably, in making the job special. 300 copies were 600 impressions that took about 35 minutes total time without a single glitch or paper problem. Each sheet looked like the one before and after.

Kromekote’s hard mirror-like appearance is actually a deception as the stock is very porous enabling quick drying. Commercial printers have long known about the ability to work and turn short-run jobs on this seemingly glass-like surface without the offset problems associated with other coated sheets. This porous surface minimizes dot gain and provides micro pores for laser printing toner particles. Garth pointed out other technical factors as to why Kromekote is a natural for digital printing like the Parker Print Surface (PPS) reading of point 0.4 which I guess would impress a true paperholic. But as impressed as I was with Kromekoteplus, Garth claimed that Smart Paper’s special laser grade, Kromekote Laser High Gloss, has a unique coating formulation that further enhances toner adhesion. Garth was also quick to point out that the results would be even better on the more sophisticated machines like Indigo, NexPress, and iGen3. I’m sure it would. But, for me, it was nice seeing a great golden oldie surface, resurface for what should be a bright digital future.

Speaking of the digital future, Rich’s brochure cost about $65 for consumables, including paper and toner. The Phaser 7700 costs about $9000 to buy, runs almost unattended, and set-up is as simple as loading paper in the trays, making cost of ownership low. Plus, in the spring of this year, both Xerox and HP introduced single pass lasers in the $2000 price range. They are about 20% slower than the Phaser 7700 and can only handle 8 ½ x 11 but look at that price. Also both companies have more slatted for the fall and don’t think their competitors are asleep. In a few short years single-pass office laser printers will get even better, cheaper with a lower cost of consumables. So wither you like it or not single-pass office laser printers are going to have an enormous impact on our industry. As desktop digital printing begins to emerge as a force all printers should be thinking of how to maintain their viability with their customers. Perhaps the thinking and planning should start now.

Harry Waldman

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