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It’s all in the detail – A14 visit

I’ve been a bit quiet recently (due to competition brief etiquette) but yesterday Emma, Lucy, Amber and I took a trip to Nottingham.

Simon Downer of A14 Print Finishing came to Lincoln a couple of weeks ago to talk to us about print finishes. He also did a really helpful crash course in how to structure an email to a printer so that we would know all the essential details to include  for future print jobs.

I approached him at the end of the talk and he agreed to let a small group of students visit A14, and so we did:

We’d never been to a printers or had any contact with one before and so didn’t really know what to expect… Welcome to where the magic happens:

All the essential paper stock, foils, machinery and tools to create some striking print finishes. Simon gave us a tour of the A14 workshop, starting on the right hand side…

…with the 3 Original Heidelberg machines.

At A14 there’s not a digital printer in sight, and with good reason! They may be old (dating back to 1961 I remember Simon saying) but these Heidelberg machines are the best traditional printing machines to exist and are completely mechanical. This means that, like clockwork, if one part of the machine is out of place the whole process stops.

The machine above can also be used for letterpress, but was in the process of cutting paper during our visit. Multi-fuctional and brilliant!

I don’t know why, but I loved the little counter counting the sheets of paper at the bottom of the machine. I think it’s just those simple things that are now controlled by a computer.

Standing next to the machine, we could feel the air circulating from the machinery pumping away. You can’t get the whole experience, but for all you print geeks, see and hear it in action below:

Next, Simon showed us the foil blocking machine. During our visit, some blood red foiling was taking place. The front/foiled side…

….and on the back you can see the embossed pressure mark. So much nicer than plain surface printing!

A little fun fact for you; 95% of foil in the world is gold and silver, so coloured foil is pretty rare (and expensive I can imagine).

Below, some die cutting is taking place for a business card:

Simon explained that for this particular business card they were die cutting a shape into the grey card so that when they duplexed it with orange card, the shape would show through as orange.

Keeping with business cards, Simon then showed us a new process:

Edge foiling!

It looked so great on this design (white on both sides with an embossed logo on the back) and added a lovely hint of colour.

Simon also showed us the lithography printer and explained the thermography printer too(comparing it to the toaster in a hotel – conveyor belt haha!).

We ventured upstairs where we found some die templates…

… showing the creasing and cutting blades.

Simon kindly let us have a rummage through some boxes of business cards and choose some to take for examples of the different processes. Like the geeks we are, we quite enjoyed looking through and selecting some really nicely finished cards.

My selection:

Seeing all the possibilities got us quite excited and really put us in the mood to get our own business cards printed – Graphic Designers are easily pleased, hey?

Thanks to Simon and everyone at A14 for letting us visit. It was really interesting to see print in action and was a great experience! A14 are really passionate about print and producing something with that little bit extra – you can check out some of their work (even place an order!) here.

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© Natasha Nuttall | January 2022

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