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What does an Offset Press Operator do?

By Mona D. Rigdon
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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An offset press operator has the overall duty to operate an offset printing press. Within this capacity, there are many detailed tasks required to complete the job. Someone in this position must be familiar with the offset printing process as well as the products that an offset printing press produces. The press operator must set up the press to run specific print runs with unique measurements and color requirements and must monitor equipment for proper function and then adjust accordingly. The finished product must be inspected carefully several times throughout the process to ensure consistency of quality.

The offset printing process is the process by which many printed materials — including books, brochures, business cards, posters and a host of other types of print goods — are produced. An offset press operator must make sure the machine, or offset printing press, is ready for operation. In order to accomplish this task, the offset press operator uses a customer's job order to determine print quantity, paper type, color separation and any special printing instructions that might be included.

After this information is determined, the data is input into a computerized interface on the machine. A large portion of the process is much less automated. Printing plates must be measured for proper thickness and often built up to proper printing height. The plates must be installed and locked into position by hand. Adjustments are made with hand tools in order to achieve the proper printing pressure between the equipment and the stock. The offset press operator often must load rolls of paper and apply packing sheets in order to build proper blanket thickness.

Even paper thickness must be measured and adjustments made between the press's blanket and impression cylinders. Fountains that contain ink and dampening solution must be filled, and controls that regulate the flow of these liquids must be adjusted in order to ensure proper flow to the plate cylinder. When these things have been done, the press operator starts the equipment and examines the first copies produced for proper ink density, color and position on the paper before making any necessary adjustments. Output is constantly checked to ensure proper position and print quality.

When a job is complete, the offset press operator might unload or oversee the unloading, cutting, folding or post-press process as well as packaging of printed material from the press. Further, the offset press operator is responsible for removing and cleaning plates and cylinders from the equipment between runs. An offset press operator might have an assistant, depending on the specific employer. In the instance of an assistant's presence, the offset press operator is responsible for supervision of the assistants and appropriate delegation of tasks. The press operator also might be responsible for equipment maintenance and minor repairs.

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