How a Book is Made


The Making of Creative Projects with LEGO Mindstorms (2001)

Addison-Wesley Professional / Pearson Education

Ben Erwin

Pictures taken at QuadGraphics in Taunton, Massachusetts, US (location now closed)

Back in 2001, Tyrrell from Addison-Wesley invited me to go watch my book being printed. She figured, quite correctly, that someone who wrote a book about the Engineering design process would like to see the Engineering behind how books are made. After I made this web page she told me that Addison-Wesley were using it as part of their new employee orientation process!

1. Plate Maker

The first step in printing a book is with this machine which makes aluminum plates from PDF documents. About 32 pages can be fit onto one plate. For a color book like mine, every set of 32 pages will have 4 different plates made, one for each colors of ink. For example, for page 1-32, there will be the black plate, yellow plate, red plate, and blue plate.

2. Plate Machine

The aluminum plates are then passed through this machine, which buffs them.

3. Plates

Here are some plates for Creative Projects with LEGO Mindstorms hanging up.

4. Plate Close up - Black Plate

Here is the black plate for a section of Chapter 4.

5. Plate Close up - Yellow Plate

This is the yellow plate for a section of Chapter 4. Note the lack of text!

6. Whole Machine

A "sig" is short for a "signature". This is the name given to the set of pages that gets printed from a single plate (e.g. 32 pages). The next step after making the plates is to make the "sigs". This is the machine that makes them.

7. Me and Whole (well, half) Machine

This image only shows the first half of the sig-making machine. Note that the beginning of the machine (behind me) is divided into four sections. This is because each of the four colors is printed one at a time in succession.

8. Inside of Machine

The aluminum plates are scanned, and the information is entered into the computer of the printing machine. Here are the innards of the machine.

9. The "Forest"

Some publishers buy the paper that they want to use for the book and have it sent to Quadgraphics. This was the case for Creative Projects with LEGO Mindstorms. However, Quadgraphics has plenty of paper on-hand in this room, which they call The Forest.

10. Paper Roll

The paper rolls come in over 100 varieties, and several different sizes. They are loaded onto the back of the printing machine with a large hoist.

11. Paper Roll Close-Up

Here is a closer view of the paper roll.

12. Tension Controls

The printing machine needs to keep a uniform tension (pulling force) so that there is no slack or wrinkles in the paper.

13. Ink

The four colors of ink are contained within enormous ink barrels and then piped to the printing machine.

14. Ink Buckets

Some ink buckets.

15. Black

Black is the first color to get printed onto the paper.

16. Blue

Blue is the second color to get printed onto the paper.

17. Red

Red is the third color to get printed onto the paper.

18. Yellow

Yellow is the fourth and final color to get printed onto the paper.

19. Being Printed

Here is a blurry image of the paper whizzing by, just after getting the black ink printed onto it.

20. The Heaters

After getting four colors of ink, the paper is very wet. The next part of the machine contains a series of heaters to dry out the paper. The long rectangular oven-looking doors behind everyone are the heaters.

21. One Heater Door

A close-up inside one of the heater doors.

22. The Cooler

After getting dried off, the paper is hot and has also expanded a little bit because of the heat. The next part of the machine includes cooling drums to get the paper back down to a normal temperature and size.

23. The Folder

After the cooling drums, the paper is sent through the folder.

24. Coming Off the Press

The 32-page signatures come off the press and are put onto the conveyor belt.

25. Conveyor Belt

The conveyor belt carries all of the sigs.

26. Conveyor Belt 2

Another shot of the conveyor belt.

27. Control Room

As the sigs were being made, we were in the control room.

28. Controls

There are lots of controls in the room, some of which I learned about...

29. Me In Control Room

The 25 red and blue switches control the the color levels for each portion of the paper. You have to choose the color you are modifying from one of the four buttons that you can see partially in the lower left of the photo.

30. Looking at a Sig

Here is Tyrrell and one of the press guys looking at some sigs from the first batch with a magnifying glass.

31. Red + Black Dots = Maroon

Here is the view of some maroon text through the magnifying glass. Black dots printed on red letters make words look maroon! Tyrrell brought her own LEGO pieces to check the printed colors of the robots!

32. Getting Collated

This is the collating machine. Each row of paper contains copies of the same signature. The collating machine takes one signature from each row and stacks them all together to form the entire book.

33. Getting Collated - Rear

Here is the rear view of the collating machine.

34. Cutting Wheel

After getting collated, the edges of the books are cut with a wheel like this one to make them smooth and even.

35. Getting Cut

Here are three cutting wheels in action. Lots of tiny bits of shredded paper were near the floor.

36. On the Way to Glue

After getting cut, the books go about their way towards the gluing machine.

37. Getting Glued

The glue gets applied to each book binding.

38. Books Without Covers

The books wait on the shelf a while before getting their covers.

39. Shrink Wrap Machine

After getting a cover, the books get shrink-wrapped by this machine.

40. Warehouse

The last room of the plant is the warehouse, where the books sit and wait to be shipped out.

41. Paul

Paul in the press room, adjusting color levels and looking at signatures.

42. Me and Press Guys

Me and the Press-room guys.

43. Frank and Brian

Frank (who took us on the tour) and Brian.

44. Me, Tyrrell, Carol, and Kim

Me, Tyrrell (production manager at Addison Wesley), Carol (Addison Wesley), and Kim (Quebecor World).