GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas --
The first printing press was invented around 1440. This revolutionary piece of equipment changed the face of communication. Over the past 577 years, as the world evolved, so too did the world of printing. On Goodfellow Air Force Base, the local print shop has kept up with these changes over the past 50 years, providing printed materials to test and train intelligence and firefighting professionals.
In the past, printing was a messy business. It was laborious and required multiple personnel to man the complex gears, plates and inks. Stevie Clark, printing specialist, described the past process as tedious, where it was necessary to print only one page at a time. The current printing process is more streamlined with digital presses that resemble copiers.
Despite a culture moving away from printing, the print shop finds their services in high demand. According to Steve Chenault, the print shop supervisor, the print shop continues to print an average of 3 million copies a year.
“There is still a need for printed material to help students learn,” said Chenault. He went on to describe, “Our primary mission priority is printing classified training material; secondary priority is printing everything else for training and base support.”
Chenault explained how the print shop has changed with the times.
“We have cut out a lot of what we don’t need to make sure we are only paying for what we need and what we use,” said Chenault. “We’re completely in the digital world.”
Currently, the print shop has three large scale digital printers. Two printers are monochrome providing high speed and high quality prints. These mammoth machines are about the size of a car and also have unique finishing capabilities to include tape binding and booklet options. Past printers required separate machines to complete these same tasks. In addition to the two monochrome printers, the print shop also has a color press. While they look like large copiers, Chenault was sure to clarify these are digital presses. The color press provides high quality, vibrant color for products like the Force Support Squadron Connections publication.
Despite the automation of printing presses, Clark feels there will always be a need for printing. “Even back in the great depression, when people weren’t working, printers were working,” said Clark. “There’s always going to be a need for printing presses because there is certain stuff you cannot do on electronic equipment.”
What Clark has found through his years in the printing industry is the skills he learned on the large printing presses continue to assist him on modern day equipment.
“Now you’re doing adjustments on the screen, but recognizing what’s causing that problem, I learned all of that doing it in commercial printing,” said Clark.
While the world is becoming more digital, there continues to be an important need for printed materials in Goodfellow’s learning environment and the skilled eye of the print technician. “A good metaphor is the driverless car,” said Chenault. “We’re headed that way. The problem is, in this situation, it still requires a skilled practitioner to get the product you want.”