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The DIfference

Jun 1, 2005 12:00 AM

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In 1985, Tony Ngo purchased Oakmead Printing, Inc. (Sunnyvale, CA) and began the process of transforming it for the digital age. Ngo found that he was outgrowing his two-color presses due to the longer, two-pass cycle times they required to produce four-color printing. "I knew that in order to stay in the printing business, I would need to upgrade my offset technology."

When Ngo first investigated direct imaging (DI) press technology, he felt the quality wouldn’t satisfy his clients. But then he saw a special onsert on the cover of AMERICAN PRINTER (to see onsert, click here). "I was surprised to learn the cover was produced on the latest generation of the DI press," says Ngo.

The September 2004 cover onsert highlights some key DI benefits including:

  • The ability to print 300-line screens and support FM (stochastic) screening.
  • On-press plate imaging, in-register with initial ink key settings in place.
  • Cost-effective production of full-color runs ranging from 350 to 20,000 impressions.

Speed and quality played a key role in Ngo’s decision. "I have had Ryobi presses since day one, and I know they are reliable. Once I saw the quality of the latest generation of presses with the Presstek ProFire Excel imaging system, I knew it was the right time to buy."

KPG has been marketing, selling and servicing the Ryobi-platform 5034 DI since mid-2003. (See "Why DI," August 2003.) At Drupa 2004, KPG showed the DirectPress 5634 DI system, which reportedly leverages the 5034’s automation capabilities and adds incremental imaging capabilities.

Ngo already was using Kodak’s DryView film, so the chemistry-free DI press was a good fit. He also likes the automation. "With the DirectPress 5634 DI, I no longer would have to make film, strip plates, mount plates, register plates and set ink keys," says Ngo. "I would be able to produce sellable sheets quickly. With all of the automation, the press operator can be loading paper while the machine is imaging plates and establishing job settings. Before he can even finish loading, the press is ready to go." With positive feedback from a colleague’s Graph Expo 2004 visit, Ngo turned to business partner Kodak Polychrome Graphics (KPG) to purchase the DirectPress 5634 DI.

Heavy coverage is easy
Ngo installed his press in December of 2004 and was ready to start the new year with his new capabilities. He established an online service, 2DirectPress, and began to go after new business. He says, "With the press’ 300-lpi printing—enabled by the new Presstek ProFire Excel laser imaging head—I knew I could sell DI output. I had no reservations. I knew that I would be able to handle any job that came my way."

With the KPG DirectPress 5634 DI, Ngo runs mostly four-color work, although he indicates he has run Pantone—or spot—colors successfully. "Here in Silicon Valley, people like a lot of ink coverage on their business cards, and many of the company logos incorporate multiple colors.

One expansion opportunity Ngo uncovered was the production of business cards and marketing materials for smaller companies that require small quantities of printed materials but previously could afford only color copier output. Ngo is able to justify high-quality DI offset printing for quantities as low as 300. He says, "Just because you are a small company doesn’t mean you have to look small in terms of the quality of your business cards and marketing materials. The materials I am producing for these clients give their businesses more credibility."

Ngo also recalls a client from a small company who needed to produce a 20-page (plus cover) full-color booklet on a limited budget. Ideally, he would have liked 1,500 copies, but that run was too expensive on either a color copier or conventional offset. Producing the 1,500 quantity on Ngo’s DI press fit within the budget, and the client was delighted at the enhanced quality of the piece. Ngo reports he would never have been able to secure this type of job prior to his acquisition of the KPG DirectPress 5634 DI.

Keep it simple
Oakmead Printing is a five-employee operation. Ngo explains, "Because of all of the computerization I have introduced into the business, I don’t need a lot of people. I introduced an accounting program for estimating and billing—operations that used to take several people to do in the past. The automation offered by the KPG DirectPress 5634 DI also takes the place of several people in the production process." As his business grew, Ngo found that he was able to be more efficient and more productive to deliver better quality and increase production capacity without adding more people.

Ngo also indicates that the installation process for the DirectPress 5634 DI was extremely smooth. He says, "All we needed to know was what buttons to press and how to manage the computerized front end of the press—that part of it."

Ngo says, "With the old process, if something went wrong in one of the steps, it could be difficult to meet my promised due dates. And I still have my conventional presses as backup if the DI press needs maintenance or I have an extremely heavy workload."

About Oakmead Printing
Tony Ngo, who emigrated from Burma in 1971, bought Oakmead Printing in 1985. The company has served the San Francisco Bay area for more than 20 years, specializing in corporate communication, stationery and marketing collateral.

In 1997, Ngo used the Internet to expand Oakmead’s reach with The web-based business card management system gives large corporate customers an easy way to manage all facets of business card production, from ordering to proofing to tracking jobs.

Oakmead’s most recent business service,, is designed to help small businesses capitalize on the company’s new Kodak Polychrome Direct Press 5634 DI. The online service facilitates one- or two-day turnaround for short-run, full-color jobs.

Cary Sherburne is a marketing consultant and author. She can be reached at