May 11, 2004 -- The inventor of lithography, Alois Senefelder, is considered to be the father of offset printing. In 1798 he discovered a chemical printing process that soon became known as lithography. It was in Offenbach, today the headquarters of MAN Roland, where Senefelder built his first lithographic presses.
All thanks to the blanket
It wasn’t until more than 100 years later, between 1904 and 1907, that the modern offset printing process, also based on chemical reactions, became viable, finally setting it apart from traditional processes that used fat extracts and water. Now the leading printing process for virtually all printed products, it grew from developments made in the field of zinc plate printing at the beginning of the 20th century, and made use of the possibilities offered by indirect printing used in the tin printing process.
The great breakthrough in offset wasn’t made until the middle of the 1950s, however, when suppliers in the industry improved their dampening solutions and technologies, in particular inks and other process products. Though cheaper ink production methods and the increased use of pre-coated printing plates were important in the development of offset printing, the decisive factor in the success of the process has to be the sudden developments made in the field of photosetting.
This package of mutually influencing factors helped the new printing process rack up success after success in the industry. In contrast to the other two main printing processes (gravure printing and letterpress printing), the share of offset printing in overall sales gained momentum year after year, increasing from 19.2% in 1962 to 20.5% in 1967. Ten years later this figure had risen to 37.4%. In 1982 offset printing finally and irreversibly overtook the day’s leading process, letterpress printing.
Caspar Herrmann and his ingenious mind paved the way for offset printing with a range of pioneering developments. Throughout its history, MAN has always given such forward-looking thinkers the opportunity to realize their ideas – including individuals like Carl von Linde and Rudolf Diesel, who worked in other areas.
Offset printing in Plauen
Immigrating to the USA at the age of 18, and returning to Germany in 1907, Herrmann is considered to be one of the founding pioneers of modern offset printing. From early on, he was affiliated with three important printing press manufacturers, all of them at home today under the MAN Roland arch. In 1913 Herrmann first went to VOMAG in Plauen (today MAN Roland in Plauen), where he became one of the driving forces behind the manufacture of web offset and sheetfed printing presses.
Offset printing in Augsburg
When MAN decided to start manufacturing offset presses in 1920, Herrmann, an expert in the field, moved to Augsburg to act as an instructor. MAN’s first web offset press was built in 1921 with his help. In 1931, Herrmann also solved the problem of offset printing without dampening. For his tests, he purchased a lithographic press from Faber & Schleicher AG, and modified it according to his needs. In the field of commercial applications, offset printing is closely associated with Offenbach.
Offset printing in Offenbach
In its early days, Faber & Schleicher, MAN Roland’s predecessor in Offenbach, was active in the field of planographic printing and by 1879 had developed the first high-speed lithographic press, the legendary Albatros. In 1911, the company developed the world’s first offset sheetfed press for off-set printing, the ROLAND, whose name now graces the MAN Roland brand, and which has become almost synonymous with offset printing.
Offset printing in Geisenheim
The fourth pioneer in offset printing, the Rheingau company of Miller Johannisberg Druckmaschinenfabrik, of Geisenheim, introduced its first offset press, the GUROMA, in 1922. This company now also belongs to MAN Roland.
Growing on its expertise from the very beginning, it’s not surprising that MAN Roland today is the uncontested specialist in offset printing, the world leader in web offset presses for newspaper printing and selected commercials, and the world’s second-largest supplier of sheetfed presses for publishing, advertising and packaging printing. In honor of Alois Senefelder, the inventor of lithography, the International Senefelder Foundation was founded in Offenbach am Main on November 6, 1971, the 200th birthday of Senefelder, in an initiative headed by MAN Roland. The foundation pre-serves the memory of the ingenious inventor, promotes young artists and engineers, collects documents, objects and lithographs, and sponsors and supports exhibitions that serve lithographic technology and its continuing development.
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