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Friedrich Koenig invents the Steam Powered Platen Press

Creator
Johann Friedrich Gottlob Koenig
Date(s)
1810-1816

In the early nineteenth century, printing continued to be conducted by handpress, with an output that remained virtually unchanged for the last four hundred years. Magazine production often found multiple handpressed working simultaneously to produce periodicals which could result in an output of several thousand copies per day. As production became increasingly mechanized throughout the Industrial Revolution, publishing and journalism houses became increasingly incentivized to speed up the production process to increase circulation and thus readership among newspapers and magazines. To achieve this level of production required a faster, automated press. Between the years of 1810-1816, German-born inventor Friedrich Koenig moved to London and created and patented series of steam-powered cylinder press to automate and improve the printing process. His series of patents covered single cylinder machines for books employing a stop-cylinder principe and later a single-revolution principle, and double cylinder machines for newspapers using a single-revolution followed by a two-revolution principle. The devices consist of a platen, the platform where the pessing will occur. On top of this sits the forme, the engraving of the page that will be produced. The cylinders function to roll the paper onto the inked forme, and then remove it, allowing for a more streamlined, automated process.

In “The Times” December 9, 1814 issue, Koenig recounted the early stages of creating the first steam powered machine, and how “the actual use of it, however, soon suggested new ideas, and led to the rendering it less complicated and more powerful. Impressions produced by means of cylinders, which had likewise been already attempted by others without the desired effect, were again tried by me upon a new plan, namely, to place the sheet round the cylinder, thereby making it, as it were, part of its periphery” (historyofinformation.com). Koenig’s first book printing machine utilized a cylinder that could be automated to take an impression from the forme rather than utilizing a platen that would be pressed by hand. The cylinder consisted of three segments that could perform separate actions: laying the paper on, printing, and taking-off. This machine, completed in 1812, utilized the stop-cylinder principle wherein after a one-third revolution, the cylinder would stop and allow for the bed carriage to return and the forme to be re-inked, while simultaneously a new sheet would be laid on. Koenig’s single-revolution, single cylinder ‘registering’ machine obtained a patent in June, 1816 and could complete approximately one thousand sheets per hour. With this machine, Koenig replaced the large diameter drum cylinder with a smaller one that made two revolutions for every bed cycle. The smaller size means that the bed could return on the return stroke without the cylinder impeding it, and doing away with a mechanism needed to lift and stop the cylinder during this process. An apparatus with a stop-start function would feed the sheets while another system removed the printed sheets to the ‘taker off’ located beneath the feed-board area. This automation removed much of the need for multiple presses working in tandem and allowed for greater efficiency and larger scales of production. To achieve this level of production required a faster, automated press. Between the years of 1810-1816, German-born inventor Friedrich Koenig moved to London and created and patented series of steam-powered cylinder press to automate and improve the printing process. His series of patents covered single cylinder machines for books employing a stop-cylinder principe and later a single-revolution principle, and double cylinder machines for newspapers using a single-revolution followed by a two-revolution principle. Koenig’s first book printing machine utilized a cylinder that could be automated to take an impression from the forme rather than utilizing a platen that would be pressed by hand. The cylinder consisted of three segments that could perform separate actions: laying the paper on, printing, and taking-off. This machine, completed in 1812, utilized the stop-cylinder principle wherein after a one-third revolution, the cylinder would stop and allow for the bed carriage to return and the forme to be re-inked, while simultaneously a new sheet would be laid on. Koenig’s single-revolution, single cylinder ‘registering’ machine obtained a patent in June, 1816 and could complete approximately one thousand sheets per hour. With this machine, Koenig replaced the large diameter drum cylinder with a smaller one that made two revolutions for every bed cycle. The smaller size means that the bed could return on the return stroke without the cylinder impeding it, and doing away with a mechanism needed to lift and stop the cylinder during this process. An apparatus with a stop-start function would feed the sheets while another system removed the printed sheets to the ‘taker off’ located beneath the feed-board area. This automation removed much of the need for multiple presses working in tandem and allowed for greater efficiency and larger scales of production.

Sources
"KOENIG: his first Powered Printing Machines 1803 - 1818." Letter Press Printing. http://letterpressprinting.com.au/page58.htm

"Friedrich Koenig Invents the Steam-Powered Platen Press." Jeremy Norman's HistoryofInformation.com. Last updated December 13, 2019.
http://www.historyofinformation.com/detail.php?entryid=3652

"Inventor of the Steam-Powered Press Friedrich Koenig Recounts the Early History of its Development." Jeremy Norman's HistoryofInformation.com. Last updated Dec 13, 2019.
http://www.historyofinformation.com/detail.php?entryid=4962

Photo Sources:
"Friedrich Koenig and the Cylindrical Press". Painting by Douglas M. Parrish in the series Graphic Communications Through the Ages preserved in the Cary Graphic Arts Collection, Rochester Institute of Technology.
http://www.historyofinformation.com/detail.php?entryid=3652

http://letterpressprinting.com.au/page59.htm
http://letterpressprinting.com.au/page62.htm

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