Firehouse Blog


Firehouse Doubles Production Space!

PaulPic6-11-15-AIt’s been 12 years since Firehouse moved into our “new” building, as long-time employees refer to it. We left behind our namesake fire station in 2003 for our current facility. At the time, we thought the space was so vast, we considered leasing a portion of it to other businesses. No, really! Not long after we moved in, we filled it completely. A few more years went by and we added offsite warehouse space and storage facilities to house materials and parts. Finally, in the last couple years it was clear, we needed to expand again.

FirehouseExpansionThis week, Firehouse broke ground on a building expansion that will literally double our production space! That will allow us to close down the warehouse and storage facilities and 6-11-15-Bkeep everything under one roof. It will also shorten our response times for rush jobs and make our throughput even greater. And now we will have space to run multiple pack-outs simultaneously without the logistics challenges. Finally, it gives us the ability to add larger, specialized equipment, which again increases throughput. Construction will proceed through the summer.

Firehouse wants to be the most responsive printer for our clients. The on-demand world is constantly moving faster, and so are we.

Paul Meek
Vice President of Operations


The Three Flavors of Inkjet

PaulPicA long-running sales phrase would come up whenever we purchased a new printer. Sales would be excited to tell everyone about the new machine, but that would generally be countered with “Sell the burger, not the grill.” The reasoning being that clients don’t care which model of machine is used to get their finished print any more than customers care what model grill their favorite burger joint uses. They care about the quality of the finished product.

But, let’s push back a little on that. What if your burger place had three different grills each with different benefits? One sears better which locks in the juices, one provides the best overall flavor and one cooks your burger in only 30 seconds if you’re in a hurry. You get the idea. The same can be said of wide-format inkjet technologies. They each have specific benefits and characteristics. That could mean one is a better fit for your next print project. So, with that in mind, let’s take a closer look at these different technologies.

All inkjets share some basic characteristics. They all have a color element that is dissolved, or suspended, in a liquid to form ink. The ink is transferred to the print material and the liquid is removed leaving only the dried color. Sounds simple enough, but the differences between them outweigh the similarities.

InkjetTech_v2Firehouse uses three distinctive inkjet technologies, Aqueous Dye, UV-Curing Pigment and Latex Pigment.

Aqueous Dye Inks
Many consumer and commercial inkjets use dye-based inks. Dye inks have very small ink particles which allow for amazing print quality with sharp details. The ink is absorbed into the print surface which gives a very smooth, uniform finish that can appear more vibrant than other technologies. The inks are water based and safe to use and handle. The trade-off for the vibrancy and detail is that dye-based inks are not waterproof and they will fade with exposure to UV light. So, they are an indoor-only product and should not be in direct sunlight. They require an inkjet-coated surface for adhesion.

UV-Curing Pigment inks
UV-curing inks contain pigment particles in a liquid polymer. The ink is cured by a UV light unit on the printer. The polymer instantly turns solid when hit by the UV light. Prints are immediately ready for any additional finishing. These prints are ideal for indoor and outdoor use. They are waterproof and fade resistant. The particles remain on the surface of the substrate and require less ink to be used compared to inks which absorb into the material. Newer machines have LEDs for ink curing which use less energy and heat and allow for thinner substrates. UV curing printers do not require any specific coating on the substrate for ink adhesion. The larger pigment particles and lack of absorption give the printed surface a very subtle texture which doesn’t quite match the look and feel of dye-based inks.

Latex Pigment Inks
Often called the new kid on the block, latex machines have been around for several years now. They use a water-based latex polymer with pigment particles. Like UV inks, they are safe for indoor and outdoor applications. They are waterproof and fade resistant. The ink is heat cured. Prints are immediately dry and ready for further finishing. Prints are odorless and the latex ink does not require any specific coating on the substrate for adhesion. The heat needed for ink curing may be problematic for thinner substrates.

There you have the basics of our three technologies at Firehouse. But this is only covering inkjet. In upcoming posts, I’ll discuss Lambda Photographic Prints, Indigo’s ElectoInk and even dye sublimation!

But don’t worry, your Firehouse Account Executive or Project Manager can always recommend the perfect technology and materials for your print project’s requirements.

Paul Meek
Vice President of Operations

Happy 25th Photoshop!

JonPicAnyone who’s been working with computers for over a decade (or more) enjoys waxing nostalgic about how things have changed over the years. With Photoshop just celebrating its 25th anniversary, it seems like an appropriate time to bring out the grumpy old man voice.

“In my day, we didn’t have terabytes or gigabytes, we had floppies and 44MB syquests!”
“Our Photoshop didn’t have layers, and we LIKED it!”
“A CD-ROM drive on your computer? Madness!”
“Now get back in the darkroom and process that slide film!”

Photoshop25It’s hard to believe that Photoshop has been a part of Firehouse for 25 years. I wrote an article 5 years ago for the 20th anniversary. I described finding an old archive of Photoshop 3 and running it on one of my ancient Macs. It made me realize how all the innovations with later versions are taken for granted. Grumpy old man is exaggerating, of course, but imagine working in Photoshop without layers. Try making selections and composites with only the lasso and magic wand tools. The earliest versions of Photoshop were much more limited. But, it was still ground-breaking software and a ton of fun.

Photoshop began life with the Knoll brothers, John and Thomas, in 1987. Thomas, a PhD student at the University of Michigan, was writing subroutines to display grayscale image levels on his Mac Plus’s monochrome monitor. His brother John became intrigued due to his own interest in image processing at special effects house Industrial Light and Magic. He recommended Thomas expand the project into an image editing program and include color editing. Thomas eagerly took his advice and continued adding features as John requested them.

The little app was initially named Display and later ImagePro. John was convinced they could turn their project into a commercial venture and began gauging interest around Silicon Valley. In 1988, BarneyScan offered to bundle the application (now named Photoshop) with its slide scanner. About 200 copies of Photoshop were sold with the scanners. In late 1988, John presented a demo of Photoshop to Adobe and a legend was born. After many months of development, Adobe Photoshop 1.0 was released in February 1990.

Firehouse was an early adopter of Photoshop and I still recall my initial experiments that summer on Firehouse’s first Mac. At that time, we had no practical application for the software. Compositing images and text was all done with film and lithos in the darkroom. It was a tedious process which could take hours. And, after waiting at the exit of the film processor and seeing there was a mistake, many more hours. I vividly recall a conversation with Firehouse CEO Terry Corman in late 1990. He told me some day I’d just be sitting in front of a Mac to do my job and the stat cameras, darkrooms and photo enlargers would all be obsolete. It sounded like science fiction. And it happened even faster that any of us could have predicted. Within a year, Macs had replaced our antiquated slide production facility. Film recorders replaced darkrooms and then photo printers replaced film recorders.

25 years later and Photoshop remains an essential piece of the digital printing puzzle. So, thanks John and Thomas.

In honor of the 25th anniversary, noted Photoshop Evangelist Terry White made a tribute video running Photoshop version 1.0. And below that, we have John Knoll himself working in Photoshop 1.0. Enjoy.


Jon Heilman
Marketing Director