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Student Streamlines Press Production

Printing The Press, Christchurch's morning newspaper, will soon be simpler thanks to a Lincoln University student's curiosity and research.

Joe Prachuabmoh has computerised the process of organising how each day's edition could be printed - something that for years had been done manually.

He undertook the project, which formed part of his master of applied science degree, at The Christchurch Press Company Ltd.

Technology New Zealand invested in the project through the Graduates in Industry Fellowships (GRIF), which enables students to work on projects with businesses.

Mr Prachuabmoh says newspaper printing involves many factors - paper size, number of sections, section sizes, and the position of colour pages.

"How these are set up for each day's edition is called a newspaper press layout configuration. And they can be any number.

"They're usually generated manually by an experienced printer - in other words, working it out on paper, based on staff experience.

"That implies that the configurations available are limited by those the printer can devise."

By coming up with a simple computerised program, Mr Prachuabmoh will enable The Press's advertising, editorial and production staffs to quickly come up with any configurations they choose.

"As more and more colour is used in the paper, the book of 'known good solutions' - a kind of manual that had been put together down the years - wasn't providing the required setups.

"And in cases where a printing unit breaks down, alternatives had to be found quickly.

"If the right people weren't there to provide the answers, things could get very stressful," he says.

The project intrigued Mr Prachuabmoh.

"I get interested in a project that I don't know anything about, and I want to find out about it. I like challenges.

"And this particular challenge was to understand the logic of press production and to figure out how to write the program."

Jim Meek, the paper's production manager, says that a PC linked to the press unit will be installed soon.

"Then the software will be loaded in, and we'll run it as a trial.

“But we will be adopting it. We're pleased with what Joe has come up with.”

He says that in the long-term the program might be offered to other newspapers.

"That's part of a contract we've got with Lincoln University, that it could be offered elsewhere."

For Mr Prachuabmoh, his master of applied science with distinction (A+ pass) tops his bachelor of commerce degree with first-class honours.

He works now for a Christchurch firm that writes treasury software.


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