So much stays the same and so much changes! This article by Eric Fisher, was originally published in the Washington Times/Business Times February 10, 1997
We still print and fold maps for a wide variety of government agencies, publishers, and entrepreneurs. However how we make the maps has certainly changed since 1997!
Prepress is mostly digital now. Although as much as 10% of our work is still film based. We can still edit, proof, and print from film. The man-hours involved, to edit and update a film job, can be much less than the thousands of man-hours required to digitize a whole new map. We can even combine digital correction copy with film based layers.
Made in Washington
Producer: Williams & Heintz
What It Makes: This 76 year-old Capitol Heights company prints a variety of maps, from detailed, government-issued nautical and geologic maps to folded road maps for companies such as Michelin and Alexandria’s ADC. Williams & Heintz specializes in maps up to 47 inches by 63 inches in size.
How it makes them: The process to print a map is somewhat similar to that of printing a newspaper, though more care is taken to ensure color quality. After the map has been drafted, a photograph is made of it. The negative is used to make an aluminum plate for the printing press. Chemicals on the plate help color to be distributed on the press as desired.
How much it makes: company executives could not give a specific number of maps produced, but with more than 900 clients typically making large orders, output is easily in tens of millions. Williams & Heintz generated more than $6 million in revenue in 1996, said Mark Budd, the company’s treasurer and secretary.
Where to find them: Clients include the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and several state topographical and geological-survey agencies. Williams & Heintz maps can also be found along Virginia highways; tje company won a one-year contract to print 3.75 million copies of the 1996-97 map passed out at rest stops. The 37-employee company also recently won the road map contracts with New York and North Carolina.
The niche: The company began with four former employees of the U. S. Geologic Survey in 1921. After many years at Third and I street NE, Williams & Heintz moved to Capitol Heights in 1958.
One of a small number of dedicated map printers in North America, Williams & Heintz likes to distinguish itself with “intelligent folding” maps. Until about 15 years ago, most road maps were given out or sold at nominal cost. As a result, they were cheaply made, and user-friendly attributes were not a priority, Mr. Budd said. After customers showed a willingness to pay for quality maps, the company invested $500,000 in a self-designed folding machine to create road maps that fold up easily in an accordion style.
“Easy-folding maps have been in Europe and Asia for nearly a hundred years,” Mr. Budd said. “It’s only started in the last few years here. But it’s caught on like wildfire.”