A Day With Diazo

Explore some fun facts about diazo paper coaters and their role in Cushing’s print shop.

What is a Diazo Paper Coater?

Let’s start off with pronouncing the term, diazo: Dye-A-Zoe. This machine pictured here coated paper so when exposed to light, chemicals would dissipate and when exposed to ammonia, the same dye would turn it blue. Prior to this the traditional wet-process blueprint (white lines) was even more chemical intense, and by the late 70’s, diazo white prints (with blue lines) had replaced them. The new challenge with this dry process was containing the fumes within the chamber of heated ammonia. Anyone who recalls receiving a set of freshly rolled diazo prints will never forget that scent! However, this was the only sensible way to reproduce engineering drawings back in the day.

And paper cuts with ammonia were the worst!

“I can't tell you how many times an architect or engineer complained the worst part of their job as an intern was making blueprints in the closet, while inhaling ammonia fumes.”
Ahead of the Curve

Clearly in the world of A & E and construction printing, blueprints and diazo prints were the only economically sound option for reproducing construction documents.

Ironically, as Cushing finds themselves placing custom wall graphics on a regular basis, our President Cathie Cushing-Duff, recalls that diazo paper was a precursor to modern wall coverings and custom wallpaper printing.

Designers would purchase the paper to fulfill branding projects for clients. At one time, more than a third of Cushing’s business was the sale of MATERIALS consumed by the architectural, engineering and construction community. These included vellum and transparent papers.

Paper Moon

We touched upon the 50’s for a moment and it is an interesting time period in Cushing’s history. Throughout the decade, we made diazo paper and this became a boutique business for Cushing. It was time sensitive technology (the beginning of our ability to assist with many quick turn construction printing services and rush orders for the AEC industry).  While the paper was sensitivity to humidity, it resulted in a clean print.

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