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March 2002

Eye on the Competition

When it came to the transition from conventional printing to an all-digital workflow, including CTP technology, Blanks took a wait-and-see attitude before leaping to the next level. "I kept watching most of our competitors," he says, "and they would buy two platesetters because they were not as reliable as the lines already in place. So if one went down, you had to have a second machine as a backup, which you might also use for proofing. That's very expensive—we didn't want to do that."

Blanks kept a close eye on the market, and finally decided to make the move when he heard about the merger of Creo and Scitex, and saw their work with KPG.

"They put the best of all possible worlds together," he adds. "We were already a big Scitex and Kodak Polychrome Graphics user. We use both Kodak Approval Classics and two Approval XP4s, and we still have a lot of prepress work that has to be proofed for web printing outside of the building. So we needed our XP4s for those accounts, as well as to integrate them into the printing environment. And we only wanted one CTP unit. All in all, our new system has really been a great blend of equipment."

KPG's CTP1 compact thermal processing system is an integrated equipment and chemistry system consisting of a preheating module, a thermal plate processor and an optional post-baking rinse gum unit (the "Quick Bake"). The system is said to require 75 percent less floor space than conventional plate processors, cuts chemistry consumption by 40 percent and reduces electricity usage by 80 percent.

The slow-and-steady approach to this transition paid off for Blanks in ways beyond his expectations. "Our system is very fast, much more so than what we could have bought a couple of years ago. It turns out plates so quickly, we have no problem flowing the plates and keeping up with the presses.

"I've watched a lot of press okays," Blanks continues, "and some of the more difficult ones on very critical jobs used to take 45 minutes, an hour or even longer. Now it takes maybe 20 minutes, if we get it approved on the second or third pull. The difference is in the registration; the new system is extremely fast on register. And there's no dirt on the plates because there's no film, saving a lot of time we used to lose in remaking the plates."

Getting jobs done faster means that Blanks has the capacity to produce more jobs than ever before, and has stepped up its marketing efforts recently to bring in additional business. "We've toured customers through the area to show them how the machine operates, but our best marketing is in the final printed pieces," Blanks concludes.

"Now when customers come in for press okays, and the look they want is high-density ink on paper, they really notice the difference. There is no comparison—it's like night and day. In fact, many of our clients won't let us run their critical jobs with film. They want to eliminate the film and go to CTP."

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