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Computer-to-Plate — Digital Plate Developments

August 2007 BY Mark Smith
Technology Editor
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CHEMISTRY-FREE, processless or whatever they may be called, what matters is that digital plates with reduced processing requirements are gaining converts. Eliminating the cost and issues in dealing with chemistry, environmental concerns and space considerations are the top reasons cited by users for making the switch to reduced process plates.

Printers using the leading versions of this plate technology tell remarkably similar stories. Along with reporting the same benefits, they’ve all come to one conclusion about plate costs. Even though these products generally have a higher per-plate price, their total cost of usage is the same or less because of the savings on chemistry, labor and downtime for maintenance.

Also, while most are using a still relatively new product, none of these printers reported any issues with plate supply or product consistency.

At least with this small sampling, the only significant difference of opinion is on the merits of having a plate go directly from platesetter to press, with no step in between.

Printing Specialist Corp., in Glen Burnie, MD, had a case of the blues over the chemistry it had to use with its previous generation of thermal CTP technology. “The processor’s rollers had to be wiped down every day, and you had to put on rubber gloves to do it because the chemistry would burn your hands and turn them blue,” reports Gary Habicht, president and CEO. “The chemistry was very caustic.”

Safely Down the Drain?

Habicht wasn’t comfortable pouring the material down the drain, even though it was rated as safe and not requiring pretreatment. There was also the cost factor, since the company was spending about $1,500 a month to replace the chemistry and taking up to an hour or more of an operator’s time doing it.

There also was the cost factor, since the company was spending about $1,500 a month to replace the chemistry and taking up an hour or more of an operator’s time doing it.

Looking to boost its efficiency, the shop decided to install a new Heidelberg Suprasetter platesetter with multiple cassettes for automated operation. It also switched to running Saphira Chemfree plates, which are manufactured to Heidelberg’s specs as part of an optimized solution.

The plate requires only a gum rinse in a unit that just needs a jug swapped out about every month and a half, Habicht adds. “It doesn’t need to be hooked into any plumbing.” The operator also wipes the rollers down with hot water weekly.
 

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