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COMPUTER-TO-FILM -- Flat Out the Best

April 2001
BY MARK SMITH


In a surprisingly short span of time, computer-to-plate production has evolved from being the ideal—but still impractical—workflow, to the domain of risk-taking digital pioneers and, finally, to a mainstream process. Since it's human nature to get caught up in all things new, it's understandable that the substantial role film still plays in the industry often gets overshadowed. In fact, by most measures, film is still the dominant workflow.

Momentum alone would be enough to keep film around for years to come, but costs and other issues are limiting computer-to-plate adoption rates in certain segments of the industry. Even in CTP's sweet spot—eight-up, press-ready flats—computer-to-film (CTF) workflows can provide a sound argument for sticking with the imagesetter and conventional platemaking combo.

For example, management at The Inkstone Co. in Brockton, MA, saw computer-to-film production as a more doable interim step on the road to CTP production.

"We went from a two-up imagesetter to an eight-up machine, and the next step will be CTP," explains John Anderson, prepress manager. "From where we were, though, jumping to eight-up CTP was just too big of a leap."

Inkstone is a general commercial printer with two (26˝ and 40˝) six-color presses. It produces everything from letterhead and business cards to six-color brochures and marketing collateral materials.

The printer purchased a Tanto 5120 imagesetter from Screen (USA) in the fall of 2000, and to drive the device it also installed one of the first Screen TrueFlow PDF workflow systems in the country.

Getting Into the Flow
Since the company was developing a new workflow to produce imposed and press-ready eight-up flats, Anderson says he and Bob Donahoe, company president, believed that it would be cheaper to complete the learning process while still outputting film.

To start with, the capital cost for a large-format imagesetter is significantly less than a digital platesetter, Anderson points out. "Since we already had a Matchprint analog system that could be used to proof the imposed film, adding digital proofing for CTP production was another cost issue.

"With film, you also have some leeway to correct mistakes," the prepress manager continues. "You still can strip in a small patch for late changes or corrections, which has to be cheaper and faster than outputting a whole new plate. Also, the imagesetter allows us to change film sizes depending on which press the job is going on, which saves film."

 

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