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CTP FIELD REPORTS -- Set to Compete

March 2003

Maybe the time has come to start an industry support group. "Hello. My name is Tom, and my print shop has yet to install a computer-to-plate system."

Actually, a large number of U.S. printing companies are still making plates conventionally. There are perfectly valid reasons for not having made the move to CTP-based production, but probably not since high school have printing managers felt so pressured by the notion that "everyone is doing it."

With some fits and starts, CTP has gone mainstream faster than many predicted. Today's buyers include shops on their second or third generation of technology, along with the growing ranks of first-time adopters. The basic install package marries a platesetter, plate and processor (if required), but is just as likely to include a new front end to drive the system and a digital proofer.

As the following cross-section of adopters shows, use of the technology has spread to cover the range of applications from two-up to VLF (very-large format) printing. Violet and thermal imaging both continue to win converts. With configurations from manual to fully automatic, buyers are finding solutions that fit their needs and budgets.

Nova Offset

New York City

Platesetter: Presstek Dimension400

Plates: Presstek Anthem

Technology: thermal

A decidedly low-tech concern—available floor space—was a pivotal factor in Nova's choice of CTP system, reports Lance Burns, one of the company's managing partners. "Our shop is located in Manhattan, so floor space is very valuable," he says. "This machine takes up only about a quarter of the space that other systems require."

Burns credits the plate technology for the system's compactness. The plates are completely daylight-safe, he notes, which eliminated the shop's need for a light-sensitive room. After imaging, a water bath is all that is required to get the plates ready for press, he adds.

"We save between 10 and 15 percent of the cost of the plate by eliminating chemicals and the work involved in maintaining them. The system is a lot more cost-effective than conventional platemaking, even considering the higher cost of the plate," Burns says. The fact that the Anthem thermal plates don't require pre- or post-baking adds to the cost and floor space savings, he notes.

Ease of use and reliability were selling points for the platesetter, Burns continues. The shop had previously tried going direct-to polyester plates using its imagesetter. "The system couldn't run the plate sizes we needed for all of our presses, and polyester just wasn't an effective solution for us."


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