CTP–Still Testing the Waters

As computer-to-plate grows in popularity and application, prepress officials and technology providers trade outlooks on CTP’s hottest issues—especially the true commercial availability of thermal plates. What’s better—thermal or non-thermal? Warning: They tell it like it is.


Is the jury still out on the long-term merits of thermal imaging—and the consumables considerations any reasonable prepress director must labor over when deliberating which output device to recommend, thermal or non-thermal?

For one, Maureen Richards, prepress technical director at United Lithograph, now a Mail-Well company, has her thermal reservations.

“The current thermal technology is not ‘utopia,’ but I am perhaps biased by the success of our non-

thermal Galileo CTP workflow,” Richards reports, noting that United’s Agfa Galileo platesetter, working in tandem with a Polaroid digital halftone proofer, has boosted prepress productivity at the Somerville, MA, printer. “We do not think that the thermal solutions available today offer a significant enough advantage for our business.”

Yes, United’s Richards concedes, thermal technology allows longer press runs, up to a “gazillion impressions,” she quips. “But the fact is, we are a commercial sheetfed operation with average run lengths between 20,000 and 40,000 impressions.”

“The thermal process images much more precisely. I won’t argue that under a 10,000X microscope the edges on a thermal-imaged plate are better defined than our double-YAG green plate, but let’s be real. First of all, how much of this is negated by the whole process of putting a petroleum by-product on a substrate? After all, that’s what printing is,” Richards argues. “Secondly, our customers do not come in for their press OKs with a microscope in hand, but rather rely on a BetaView 12 to check the registration and overall quality of their jobs. To date, they’re very pleased with the results we achieve with our Galileo.”

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