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CTP Troubleshooting--Covering All Bases

August 1998
BY CHERYL A. ADAMS


"Batter Up!" Simple words that can induce anxiety in the heart of any rookie player facing a world-class pitcher for the very first time...a feeling all too familiar to a computer-to-plate (CTP) novice, who's switch-hitting from a conventional workflow. With so much riding on success, the last call you want to hear is: "Swing and a miss!"

So here's a crash course in CTP Troubleshooting 101.

The troubleshooting process should be incorporated into every aspect of the prepress operation, from preventive pre-installation measures to management of incoming digital files, all the way through final proof.

"Troubleshooting begins before the technology is installed," notes Verle Osborne, president of Print Direct in Houston, which began CTP production in early 1997. And that means having vendor support.

"Without it, you're doomed. You can overcome anything with enough information. It's up to the vendor to supply info along with support," says Osborne. "The trick is to make sure there's enough info to make the decisions that keep us up to speed with the equipment."

Doug Brustad, director of prepress operations at Challenge Printing, in Eden Prairie, MN, also emphasizes the importance of vendor involvement—particularly in the area of training.

"Vendors are willing to work with you," says Brustad. "They want their equipment to work."

For the equipment to work, printers must go through the rigors of implementing—and mastering—a digital workflow. Then, once the transition is made, printers will need to troubleshoot the variables that surface.

"That involves everything from press chemical compatibility [with digital-style plates] to plate exposure, to calibration between the dot on plate and the final printed piece," Brustad explains.

As the film stage is eliminated by the very nature of CTP, so is the crucial point at which mistakes can be detected before going to plate. However, when one door closes (the elimination of film), another one usually opens: enter preflighting. This allows printers to make the appropriate adjustments during the earliest stages.

Lehigh Press, of Cherry Hill, NJ, has been fully operational in CTP since November 1997. Eric Roberts, technology marketing manager, believes the key to a seamless transition is having an infrastructure that's as digital as possible. This includes digital proofing.

Roberts explains that Lehigh implemented QuickLink, its high-speed data transmission system, two years prior to going CTP: "With QuickLink in place, there was very little transition in the front end. Our customers were already used to submitting their work digitally."
 

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