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CTP vs. CTF -- The Debate Rages On

June 2000
Of all the issues, and they are many, facing the graphic arts and printing industry today, none can ignite a heated debate more quickly than the issue of computer-to-plate (CTP) vs. computer-to-film (CTF) among their respective ardent supporters. In the past few years, as CTP became a reality with efficient, dependable and cost-effective equipment, increasing numbers of companies replaced aging imagesetters with platesetting devices.

Why? Because many printers saw the new breed of CTP devices as an opportunity to springboard to a shorter production workflow without the added consumables and chemicals of film processing. Also, the new digital, CTP plates are more uniform, longer-wearing and pressroom staffs across the country continue to sing the praises of this rapidly growing technology. Especially telling is the frequent observation of "plates that always fit vs. CTF then burned plates that must be tweaked to achieve nearly the same results."

Recent CTP Successes
One such company is Typecraft Inc. in Pasadena, CA. Typecraft is a smaller printer dedicated to continually innovating for its customers with the very best-of-breed technology. In 1998, Typecraft became a 100-percent CTP shop, when it bought a Heidelberg/Creo Trendsetter 3244 and a Trendsetter Spectrum 3244 to produce digital plates and proofs.

Since adopting CTP, Typecraft's press operators have seen distinct differences with the CTP plates and presswork. Most of their jobs arrive in digital format; however, they do still occasionally receive film or a combination of disks and transparencies. "When a job comes through where plates have been produced using traditional prepress, our press operators know immediately that the plates aren't CTP because they're not as sharp and the 'fit' is not as good," explains Tim Silverlake, electronic prepress supervisor at Typecraft. "Our press-men are pleased by the near-perfect register and fit of the CTP-imaged plates. Heidelberg's accompanying CPC32 technology allows them to accurately preset the ink fountains to precisely the right positions."

Another company that began recognizing an immediate time and energy savings with its CTP acquisition is Derry, NH-based Eastern Rainbow, which was founded in 1976 as a prepress trade shop. Eastern Rainbow merged with Souhegan Color, a commercial sheetfed printer located in nearby Nashua, NH, in 1999. Together, the companies became Eastern Rainbow and Souhegan Color, a division of Eastern Rainbow; reported revenues for the combined effort are in the area of $15 million.

With the merger, the new company evolved into a full-service graphic communications company providing graphic design and production, digital photography, digital and traditional prepress, and printing services. Customers of note include Putnam Investments, Timberland, McGraw-Hill, Bass Shoe, T.J. Maxx and Hasbro. With such a diverse client base, the company began looking to the future and installed an Agfa Galileo VS platesetter in February, 1999.



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