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CTP--What's New In Blue?

January 2000
Blue laser diode platesetters (that actually emit energy in the violet spectrum) will be in vogue this year. Who will be the customer of choice for these technologically advanced units? What consumables (silver-based or negative-working conventional plates, for instance) will support a "true blue" 2000? Read on. . .


BY MARIE RANOIA ALONSO


Blame Sony. For that matter, blame Pioneer. (Or, depending on where you sit on the issue, thank them.) These two major Japanese suppliers are feeding the race to develop the perfect blue-laser-based, gallium-nitride disk player, both trailing the current leader, Nichia Chemical Industries.

Why should you care?

Blue lasers, or shorter wavelength violet lasers, will be in big demand for next-generation storage and communications systems. Sony has so far achieved laser emission with continuous-wave operation in room temperature, a stage that only a few companies, including Nichia, have reached. Pioneer has reported a pulsed emission.

Figured it out yet?

Three letters: C-T-P.

Blue laser (or violet, for the true colorist at heart, as well as the consummate physicist) technology is prime for the platesetting market. It affords a far-cheaper consumable—the laser—to operate in a high-speed platesetting capacity. Escher-Grad became the first vendor to announce a platesetter based on blue-diode laser technology.

The Cobalt 8, a 32x40˝ design based on the same chassis as the existing EG-8200 film imagesetter, is promising to be both fast (3.3 minutes per plate at 2,540 dpi) and cheap ($79,990—plus postage and handling). However, it will not initially support a punch, and plate loading is purely a manual operation. The Cobalt 8 will expose visible-light plates from either Agfa or Fuji. The device can be configured to run at any two resolutions from 800 dpi to 3,000 dpi.

What else is out there, besides Cobalt 8? As of this minute, several vendors are developing blue platesetters, most shooting for a DRUPA 2000 launch in late May. Recently, Printing Impressions went to the technology sources on this issue—Blue 2000.

No doubt, by the time the much-hyped (and rightly so) DRUPA 2000 pulls the industry's collective fascination to Dusseldorf, Germany, May 18-31, there will be more than just words supporting, or discouraging, the blue laser's impact on future CTP purchase decisions, particularly by the smaller commercial printing facilities not yet vested in CTP. For now, however, words will have to suffice—as Escher-Grad's Cobalt 8 is the only formally announced device, and even the most outspoken technology movers and shakers are playing this CTP issue close to the vest.
 

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