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October 2004
Fujifilm Adds PS Line at Plate Facility

GREENWOOD, SC—Enovation Graphic Systems, a Fujifilm company, recently teamed up with Fuji Photo Film to provide a tour of the latter's plate line expansion at its Fujifilm-South Carolina manufacturing site. The project, which included adding more than 100,000 square feet of manufacturing space, is said to represent a $100 million investment.

Fujifilm went public with its plan to add the plate line—which it has designated P7—in March of 2003 and, by August of this year, had completed the first production run on the new machine. It is designed to produce all of the manufacturer's pre-sensitized (PS) plates, but will be tasked to producing CTP plates for North, Central and South America.

This new plate line will become a "big weapon" in the market for the company, asserts Nobuhisa "Nick" Sekiguchi, president of Fuji Photo Film.

Key to P7's production capabilities is implementation of a three-layer coating process, which the company says also enables it to manufacture plates with higher scratch resistance. In addition, the machine features multi-graining technology through use of brush and electrochemical processes.

To maximize product flexibility, certain operations can be carried out under red light conditions. But, error rates increase when operators are required to work in darkroom—rather than yellow safelight—environments, points out Ken Davis, manager of plate manufacturing. That was one of the reasons for Fujifilm emphasizing automation of the plate line, he says.

The company took a team approach to designing P7. "We learned from past experience by getting P5 (Greenwood's first plate line) operators involved in design and development of the new line," Davis explains.

One such insight led to circulation and mixing tanks being moved off to the side rather than locating them below the line, since operators reported that dripping from above had caused damage to those components of the P5 line.

In terms of floor space, the line runs roughly three football fields in length. "However, the actual web path is close to a mile, or 5,200 feet, in length," Davis notes. Even given those dimensions, the company's target is to have P7 operate with a crew size similar to the seven or eight associates that typically man P5. The latter plate line is to continue operating, producing conventional and LHPI (thermal positive) plates.

The plant's finishing operations are also being upgraded, partly to address the need to handle light-tight packaging.

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