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September 2002
Southern Exposure For Fujifilm

GREENWOOD, SC—Why would a Japanese company choose to locate a sprawling manufacturing complex here? It's a question Fuji Photo Film executives, and probably all 1,600 local "associates" of the company, are used to hearing. Especially since the site is about a one-hour drive from the nearest major airport.

An abundant supply of high-quality water for use in its processes is the number one reason, says Hirokuni "Harry" Watanabe, company president. "Fuji sampled and analyzed water from a number of areas in the U.S. before picking this location in 1988," he explains. In keeping with its ISO 14001 certification and commitment to environmental protection, Fuji returns good water to the local lake, Watanabe notes. Other factors were said to include access to the port of Charleston, general infrastructure of the region, the state's pro-business environment and quality of life.

The company remains bullish about its choice, having invested some $1.3 billion in the site so far to build a total of 10 plants. The operations represent five business units: Graphic Systems Div. (plates and film), Photo Imaging Div. (QuickSnap cameras and 35mm film), Photo Finishing Div. (color photographic paper), Magnetic Products Div. (DLTape storage media and VHS videotape) and Medical Systems Div. (X-ray film). The site is also home to Fuji's Distribution Center and Greenwood Research Laboratories.

One thing all the manufacturing operations have in common is the company's founding principle, according to Watanabe. "A person only gets one chance to capture a given photo in a lifetime, so we can't afford to compromise on quality with our products," he contends.

A couple of interesting bits of trivia about the printing plate line are that it stretches some 900 feet, with the machine's total travel path equaling nearly one-half mile. Since it takes six days to thread the line from scratch, narrow leader rolls of aluminum are used to keep the machine threaded at almost all times. A system not unlike a flying paster on a web press provides the two minutes of stop time needed to weld a new roll of aluminum onto the end of an expiring roll.

Along with showing off its highly automated, state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities, the Graphic Systems Div. used the trip as an opportunity to preview two major introductions it has planned for Graph Expo & Converting Expo 02.

Fujifilm Match Certified is a color control system that's designed to address the shortcomings of ICC-based color management approaches, reveals Stephen Bennett, director of product marketing, Graphic Systems Div. These generic systems are based on a color space that has been determined and interpreted unilaterally, with all colors weighted equally, he explains. The human observer, however, "rates" the importance of certain colors as more critical than others.

Fuji's answer was to develop a "color pyramid" modeled on human perception for use in matching the output of different devices, the marketing exec says. More target patches are used for colors that are visually demanding, such as neutrals, while fewer patches are used in other areas to keep computation requirements down, he explains.

Once a match has been established between the proof and printed output, the printer has the right to add a "Match Certified" logo (complete with serial number for verification) to all of its color proofs made with the system. While the tools themselves are used by printers, Fuji says it also plans to promote the "Match Certified" logo and concept directly to print buyers.

Three standard, "Match Certified" LUTs—commercial standard dot gain, commercial low dot gain and SWOP certified—will ship with all Fujifilm FinalProof and PictroProof systems. One custom "Match Certified" LUT will be provided with each FinalProof at no cost, and additional, customized LUTs for either device can be purchased as needed, with a two- to three-day turnaround.

Graph Expo also will see the U.S. debut of the Fujifilm Saber Luxel V-series platesetters featuring 30mW violet laser diodes. The eight-up version reportedly will be commercially available at the show, with the four-up model soon to follow.

The devices can be operated under bright yellow safelight conditions and will be offered in manual, semi-automatic and fully automatic configurations. According to Bennett, a three-point registration system is used to hold the plate on the drum to minimize the non-imageable plate area and to allow for a more productive and flexible punching operation after processing.

The manufacturer's multi-laser imaging technology enables upgrading to two lasers for greater productivity. Violet technology offers a lower cost of ownership and provides longer laser life since the diode is only "on" during the actual imaging of a spot, Bennett points out.

The platesetters are designed to work in concert with Fujifilm's new LP-NV violet-sensitive, photopolymer plate. This product eliminates the use of silver, is rated for at least 200,000 impressions (UV-curable for increased durability) and offers a resolution of 2 percent to 98 percent at 200 lpi. According to the manufacturer, commercial shipments of the plate are forecast to begin in the fourth quarter of this year.

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