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Digital Patesetters--Shopping the Output Odyssey

August 1998

As the platesetter market matures, more fully automated and semiautomated devices, perhaps more than the market can sustain, are redefining the role of platemaking to meet the demands of the CTP environment.

Thermal imaging technology, functionality to support Adobe's Portable Document Format (PDF) and PostScript 3 availability now join reliability and throughput as inherent traits of many of today's new platesetter launches.

To prepare for new platesetter launches on the horizon later this year, Printing Impressions offers a portfolio of devices and checks in with the technology providers poised to take them to market.

Whether plug-and-play platesetting solutions, thermal devices or eight-up platesetters are the answer to your output odyssey, one thing is more than likely certain: You want automation, you want a solid promise of ROI and you want a device customized to your specific production needs.

So, where to start? Trade shows and industry conferences are the logical places to review wares, and more than likely your current prepress provider is all too anxious to install its latest platesetter in your plant.

Beware the "vapor-setter," though, as you shop the soon-to-be- saturated platesetting market, advises Dan Baker, president and CEO of Printware, makers of the PlateStream platesetter line, which images paper- or polyester-backed silver halide plates.

"Logically, there will be some consolidation and weeding out of platesetting products that have a very small or no installed base," Baker cautions. "Customers are looking for solutions that have credibility in the marketplace, that have been proven in real-world applications and are actually producing beyond the launch."

Think the platesetter market is at its peak—with systems from Agfa, BARCO, Creo, Cymbolic, ECRM, Fujifilm, Heidelberg Prepress, Krause, Optronics, PrePRESS Solutions, Presstek, Printware, Purup-Eskofot, Screen, Scitex, XANTÉ and others?

Think again.

As the industry approaches the IPEX exhibition in Birmingham, England, next month and Graph Expo in Chicago this October, a rush of new platesetters will add a few fresh tunes to the digital output hit parade.

  • Listen for new launches in the midsized platesetter market—with high-end, fully automated, eight-up devices taking their place at the top of the spectrum.

  • Look out for more thermal platesetting announcements (keep an ear out for launches from Scitex and Screen, as well as from the now Gerber-bolstered BARCO Graphics).

  • Watch the players! Pay close attention to new OEM agreements.

Most recently Agfa's agreement to market Krause America's LaserStar 140 and LaserStar 170 platesetters has captured some attention. This move brings a great deal of PDF power to the Krause line—as Agfa's Apogee workflow is perhaps the best friend to date of Adobe's Portable Document Format. Also, take notice of the marketing efforts of Fujifilm, as it brings technologies from Cymbolic Sciences and Screen to the market. Plus the ongoing technological initiatives of the Heidelberg/Creo alliance should prove for interesting moves in digital platemaking.


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