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DIGITAL PLATES — LESS IS MORE

September 2006 BY ERIK CAGLE
Senior Editor
THOSE DETRACTORS who claim that computer-to-plate (CTP) technology has not completely delivered on its promise might be lacking in big picture perspective. Like complaining that a cellular phone service provider doesn’t always generate “enough bars,” or the phone itself is now obsolete because it doesn’t take pictures, people often fall into the trap of wanting the next great technology.

After all, does anyone miss the early days of composition? Have fond memories of pasting up boards, shooting them, developing film and burning/punching plates?

Looking at it from the perspective of traditional prepress, there is a little room for forgiveness in noting that not all digital plates are truly process- or chemical-free from platesetter to press. The purveyors of digital plates note that many loopholes are being closed in the CTP process. It helps to maintain a little perspective, notes John O’Rourke, director of product marketing for CTP at Presstek.

“The value proposition for this technology is an extension of the value prop for CTP—reduction/elimination of process steps, labor/material cost savings and reduced waste generation,” O’Rourke says. “The universal, worldwide adoption of CTP demonstrates that this is a powerful value proposition. We believe that the market preference for chemistry-free plates will continue to drive product development and we’ll see more chemistry-free plate products from all major vendors.”

Market demand has had the greatest influence on the manufacture of digital plates, O’Rourke states. An anticipated increase in demand, he believes, will prompt manufacturers to bolster allocations of their research and development resources.

Presstek seems to be acting upon market demand, given its rollout of Anthem Pro at the IPEX exhibition earlier this year. With its Pro graining, which is said to provide improved inking and wetting latitude and enhanced performance, Anthem stakes a claim at being a true chemistry-free thermal plate, requiring no developing chemistry and just a simple post- imaging rinse. The used rinse water is drain-friendly.

Plate Handling Demands
Demands in the finishing and packaging processes are wielding a level of influence on the plate market, adds Jim Crawford, group manager of consumables products for Enovation Graphic Systems (Fujifilm). With the CTP market maturing to include a greater span of users among a wider demographic base, Crawford points out that the number of product SKUs is increasing, along with requests for customized packing put-ups.

“Efforts are made to accommodate these requests as they fit into normal production methods, and if the product performance warranty can be sustained,” he says. “As a manufacturer, Fujifilm spends a great deal of time studying the emerging needs of customers’ packaging requirements for shipping, storage and final use.”
 

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