DIGITAL PLATES — Shortcutting the Process

“What we have learned so far is that each imaging platform is unique,” O’Rourke explains. “While Applause may require use of a vacuum collection system, we can see an opportunity to simplify the air management system on our own Dimension platesetters, and we expect filter life will be extremely long—perhaps even achieving lifetime filters.

“Beta testing on other imaging platforms is under way, but it’s too soon to determine exactly what will be needed in terms of air collection. It’s possible that a very simple system will suffice,” he adds.

Applause’s commercial release date has yet to be announced, and the same goes for its pricing. “By eliminating all of the various cost centers around chemical plate developing, we know we can deliver a lower ‘Plate on Press’ cost with Applause,” O’Rourke says. He expects the plate to be rated for 100,000 impressions.

When it comes to alternative technologies, the distinctions can get a little fuzzy. Fujifilm, for example, is developing a solution employing “controlled ablation” technology, according to Jim Crawford, group manager, Output Media, at Enovation Graphic Systems (Fujifilm USA) in Hanover Park, IL. The technology works by having the initial ink charge to the plate carry away undesired (exposed) material during roll up on-press, he explains.

“The advantage of this technology is that the platesetter does not require debris evacuation,” Crawford says. “Also, no special laser/imaging systems are needed to image the controlled ablation technology.”

The material’s current run length capability is in the 25,000 impression range, based on normal press and paper conditions, he adds. An on-press imaging version reportedly is in limited trial with Komori S40D and Heidelberg SM 74DI presses in select markets.

Agfa Corp. is pursuing a non-ablative alternative, but its solution differs from the common form of switchable polymer technology, points out David Furman, senior marketing manager, CTP Systems, at the Ridgefield Park, NJ-based manufacturer. The company is developing “latex coalescence” technology.

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