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DIGITAL PLATESETTERS -- Growing by Twos and Fours

January 2004
BY MARK SMITH

Technology Editor

The size of a shop's presses used to be seen as saying something about the sophistication of its operations. Today, half-size and smaller presses are just as likely as full-size machines to boast sophisticated computer controls, digital interfaces and other automation features.

While the trend toward shorter runs may play to the strengths of these presses, print buyers don't want to make any compromises in color, quality or service. Therefore, small- to mid-size printers have come under increased pressure to be technologically competitive throughout their shops. For a growing number, a critical step has been adopting computer-to-plate production with a metal platesetter supporting a two- or four-page format.

Marcus Printing, based in Holyoke, MA, has already made the move...twice. Owner Susan Goldsmith reports experiencing a variety of problems with the shop's first platesetter after having it slightly more than a year. She decided it was time to switch platesetters and manufacturers.

Find a Comfort Level

In 2002, the company installed an Agfa Palladio plate-setter, which is a four-up, flatbed machine using violet-laser imaging. Goldsmith says the deciding factors included a comfort level with the proven technology, the improved workflow that came with the system, and the ability to rely on one supplier for equipment, plates, chemicals and technical support. Also, she believed going with violet imaging would save the company money.

"We do a lot of makereadies in a day, so we needed an automated, reliable and fast CTP solution," Goldsmith adds. Marcus Printing produces a range of printed products in runs of 500 to 100,000 impressions, she notes.

The company falls squarely into the small- to mid-size printer category that Agfa sees as the target market for the Palladio. It is a fully automated system, including plate loading and slip sheet removal, with an in-line processor. A special media cassette keeps 50 plates online for unattended operation. The platesetter is designed to image Agfa Lithostar Ultra-V (silver-halide) plates at 1,200, 2,400 or 3,000 dpi using Agfa Balanced Screening. It handles plate sizes from 11x17.72˝ up to 25x29.68˝.

Agfa also offers the Galileo VS 4 (four-up) violet-laser platesetter. The internal-drum device is available in fully- and semi-automatic configurations. It images LithoStar Ultra plates in sizes from 14.5x17.72˝ to 26.61x29.33˝ and supports Agfa Balanced Screening and CristalRaster stochastic screening.

In his role as president of Pony X Press Printing Services in Reynoldsburg, OH, Gene Scott looks to develop capabilities and technologies that can set the company apart from the competition. For a time, that drive even led the mid-size shop (29 employees) to implement waterless printing. "We've always wanted to differentiate our company by printing higher line screens," Scott notes.
 

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