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Digital Proofing--Halftone-hungry Prepress Proofers

April 1998
What's happening in the world of digital halftone proofing? With new devices from Creo, Polaroid, Presstek, Screen and other technology innovators deep into beta testing and beyond, a number of commercial printers and prepress firms are taking note of the growing digital halftone proofing market.

While digital halftone proofing may not be for everyone, it is proving itself a viable technology for consideration in digital environments, such as direct-to-plate prepress departments.

In this focus on the emergence of digital halftone proofing, Printing Impressions offers a resource for your firm's continued evaluation of this color proofing movement.

United Lithograph, of Somerville, MA, and The John D. Lucas Printing Co., of Baltimore—as just two examples— offer their motivating reasons for turning halftone hungry. Also, a sampling of equipment manufacturers give positive projections for the little halftone dot.

When Polaroid approached United Lithograph to beta test the technology provider's new digital halftone proofing device, PolaProof, the reaction was, well, mild tolerance at best.

"Initially, we were reluctant to the thought of digital halftone proofing," recalls Maureen Richards, technical director of prepress at United Lithograph. "We were simply not interested in a digital halftone proofer. We didn't want to beta a digital halftone proofing device and, what's more, we felt dots were passé."

Polaroid understood and, with PolaProof in hand, left on good terms. A few months later, the vendor knocked on United Litho's door for a second time, with PolaProof waiting patiently in the car.

United Lithograph started to bend. Begrudgingly, the prepress department, which had recently installed an Agfa Galileo thermal platesetter, brought PolaProof into its domain.

PolaProof is a digital halftone proofing system that uses Laser Ablation Transfer (LAT) to transfer pigmented printing inks directly to actual printing stocks with real halftone dot structures.

PolaProof delivers oversized, four-up, one- or two-sided proofs up to 400 lpi. The unit consists of the PolaProof 2230 imager, PolaProof ink sheets, the Polaroid RIP, Pola-Proof Windows NT and the Pola-Proof finisher. The latter provides a matte, semi-gloss or gloss finish that anticipates the optical gain of the press.

"It was so ironic," Richards states. "Even though we didn't want it, we were beta-testing a digital halftone proofer. We were hell-bent against it, and there it was, staring us in the face everyday."

Can you guess the outcome? Let's just say United Lithograph is now committed to halftone dots.

"Well, maybe there is something to having dots on proofs," Richards admits, now that PolaProof is an accepted family member at United. "Customers were accepting of it. We noticed we weren't producing the same volume of film—overall, the process became more streamlined—and the pressmen like it because they have a true representation of what the dot sizes are supposed to be, relative to the job they are printing at any given time."
 

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