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DRUPA 2004 -- Gearing Up for the Big Show

April 2004
BY MARK SMITH

Technology Editor

The media road tour leading up to Drupa 04 recently made stops in Brussels, Belgium, and Athens, Greece. Judging by the vendor previews offered so far, people making the trek to Düsseldorf for the international trade fair should expect to see incremental advances, not revolutionary changes, in the products shown.

The outlook for the global economy—and printing industry—leading up to this year's event is vastly different from the heady days that preceded Drupa 2000, says Albert Follens, general manager, Graphic Systems, at Agfa-Gevaert N.V. The keys to success are increasing manufacturing efficiency and streamlining how business is transacted between print buyers and printers, Follens asserts.

In a change of direction from the company's past efforts, Agfa currently sees the real opportunity for digital printing as being in the industrial, or packaging, sector, adds Jan Van Daele, vice president of Imaging Solutions. In order to capitalize on the opportunities, Agfa recently acquired dotrix, a maker of industrial ink-jet printing systems, and formed a partnership with Theime, a maker of conventional screen printing equipment.

The computer-to-plate (CTP) business is experiencing some market shifts, as well, points out Theo De Keersmaecker, director of CTP. Demand for high-volume eight-up and VLF platesetters has flattened as the segment transitions into a replacement market, he says. Lower volume eight-, four- and two-up systems will account for growth in new installs, and processless technology is being targeted to this market, De Keersmaecker observes.

On that technology front, Agfa has been beta testing a chemistry-free thermal digital plate that it intends to make commercially available at Drupa, the product director says. Azura is an aluminum plate that employs a physical, rather than chemical, process to provide non-ablative imaging. It is based on the same technology used in Agfa's Thermolite Plus plates and supports run lengths of up to 100,000 impressions.

Running Hot and Cold

The company continues to expand its offerings in both CTP hardware product segments. Despite the market saturation, it is introducing higher speed XXT versions of its Xcalibur 45 and VLF thermal platesetters with Grating Light Valve (GLV) laser systems. In addition, Acento is a new four-up thermal machine targeted to medium-sized printers. It is available in several configurations of imaging units and plate loaders.

In the violet imaging space, this month (April) Agfa was due to start transitioning its Galileo and Palladio platesetter lines over to 30mW laser diodes. It is also set to launch an entry-level version of the Palladio with manual loading.
 

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