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From Clean Slate to Direct-to-plate

August 1998
Selling printing has always been a challenge, but never more so than today. Not only is there significant competition in every market segment, but arcane issues such as gamut limitations and color reproduction can make the press sheet seem like a compromise compared to the proof.

Name: McCord Printing
Location: Dallas
Employees: 90
Annual Sales: $13 million
Key Markets: Advertising agencies, corporate work.
One commercial printer has found a solution to this problem: going direct-to-plate. McCord Printing installed an Agfa Galileo computer-to-plate (CTP) system.

"We no longer have to sell 'down' from the proof or tell the customer that's as close as we can get to the proof," explains Mickey Ashlock, vice president and co-owner. "Now, we can sell 'up' from the proof."

And McCord is now able to produce jobs more quickly—an important consideration even in the high-end commercial sheetfed arena as clients try to reduce cycle times. "Our approach in promoting this to our customers is that it enables us to turn their jobs faster and with higher quality," says co-owner Jim Singer.

While the two partners had thoroughly researched CTP, it was only when they performed a press test that they realized how much digital platesetting improves the printed product. "It's one thing to talk about eliminating film, but when you see the results on-press, it's incredible," attests Ashlock. "We can push our ink densities about 20 percent and still hold the dot!"

While researching CTP systems, McCord compared the Galileo with systems from Creo Products, Cymbolic Sciences and Scitex. And though all four systems generate outstanding quality plates and press sheets, it concluded that the Galileo's automation features could produce plates more efficiently.

With a five-color, 40˝ Heidelberg Speedmaster 102, a six-color, 29˝ Speedmaster 74 and a GTO gobbling up between 400 and 500 plates a week, this was a critical consideration. In addition, while the pressroom operates around the clock, the digital prepress department has only four employees.

To enable McCord to make plates without interruption, its Galileo is configured with the PlateManager option that holds up to 400 plates of various sizes in four cassettes. On the back side, the Galileo is directly connected to an on-line processor to facilitate a completely automatic and unattended workflow.

During one recent peak production period, the Galileo produced 22 plates in 80 minutes—including plotting and processing. The Galileo's high productivity benefits from the tight coupling between the plate type and imaging head. McCord is using Agfa Lithostar Plus plates, which use a silver-halide, diffusion-transfer coating, and the 532nm frequency-doubled YAG laser, which is upgradable.


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