From Clean Slate to Direct-to-plate

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.

This configuration supports screen rulings of up to 300 lpi (limited only by the plate) and images a 2,400-dpi, 200-lpi plate in four-and-a-half minutes.

Interestingly, the firm didn’t have digital prepress capabilities at all as recently as 1996. However, Ashlock and Singer took advantage of this “clean slate” to start a digital prepress operation from scratch. With PostScript workflows mature, they jumped into the thick of it by installing an Agfa Avantra 44 eight-up imagesetter.

“We could have bought a two-up imagesetter, but that wasn’t where we wanted to be,” Ashlock recalls. “We bought the equipment for where we were going, so we got an Avantra 44 and learned imposition.”

While some printers may question the wisdom of taking such a leap, the results have been remarkable: McCord has a total spoilage rate of about 1 percent of sales. The reason, Ashlock and Singer maintain, has more to do with communications than technology. McCord employs teams comprising members from each department to manage production, ensuring that the prepress department generates flats that meet the needs of both pressroom and bindery. “Our interdepartmental communication is excellent,” Singer enthuses.

Similarly, they credit the person they recruited to manage the new department and system with its success. McCord hired Tonni Shaw, an electronic prepress veteran who had already mastered four-page workflows on an Agfa SelectSet 7000. “We let her run a company within the company,” Ashlock confides.

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