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November 2004

Technology Editor

Among the more notable, prepress-related developments at Graph Expo and Converting Expo 2004 were several things that didn't happen.

It was a simple matter of timing that kept Presstek Inc. from having anything new to report regarding its bid to acquire the business and assets of the A.B.Dick Co., according to Ed Marino, president and CEO. A.B.Dick's future continued to be in the hands of the Bankruptcy Court since it had filed for Chapter 11 protection. Marino still expected a favorable decision to be rendered by the end of October, since no other formal bids had been entered as of the show's opening day.

CIP4 (The International Cooperation for the Integration of Processes in Prepress, Press and Postpress) cancelled a press conference it had scheduled for day three of the show. Among the topics expected to be discussed was a status update on the development of Interoperability Conformance Specifications (ICS) for JDF-compliant products.

Establishment of uniform benchmarks for conformance with the specification is seen as an important step toward plug-and-play system integration. This effort potentially enables developers to adopt a one-to-many, rather than one-to-one, approach in implementing JDF. In addition, the ICS documents being written for various printing processes are meant to serve as the basis for future official JDF Certification testing.

The much speculated about announcement of a violet digital plate from Kodak Polychrome Graphics (KPG) wasn't made in Chicago, but it did ultimately come in the same time frame as Graph Expo 2004. KPG unveiled a first version of the plate at the IfraExpo newspaper exhibition in Amsterdam, Netherlands, targeted to newspaper applications,

Plate in Beta Stage

KPG's VioletNews plate is said to currently be in beta testing and will be commercially launched in the first quarter of 2005 initially in Europe, but its North America release will follow closely. It is a negative working, high-speed photopolymer plate offering a resolution of 2 percent to 98 percent dot at up to 175 lpi and supporting run lengths of up to 200,000 copies. KPG has confirmed that it plans to launch a violet photopolymer plate for commercial CTP applications later in 2005.

In terms of announcements made at the show, most ended up being U.S. debuts of products introduced at Drupa in Germany last May. (The June 2004 edition of Printing Impressions carried extensive coverage of that trade show.)

Many of the prepress product introductions are included in the "Digital Workflow Software" story on page 57 of this issue.

As for processless plate technology, there were no major updates to any of the previously reported (August 2004 issue of Printing Impressions, page 24) development efforts.

Agfa was able to finalize its acquisition of Lastra just prior to Graph Expo, but it was status quo at the show in terms of the companies having separate booths and plans for the plate product lines. Agfa continues to emphasize that its chemistry-free Azura plate (based on ThermoFuse technology) is commercially available, with Kirkwood Printing of Wilmington, MA, being an early adopter. At Graph Expo, the company also pointed out that its new Acento four-up, thermal platesetter is now shipping in North America.

Along with celebrating its first year in the printing plate business, Creo announced it intends to add a production line to its West Virginia manufacturing facility. The plate line is expected to more than double the plant's capacity and is projected to be completed by the end of 2005.

A mix of thermal and violet CTP hardware introductions was sprinkled around the show floor.

Heidelberg showed a strong commitment to thermal at Drupa 04 with the introduction of a new laser system it developed and is incorporating into the Suprasetter line of thermal platesetters. These platesetters offer versatility in plate handling, format coverage and punching. Various configurations are available, from the four- or eight-page basic models to the automatic Single Cassette Loader (SCL), Multiple Cassette Loader (MCL) and Plate-On-Demand (which allows for instant plate production initiated from the CP 2000 press console) systems.

However, the company also continues to be a major player in the violet CTP market. The Prosetter violet product family headlined Heidelberg's CTP solutions at Graph Expo 04, along with the North American premier of Suprasetter. New features shown included a manual by-pass for the SCL configuration, a new Multiple Cassette Loader (MCL) model and Plate-On-Demand functionality.

Over the four days of the show, Heidelberg says it utilized Prosetters to produce more than 1,000 plates run on seven presses with 36 printing units. It reports selling approximately 1,000 violet systems worldwide since the product line was introduced in January of 2002.

Small Footprint Model

Enovation Graphic Systems brought the Fujifilm Saber Luxel V-6 violet platesetter line to Chicago for its North American launch. The machine is said to offer a smaller footprint while supporting a maximum 303⁄32x27˝ plate size. It features a 60mW laser and is available in manual, semi-automatic and automatic configurations.

Presstek Inc. previewed an Automated Plate Loading System upgrade for its Dimension Excel CTP platform, which features new ProFire thermal imaging technology. The upgrade enables automated handling of multiple plate selection, punching, slip-sheet removal, imaging and post-imaging handling. Pricing and availability are scheduled to be announced in early 2005.

Screen (USA) arguably could be considered a thermal-only CTP vendor, but its parent organization does offer violet platesetters outside the U.S. market. Its platesetter line now tops out with the high-speed, multi-format PlateRite Ultima 16000 (16-page) and 32000 (32-page) models, both featuring Grating Light Valve imaging technology.

Rejoining the ranks of Graph Expo exhibitors after a four-year hiatus, ECRM Imaging Systems highlighted its new MAKO 8 platesetter. The eight-page (32.4x45˝) machine combines violet imaging with a straight-through plate path for ease of operation.

Xanté Corp. introduced a new metal CTP solution based on patent-pending, non-photosensitive technology. Aspen metal plates are said to enable a process-free, chemical-free, no rinse workflow using anodized and grained aluminum plates rated for more than 25,000 impressions. The Impressia metal platesetter uses high-intensity radiant light to instantly expose the Aspen plate in sizes up to 13.38x19.87˝.

Just prior to Graph Expo 2004, Esko-Graphics announced it was narrowing the focus of its commercial printing business to the DPX 4 polyester CTP system, PlateDriver Compact violet platesetter, DotMate filmsetter and EskoScan scanner product lines. The company is also moving forward with its plan to introduce the Espresso four-up CtUP (computer-to-UV-plate) system in 2005. Mitsubishi Imaging showed the DPX 4 system in its booth, too, since the platesetter was jointly developed by Mitsubishi Paper Mills Ltd. (its parent) and Esko-Graphics.

Elsewhere, International Graphic Systems introduced HighWater's Python four-up violet platesetter into the U.S. market, Escher-Grad Technologies showed its fully automated Cobalt-4 and Cobalt-8 violet CTP systems, Glunz & Jensen released the PlateWriter 4200 ink-jet computer-to-plate (iCTP) system and basysPrint highlighted an entry-level, eight-up version—UV-Setter 731e—of its CTcP (computer-to-conventional-plate) system.

Konica Minolta Graphic Imaging U.S.A. has formed a strategic partnership with basysPrint GmbH to sell, service and support the complete line of basysPrint CTcP systems in the United States.

Digital color proofing systems were also prevalent around the show floor, especially solutions for remote proofing—both hardcopy and on-screen/virtual. Epson America, however, chose an off-site venue to brief members of the press on a new product offering that could change the competitive landscape.

The Epson Stylus Pro 4000 Professional Edition combines the printer engine and UltraChrome Inks with a custom-designed RIP from ColorBurst Systems that's SWOP approved and Pantone licensed. Epson says this bundle is only being offered for its 4000 series engines.


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