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IMAGESETTING VS. PLATESETTING -- Setting the Pace

February 2002
BY MARK SMITH


Just "to" it. With all due apologies to Nike, this play on its famous slogan seems to similarly capture the mood in the printing industry. Computer-to-plate (CTP) has become the hip, happening thing in the market. All the attention being paid to the technology makes it hard not to get the impression that everybody is to-ing it.

The hoopla also makes it easy to understand why film users can sound a bit defensive when asked about their decision to stick with the tried-and-true workflow. For this community, an equally apt anti-slogan could be derived from those paternal words of wisdom, "If everybody else jumped off a cliff, would you?"

By no means is anyone implying that adopting CTP is foolhardy, mind you, even if for some it did require making a leap of faith.

In fact, the value of the workflow is reflected in the adoption of the "computer-to-film" (CTF) moniker to denote the outputting of imposed, single-piece film ready for platemaking. Users of the film/imagesetter duo simply want the process to still get the respect it's due as an effective workflow option, and one that continues to account for a large share of the market.

If one buys into recent popular theories, Checkmate Graphics in Ellicott City, MD, should be dead by now—twice over, in fact, muses Mike Granata, production manager. "Trade shops are already supposed to be dead," he notes, "and I've been hearing for the last 10 years that the end of film was coming. I still don't see the end in sight. We're a small company (four employees), but we are profitable.

"I don't understand what has become so difficult and negative about burning plates conventionally. There are issues, but for a high-quality shop addressing those concerns should be second nature," Granata says. "People claim CTP is so much faster and the quality so much better that it is a waste of time to go to film. That is completely untrue."

CTP is Not for Everyone

"I'm not anti-CTP," the production manager continues. "For the right printer, in the right circumstances, it is excellent technology. It's just not right for everybody. For smaller printers, in the $2 million to $7 million sales range, it just doesn't make much sense."

Checkmate installed an eight-page Fujifilm Sumo imagesetter in order to have the flexibility to output film sizes from 10x12˝ to 30x40˝. Along with doing work for end customers, the shop outputs film for a lot of printers, including plants with in-house prepress capabilities and even some with CTP systems.
 

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