Building on that point, Peter Vanderlaan, group manager, EI output products at Enovation Graphic Systems, a Fujifilm Co., suggests owners of aging CTP systems consider two factors when gauging the useful lifespan of their equipment. “Does the platesetter meet my current production requirements (image quality, plates per hour, etc.)?” and “Does the service cost justify running an old-style platesetter?”

Time for an Upgrade

Older technology can become effectively orphaned due to changes in technology and vendors exiting the market, Vanderlaan adds. He points out that current generation products typically offer “field upgradeable” options that can help keep them competitive.

Life cycles for technology in general are getting shorter, partly due to ongoing improvement in electronics and data transfer standards, contributes John O’Rourke, director, CTP products, at Presstek Inc.

“CTP is not immune to these impacts. We have systems in the field that are still very productive after six and seven years of use, but our current product line provides better performance,” he says.

O’Rourke agrees that the key question for printers to ask is, “Does the resident system still provide value?” There is not one generic answer, he says.

The fact that many systems are leased, for terms of 36 to 60 months, provides a built-in point where users have to decide whether to trade in or buy out their existing machines, notes David Furman, Agfa Corp. senior marketing manager, CTP systems-North America. This has the potential to skew replacement cycles.

In Agfa’s experience, many users opt to upgrade because they need more productivity. “We have customers still using units from eight years ago or longer, but five to seven years is a good range (for an expected life cycle),” he says.

In the great thermal versus violet debate, much has been made about the comparative longevity and cost of those laser alternatives. Yet vendors from both sides seem to agree that a routine laser replacement isn’t a significant factor in determining the worth of an installed platesetter.

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