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SCREENING SYSTEMS -- Spotting an Opportunity

May 2003
BY MARK SMITH


Rarely does the first generation of a "revolutionary" new technology live up to expectations. In software circles, for example, painful experience has taught many users to wait for version 2.0 of any new release.

The saying, "Once bitten, twice shy," definitely applies. The greater the degree of disappointment, the longer the road will be to convincing potential adopters that a technology is now "real."

Both stochastic/frequency-modulated (FM) screening and high-fidelity/extended gamut color separation technologies first made a lot of noise in the market during the mid '90s. Versions of each achieved some success, but both have been seen as failed technologies given all the hype at their introductions.

Nearly a decade later, the makings for a groundswell of support seem to have been quietly building in the industry. Computer-to-plate production, advances in digital proofing, greater processing power in prepress, and electronically controlled presses now are seen as enabling advances in screening.

The advanced screening product category has seen greater activity, with most of the major manufacturers introducing new solutions. Creo Inc. rolled out a 10-micron version of its Staccato FM screening. Hybrid systems have come on the scene—including Agfa's Sublima and Spekta from Screen (USA)—that seek to apply AM (amplitude-modulated) and FM screening where appropriate. Fujifilm has created its own product class with its Co-Rés—or common resolution—screening, which arranges halftone dots in a way the company claims distinguishes it from traditional AM and FM screening.

It's hard to think of a better reason for making any business move than responding to a customer request. Almost two years ago, Creative Press, in Anaheim, CA, was asked by one of its largest customers to look into stochastic printing, reports Kevin McHugh, prepress supervisor.

The client, a paint manufacturer, had been approached by another printer touting the process. "After completing a project with that supplier, the company asked us if we would look into the technology," McHugh says. "At the time, Creo was looking for Staccato 10 micron screening beta sites. We had been a Brisque shop, so we ended up converting to the Prinergy front end, Staccato and a color-managed workflow all at once."

At the time, the shop was printing 175- to 200-lpi screens, its prepress supervisor notes. "Today, 85 to 90 percent of our work is produced using Staccato; we're still receiving some film. I'm amazed at the detail it picks up. The results are near photographic quality."
 

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