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The Great (Digital) Plate Debate

June 2000
BY CHERYL A. ADAMS


In the great digital plate debate, the stakes are high, competition is fierce and expert opinions are numerous . . .

"Thermal is dead!"

"Visible light will fade away!"

"Polyester is taboo!"

"Blue laser diode isn't a technological breakthrough, it's a setback!"

"Anything but silverless UV CTP is economically unsound!"

When the dust settles, which consumables (and related technologies) will be left standing? Which ones will not only survive, but thrive in a future where print will compete with other media channels and other digital printing options, such as distribute-and-print, and the Internet?

As more commercial printers address the transition to computer-to-plate (CTP), questions like these must be asked (and answered!) before taking the technological plunge. Printing Impressions contacted many of the leading CTP consumables suppliers—who spoke passionately about their plate technologies—to shed some light on the great digital plate debate and to aid with the CTP plate/platesetter purchasing decision.

Is Thermal Dead?
Surely not, says John O'Rourke, consumables product manager at Presstek, noting that his company is fully invested in thermal. "We are a CTP business. All of our technology is thermal; it was a conscious choice. We felt the path to process-free and chemical-free would lay in thermal ablation technology."

When thermal technology came on the market, it was the early days of CTP implementation and most systems were visible light; but now the overriding number of new systems purchased are thermal, he explains.

"All this talk about violet laser being hot and thermal being dead, is just that—talk," he states. "Look at what's being sold. Creo is selling the most CTP systems, and they're mostly thermal."

To find out what's hot and what's not, printers need to look at what other printers are buying, he advises. "Look around. What is being presented at DRUPA? What's available from the showroom floor? What can you write a check for today? Not violet laser; it's 'vaporware.'

"Violet laser technology requires light-safe handling and chemical developing," O'Rourke continues. "The Presstek choice is process-free and chemical-free, and it is what we believe makes more sense for print today and in the future."

And some of today's trends—specifically, blue and violet laser technology, which will always be linked to chemical developing—will prove themselves not fit for the future, he asserts.

"Blue laser diode platesetting, which requires chemical developing, is a setback," he states. "And we [at Presstek] think that, with environmental and regulatory sensitivities being what they are, hitching your cart to a horse that (for the foreseeable future) will always require chemical developing is probably not the best choice for printers looking to purchase CTP systems."

 

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