The Great (Digital) Plate Debate
"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."
As for the future, O'Rourke predicts a rapid proliferation of thermal plates because process-free (or "zero-process") plates eliminate chemical developing. When such variables are removed, a printer gets a much more predictable and repeatable system, he says.
"And commercial printing is in the business of repeating," O'Rourke notes. "Repeatability is how you make money. And any system that allows you to do this more efficiently is better for your business."
Providing still more defense of thermal's longevity, O'Rourke compares thermal's proven track record with other "vaporware" products, as he calls them, that made their tech-demo debuts at DRUPA. For example, he cites flaws in the concept of spray-on polymers: Instead of eliminating steps, spray-ons add steps, he claims. "You have to A) spray it on the printing press, B) cure it, C) image it, D) clean it, E) print it and F) clean the press again to maintain its pristine surface. That's six steps versus the two steps of thermal.
"Thermal is processless and chemical-free," he concludes. "It's the proven plate technology today, and it's the investment that will last into the future."