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The Quad CTP Squad

August 1998
CTP allows Quad/Graphics to break conventions—
and break free from conventional plates.



BY JERRY JANDA


Quad/Graphics has set its eyes on the future, looking into the next century with 20/20 vision. Make that 20/20/20 vision. The company has vowed to reduce customers' cycle times by 20 percent each year for the next three years.

This lofty goal has set Quad on a difficult path leading into the 21st century. Fortunately, the company's commitment to computer-to-plate (CTP) technology promises to make the trip less arduous. Call the journey "2001: A Plate Odyssey."

Computer-to-plate meshes well with Quad's three-year plan. By removing steps from the prepress process, CTP saves time and money for customers. CTP is particularly useful for magazine publishers, granting them the luxury necessary to create extremely time-sensitive editorial content.

"It streamlines the process and enables us to produce a monthly magazine like a weekly," says Mark C. Wheeler, Quad/Graphics' corporate technical manager. "It closes up all those schedules and gives some time back to our customers because we realize there is a big value in that time."

And it's a big value more and more customers are recognizing. Quad/Graphics installed its first CTP platesetter, a Creo unit, in October of 1995. Today, Quad/Graphics operates 19 Creo platesetters, outputting 52,000 digital plates every month.

Digital Dignitaries
According to Wheeler, 85 percent of Quad's work is direct-to-plate. Several Quad facilities have even gone completely digital. In March, Quad's Martinsburg, WV, and The Rock, GA, locations became 100-percent computer-to-plate. They followed in the footsteps of Quad's location in Saratoga Springs, NY.

A web facility specializing in magazines and catalogs, Saratoga Springs removed all of its conventional platemaking equipment in January. Now, armed with four Creo platesetters—two VLFs and two 3244s—the plant creates digital plates that feed 14 Heidelberg Harris web presses.

Wheeler notes that the Saratoga Springs facility has pursued a CTP workflow aggressively. However, he is quick to add that supportive magazine publishers helped make the transition from conventional to digital production much easier for Saratoga Springs. Many well-known titles have made the switch, including Newsweek, Forbes, People, Sports Illustrated and Time.

"The publications seemed pretty eager to go along with the technology," Wheeler says. "Once the word gets out there, and there looks like there could be some savings—whether it's cost-wise, time-wise or quality-wise—people are usually pretty receptive to the idea."

Still, making the idea a reality took plenty of hard work. Change never comes easy, and CTP brought plenty of changes.


 

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