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Thermal CTP--Making Life. . .and Plates. . .Easier

August 1999
Two printers share their thoughts on how computer-to-plate technology has changed, and simplified, the production of plates.


BY ERIK CAGLE


To hear the newest members of the thermal computer-to-plate club tell it, the filmless process outranks even the television remote control in terms of convenience. While few 20-somethings can remember TV life without the armchair quarterback, many of today's commercial printers can scarcely believe how they made do without the convenience of digital platesetters.

The difference between digital and conventional workflows, it seems, represents a chasm as expansive (not to mention palatable) as pâté and liverwurst.

Bruce Wexler is a believer. The executive vice president of West Orange, NJ-based Earth Color Group recently encountered a tricky job: an eight-page brochure (a print run of 700,000 to 800,000) with more than its share of difficult tints and gradations. Even so, Wexler found that his company's recently installed Agfa Galileo thermal CTP device to be quite capable of handling the task.

"Our CTP workflow allows me to push 25 percent more ink than I would normally be able to push," Wexler says. "It allows me to raise my line screen, because the dot is much cleaner. Previously, I would normally run 150 on my web press; I now run between 175 and 200 line screen."

Problem Free
Results on-press are also stunning, he notes, buoyed by a cleaner, smoother look that features heavier ink coverage on the sheets. There are no holes, no hot spots—none of the traditional problems encountered with conventional prepress, Wexler contends. Boasting CIP3 technology is another plus, allowing him to preset all fountain settings on the press and automate the imposition process.

In short, the Agfa Galileo Thermal, running with ThermoStar digital plates, has completely turned around Earth Color's prepress operation.

"This is amazing. It's much more efficient, much more reliable now," Wexler points out. "In the past, we encountered registration problems during plate making. Now, we don't see any register problems. There are no more holes, no more dust, no more dirt."

Auto Pilot
"I looked at other machines, but the beauty is that it's completely automatic," adds Wexler. "It loads plates automatically, images the plates automatically, develops the plates automatically—and all I really do is take plates off the other end. I don't have to load the machine each time—it really operates itself. That's why we chose the Galileo."

Earth Color Group operates within the Apogee-PDF workflow, which Wexler deems a safer environment, as there are no re-ragging problems. "We can just burn in and burn out," he remarks. Minor, quick fixes can be made without "re-RIPing" an entire file. The workflow leading up to the laser imaging is one of the major reasons Earth Color chose to go with the Galileo Thermal.


 

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