CTP--The Digital DRUPA
The processless thermal plates coming to market today use ablative imaging technologies, with plates imaged in this way able to achieve run lengths of 20,000 to 50,000 impressions.
In January, Creo began field testing with Kodak Polychrome Graphics' Navajo ablative plates on the Heidelberg/Creo Trendsetter. As ablative technology is further refined, run lengths will increase.
The next step in processless plate technology is switchable polymer, which will further reduce operating costs for printers and trade shops.
Because costly anodized aluminum is not required to manufacture switchable polymer plates, this revolutionary technology has the potential to reduce the cost of CTP plates to less than that of conventional plates.
Thermal imaging technology finally brings cost-effective digital halftone proofing to printers and trade shops. The concentrated power of thermal imaging is necessary to image digital halftone proofing materials effectively and accurately. With the Heidelberg/Creo Trendsetter Spectrum, a combination of fast platesetting and halftone digital proofing on the same system brings higher efficiencies to the typical print-production environment.
The Bottom Line
The overall manufacturing cost for a thermal processless-plate imaging system is less than the combination of a visible-light (blue-violet laser) imaging system and plate processor. The cost of the plate processor alone exceeds the cost difference between a thermal-imaging system and a blue-violet laser imaging system. As a percentage of the overall cost to produce a thermal CTP system, the cost of the laser diode is negligible.
Volume pricing and the broad application of thermal technology have driven prices down since its initial introduction. Blue-violet laser diodes, however, were recently developed for specific application in DVD players. As a result, they are currently available with the capability to produce less than 10 milliwatts of power.
As far as CTP applications are concerned, this is sufficient to image only silver halide-based plates, which typically require hydroquinone-based developers. This chemical is a known carcinogen.