CTP--The Digital DRUPA
Warming Up to Thermal
Since the market probe installation at Quad/Graphics' Hartford, WI, plant in 1994 and the beta installations at R.R. Donnelley & Sons' Magazine Division, in Mattoon, IL, and the Rand McNally Book Services Division in Versailles, KY, in September 1995, the worldwide installed base for thermal CTP has grown to an estimated 2,000 platesetters. While both thermal and visible light CTP continue to grow, most experts forecast that thermal will overtake visible light sales either this year or in 2001. Some industry factions believe the crossover has already happened.
Thermal CTP provides many benefits for the printer. The primary advantages are: improved daylight handling, plate functionality that is like that of conventional plates—requiring no special handling or press adjustments—and the potential for extremely high resolution.
Thermal CTP is the result of a rich research and development philosophy within Eastman Kodak Company combined with a keen strategic market view. Mike Rundle, Kodak Polychrome Graphics' worldwide project manager for CTP products, recalls, "The development of the thermal CTP plate shown at DRUPA 1995 was an outgrowth of Kodak's work on laser thermal imaging in the mid-1980s, which resulted in the introduction of the original Kodak Approval system at DRUPA 1990. Kodak continued to explore the applications of this technology. In fact, it was a retrofitted Approval laser-thermal printhead that allowed Dr. Neil Haley and Steven Corbiere to begin their work on thermally sensitive, digital printing plates."
R&D had delivered a plate that delivered superb image quality; Kodak's management decision to work with Creo to develop a thermal platesetter resulted in a viable production system for thermal CTP. Since the plate became commercially available in January 1996, demand has grown exponentially.
"During 1999, we have scaled up production of the Thermal Printing Plate/830 globally," notes Bruce Davidson, Kodak Polychrome Graphics' worldwide marketing manager for plates. "We are now manufacturing in Japan, Germany and the United States."