PRINTING PLATE UPDATE -- New Precious Metal
The dynamics are a little more complex for Heidelberg USA, since it doesn't directly manufacture any of the plates it co-develops and markets, points out Rick Boggess, director of consumables. "Manufacturers are telling us they have long-term aluminum contracts in place to ensure they have enough raw materials," he says. "However, they are holding distribution and OEM partners very tightly to their (demand) forecasts."
Areas of Dry Supply
Growth in worldwide CTP use is beginning to lead to tightening of supply in certain countries, continues Boggess. Actual plate manufacturing capacity isn't an issue, though, as capacity still exceeds the market demand, he adds.
Economies of scale and competitive pressure had been working in the favor of CTP users in recent years, observes Colleen Molkenbur, product manager, graphic arts consumables, at Mitsubishi Imaging (MPM). Digital plate prices dropped as the product options increased, Molkenbur says.
While digital may be the growth market, manufacturers of analog plates report they are still investing in that technology, too. Nonetheless, they generally only see limited potential in adapting cutting-edge digital plate technology, such as processless, for conventional exposure.
CTP production now accounts for more than 50 percent of the market in the United States and Europe, but the rest of the world is still in an earlier stage of the CTP conversion, points out KPG's Wiethoff. "We continue to dedicate a sizeable portion of our R&D budget to improving our analog plates," he says.
Agfa also continues to devote resources to its analog production line along with digital, says Susan Wittner, marketing director, North America. "Our focus is on evolutionary changes that increase our customers' productivity and pressroom performance," she says.
Enovation's Crawford sees a more bearish outlook for analog products given that many plate manufacturers ship more CTP plates than conventional. "Based on the sales growth and increasing demand for technology improvements within the CTP sector, R&D budgets need to be projected toward CTP products," he says.