The Great (Digital) Plate Debate
Direct-to-plate is, in general, faster and less expensive than conventional printing (it eliminates the film and processing steps, which saves time and money), Gallup explains. But because small printers have shorter runs, they use more plates, so the cost of the plate is very important, as well. Polyester plates cost less than metal plates.
AB Dick's polyester plate is Megapro, which is not a new product, but one that Gallup anticipates will soon see elevated sales, based on its use with ABDick's new direct-to-plate system, the DPM 2340. The new platemaker made its DRUPA debut and reflects the latest in technological trends. Gallup's list of such trends includes:
- Improved quality. The latest devices offer higher resolution, higher accuracy and faster throughput.
- More compact. Units are smaller in design to adhere to the space limitations of smaller printers.
- More affordable. The price is coming down, Gallup says, noting the $35,000 price tag on the DPM 2340.
- Designed as a true direct-to-plate system. Today's platemaker is made as one, integrated direct-to-plate system, he notes—not an imagesetter with a processor attached.
- No more polyester taboo. Vendors have successfully demonstrated the product's capabilities and many more printers are using it, Gallup reports. "People used to think polyester was used for lower quality printing, but then you demo it and show them 150 lpi printed with process color that looks just like metal plate quality, and you make believers out of them."
- On-site technical/ pressroom support. A difference exists between a vendor's ability to demo a product's greatness and the printer's ability to realize that greatness himself. Gallup insists that press operators have to be trained in how to properly use polyester plates to achieve the higher quality.
- Printers will trade up, from imagesetters to platesetters. As small-format imagesetters begin nearing the end of their six- to eight-year life cycle, small commercial printers will consider getting rid of their imagesetters all together, Gallup predicts. They will look to trade up, buy new technologies and make the decisions to go direct-to-plate. As proof, Gallup says, ask any small-format imagesetter vendor if his sales have been declining over the past five years.