Thermal Plates -- The Heat is On
He notes that thermal imaging offers daylight handling and enables ablative processes. "Ablation offers the only path to chemistry-free and true process-free plate systems. These benefits, coupled with the inherent higher image quality of thermal imaging, meet the printers' needs today and into the future."
It's a daunting task to sort through all of the thermal plate products to find the one or two plates that work best on your system. But more players in the game means more competition, and that should mean lower plate prices soon. According to Leigh Kimmelman, product manager, output products, for CreoScitex, "With so many different vendors in the market now, the price for thermal plates should come down. I believe it will not be long before it is close to that of conventional."
One of the other attractive advantages of thermal over conventional CTP was the promise of plates that required little or no processing. Today, as opposed to five years ago, this promise is now a reality; many plate vendors are offering processless or reduced processing plates, including PDI and Presstek.
Plate manufacturers understand that printers, faced with manpower shortages and the need to cut costs, like the idea of processless plates—plates that require no chemical processing before they can be used on-press. So, they are taking steps to ensure that even when some handling is required before the plates are ready to be used on-press (such as a quick wash to remove excess plating particles), the steps and resources required are minimal.
They are also employing new technologies in their attempts to create more and better processless plates. These technologies hold great promise; within a few years printers could have a much wider range of choices in processless plates. There are several technologies used for creating processless plates, including thermal ablation and bi-metal technology.