Thermal Plates -- The Heat is On
The Future of Thermal
What does the future hold for thermal plate technology and which, if any, of the technologies currently in use will be used in the future?
Dave Bartram, worldwide marketing manager for CTP at Kodak Polychrome Graphics, gives a tantalizing glimpse of the long-term future. "Our definition of the goal [for a thermal plate] is to have a plate that generates no debris nor requires rinsing or development on-press. There is nothing on the market today that fits that description."
Bartram could not comment on how soon Kodak Polychrome Graphics, or any other plate manufacturer, would be able to reach the goal of a totally processless plate. He did say, though, that research in the company labs is on-going and progress is being made.
Phase-change technology may well be the foundation of the technology that allows printers to have hands-off, totally processless plates within the next five to 10 years. In the meantime, ablation looks like the technology leader for processless thermal plates. Bartram says that Kodak Polychrome Graphics is committed to fully commercializing the technology. That is likely to be the case with the other plate manufacturers currently using the technology. So, ablation—a proven, tested technology—looks as though it will be around for years to come.
Longer term, it is a sure bet that plate manufacturers will continue to pursue the goal of a plate that can be imaged without human intervention. The need for a plate that works well in a direct-to-press scenario is too great, as are the potential profits for plate manufacturers that can solve this technological puzzle.
Making the Choice
There are several ways printers can solve their own puzzle of which plates to use on which platesetter. The first is testing—getting enough of the plates you're considering, and testing them on your own platesetter and on your presses. There is no substitute for this step in the evaluation process.