Thermal Plates -- The Heat is On
Once you've determined that the plate works, you'll want to consider direct costs (cost of the plate and costs of any and all processing). You'll also want to consider any indirect costs, such as the cost for purchasing and operating a processing or baking unit. Make sure to take into account any additional costs or cost savings you might encounter by making changes in your workflow.
You will also want to take into consideration recommendations made by the platesetter manufacturer. The technology involved in CTP and digital plates is still at the stage where you need to pay attention to what the equipment manufacturers have to say. There is little, sometimes no, room for mix-and-matching between platesetters and plates.
In a short five years, thermal plate technology and manufacturing have come a long way. Today, printers have many solid products to consider and more are no doubt on the way. Some of the product choices offer reduced processing time and costs. Printers interested in thermal CTP need to consider more than the per plate costs associated with thermal. Having real numbers in hand can help make decisions easier and more realistic.
Thermal plates also have a bright future; new technologies are being developed to further reduce or eliminate processing. Plus, as the printing industry moves forward to direct-to-press technology, thermal plates will play a role in getting the industry to this goal.
Who's Offering What in Thermal Plates
Mistral—a waterless, processless plate based on thermal ablative technology, is suitable for high run lengths.
Thermolite—conventional aluminum substrate with a thermally sensitive coating on top, developed on-press, suitable for short run, on- and off-press thermal imaging.
Themostar—a thermal plate with no pre-baking requirements with run lengths up to 500,000.
830T-Plate is a digital, positive plate for CreoScitex thermal platesetters; run lengths of up to 150,000, more with post-baking.