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Taste For Success

Computer-to-Plate Systems

Computer-to-plate is an important technology for many companies in the UK and indeed, the global print market. Rob Fletcher looks at some of the latest solutions

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Computer-to-plate technology offers benefits such as time savings

Serving up success

Computer-to-plate (CtP) is a technology that will always remain dear to me, as it was the focus of my first feature when I joined Print Monthly back in July 2011. As a fresh-faced newbie to the industry, this gave me the perfect opportunity to jump right in and get to grips with the terminology that would become commonplace to me over the years.

Fast-forward to 2017 and while my print knowledge is significantly enhanced, I always relish the opportunity to return to the subject of CtP and find out how this area of the market is continuing to develop and expand with new and exciting solutions.

With that in mind, here we speak with some of the leading brands in the market, and find out about their new technologies, and how UK print companies can use these solutions to enhance their service offering.

Productive and reliable

One of the stand-out names in CtP is Fujifilm, which is well known across the industry for the quality of its products. The manufacturer offers integrated CtP solutions that use both photopolymer and thermal technologies.

Glancing across Fujifilm’s product portfolio, the Luxel T-6500CTP B2 platesetter can achieve speeds of up to 33 plates per hour, providing at least eight sets of four colour plates per hour. The machine can produce plates as large as 830 x 660mm and utilise Fiber D technology in order to boost the quality of image output.

For B1 format, Fujifilm has a number of models, including the Luxel T-9800CTP HD-N series, the latest generation of 8pp platesetters from the company. Offering productivity options from 36 to 70 plates per hour, the device also has an online punch option of a maximum of 12 units with up to six sets of punches.

Also at B1 levels is the Luxel V-8 violet photopolymer platesetter model, with speeds of 55 plates per hour, and the high productivity PlateRite HD 8900 B1+ thermal device that can produce as many as 67 press-ready B1 plates in one hour.

For larger-format work, Fujifilm can offer options such as the PlateRite Ultima 16000II, which can output up to 31 plates at sizes of 1,448 x 1,143mm per hour. For industry members seeking bigger machines, the PlateRite Ultima 48000 and its ability to produce plates as large as 2,900 x 1,350mm per hour would be a solid choice.

The PlateRite Ultima 48000 from Fujifilm can produce plates as large as 2,900 x 1,350mm per hour

Belfast-based commercial printer GPS Colour Graphics is one company that has recently invested in CtP kit as part of an effort to enhance its production. Having just moved into a new 125,000sq ft purpose-built facility, the firm purchased a PlateRite HD 8900Z from Fujifilm.

The B1+ thermal device will run alongside GPS’s existing PlateRite 8800Z and allow the firm to produce more than 100 B1 plates per hour, 24 hours a day. In a further show of support for Fujifilm kit, GPS renewed its existing Superia LH-PJE plate supply contract with the manufacturer for another three years.

Speaking about the investment, Bryan McClay, production director at GPS, says: “The combination of GPS’s exacting processes and the consistent reliability of the Superia LH-PJE plate enable us to conform to international colour standard ISO 12647 across all our presses—vital given our clients are some of the UK’s and Ireland’s biggest brands.

Bryan McClay, production director at GPS, continues to invest in CtP equipment from Fujifilm as he says the manufacturer offers “reliable” solutions

“GPS also has a string of environmental credentials and awards, so we’re delighted that our new CtP machine measures up to our requirements with significantly reduced power consumption and intelligent processor management.”

Efficiencies are critical

Another global brand that is heavily associated with the CtP market is Kodak and Nathanael Eijbersen, WW product manager, output devices at the company’s Canada division, loudly champions this technology and the benefits it can bring to a modern, busy print room.

Eijbersen comments: “Operational efficiencies in prepress are critical in a modern print house. New presses that are designed for short make-ready, quick plate switchovers and competitive offset print with shorter run lengths, need to be backed up with a similar fine-tuned prepress operation.

Kodak’s Achieve T400/T800 Platesetters are offered as entry-level output devices and can be supplied with additional options such as auto unload

“Important considerations for prepress are high plate throughput for just-in-time plate delivery, automation to minimise human errors—both for prepress equipment and upstream in workflow—simplification by eliminating process steps and maximum operational flexibility and uptime.”

Eijbersen wastes little time in drawing attention to the solutions available from Kodak, highlighting that the manufacturer was responsible for the introduction of thermal technology in 1995, and the world has now followed and standardised on thermal imaging for plate-making. However, Eijbersen says Kodak remains committed to investment in CTP technology and picks out a number of recent examples of development.

According to Eijbersen, SQUAREspot imaging technology continues to provide quality imaging capabilities that are key to print companies getting the best out of their press, while the firm’s Kodak Achieve, Kodak Trendsetter, and Kodak Magnus platesetters are designed to meet a wide range of customer needs.

Eijbersen highlights new automation offerings with the new SCU and MCU options for the Kodak Achieve platesetter as well as Kodak Trendsetter platesetters, citing benefits such as significant footprint and power savings.

Kodak says its Sonora process free plates can offer savings in chemistry, water, processor maintenance, chemistry disposal, and cost

In addition, he says new ultra-high speed capabilities with the W-speed option for the Kodak Trendsetter platesetters provide throughputs up to 75 plates per hour, even with process free plates like Kodak Sonora plates.

Eijbersen adds: “Prepress is the ‘heart’ of any print house, just like excellent tyres are key to a high-performing sports car. Imaging quality and stability are key to getting the best performance on press and avoiding costly rework downstream. Key considerations are getting the best imaging technology you can get versus getting something that is ‘good enough’.”

Breaking records
Also suitably kitted out to provide reliable solutions in the CtP sector is Agfa Graphics, a company known for its wide range of print products. Steve Collins, product marketing and channel manager for the UK and Ireland, picks out a number of key advantages from using CtP in a print house.

Collins says: “CtP can help modern print companies streamline production and avoid the use of film, as well as carry out remote, and fast, plate-making. In addition, companies that invest in this sort of technology will be able to benefit from unmanned out of hours operation, if necessary, as well as faster output and the possibility to output multiple sizes and online punching.

CtP can help modern print companies streamline production and avoid the use of film, as well as carry out remote, and fast, plate-making

“It’s important to invest in new technology so you can reduce ongoing production costs, keep pace with modern machinery, as well as have the ability to deal with peak hour workloads, based on the speed of the engines.”

With this in mind, Collins picks out some of the solutions on offer from Agfa that could help printing companies make the step up to the next level of production. Such options include the Avalon N8-90, which Collins says is possibly the fastest commercial platesetter on the market. The device has the ability to produce 70 B1 plates per hour on conventional thermal emulsions.

The Avalon N8-90 from Agfa Graphics can produce 70 B1 plates per hour on conventional thermal emulsions

Collins also goes on to highlight the recent case of Stephens and George, which in March used Avalon N8 technology to help set an impressions record. The firm was able to reach 20,568,054 impressions in just one month, surpassing the previous record of 19,997,361 set in February.

The Stephens and George prepress department is equipped with two of the latest Agfa Avalon N8 plate lines and Apogee workflow, and was able to set another record in March with an output of 35,955 plates, which equates to 78,000 colour pages. In just 24 hours, over 2,200 Azura TU chemistry-free plates were imaged.

Jamie Awford, prepress manager at Stephens and George, comments: “This feat is even more extraordinary as the 2,200 plates cover 66 individual jobs printed on our five multi-colour Heidelberg presses with a total of 40 units.”

Also in March, one of the plate lines was able to produce 1,186 Azura TU plates while running at 98 percent total capacity for the entire 24-hour period.

Awford adds: “We have worked very closely with our suppliers for many years and these relationships combined with our dedicated and professional staff have all played their part in achieving these outstanding results. The next challenge is maintaining these volumes.”

O Factoid: In March, Stephens and George used Avalon N8 technology from Agfa Graphics to set a new record of 20,568,054 impressions in just one month. O

After something of a nostalgic meander down memory lane, it is positive to see so much development in this sector, as well as the clear commitment from major manufacturers to continue to bring new products to market. With no signs of this development slowing down, I cannot help but cast my mind forward another six years, and consider how far this sector will have gone and the advancements we can look forward to.

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