One reason that printers are waiting to dive into the advantages of an automated prepress workflow is because they have delayed replacing their existing equipment. Many factors contribute to this, including the economy and a general reluctance to invest in new equipment while the old is still serviceable. However, as the installed base ages and requires replacement, many choose to upgrade. Printers are moving from polyester plates to metal and/or from 2-up to 4-up as well as choosing low to no chemistry or processless technology.
Wolfenden observes that Presstek customers are upgrading to newer models that use less chemistry and provide faster throughput and greater resolution. “We are also seeing shops upgrading to DI presses—eliminating the need for off press platemaking,” he says.
“We have seen some of our customers migrate from 2-up to 4-up,” offers Bostick, “but they don’t switch from our high quality Silver DigiPlate, which comes in both polyester and paper substrates. High quality, affordability, and ease of use appeal to printers in the short-run arena.”
Paperny, however, has noticed a trend toward metal plate adoption. “As the technology becomes mature, consistent, and especially affordable, small commercial printers worldwide moved and are moving from other technologies to the CTP metal technology. The thermal technology has become the leading technology.”
“We do see many users switching from polyester, but that is not really down to a desire to get more sophisticated,” Baker-Homes points out. “It’s more to remove the idiosyncrasies that polyester has, the life of the chemistry failing if you make a lot of plates or very few, the desire to move away from chemicals, and even achieve the ability to recycle your plates afterwards, as they are traditional aluminum plates. We don’t see many switching from 2-up to 4-up, although we do see more 4-up users purchasing our systems.”
Considering the significant advances CTP has made in recent years, what do our experts think comes next?
“The next step always makes things faster, better, cheaper,” says Wolfenden. “The demand for faster turnaround, shorter runs, and different stocks (thicker, recycled, labels, envelopes, etc.) will continue to grow. At the same time, printers will need to operate more cost efficiently to maintain and improve profitability.”
“Reducing complexity, cost, and developing a greener CTP solution with processesless plates will most likely become the standard solution before the mid-decade in the prepress market,” Paperny predicts.
Bostick thinks we can expect to see violet processless polyester and paper plates—a hint of what Mitsubishi Imaging has in store. And Baker-Homes says that Glunz & Jensen is running multiple R&D projects related to CTP. He intimates that the company will demonstrate the result of that R&D at drupa 2012.
On thing is certain, as CTP technology becomes more sophisticated and offers increasing benefits, printers will find it to be the hub around which an efficient, productive workflow revolves.
“Process-free CTP saves time, space, and money for the quick and small commercial printing companies,” Bostick concludes. “By eliminating the processing equipment with its time consuming maintenance and environmental issues, printers will have a faster plate-to-press time cycle and will save money and effort as well. Spending less time and money on the setup of a shorter run job means more profit for the printer and more jobs on press. Eliminating or significantly reducing chemistry means a more environmentally friendly process, which savvy printers will market to customers focusing on sustainability.”