These days, CTP (computer-to-plate) is part of almost every successful printing company’s game plan. Sure, there are still companies producing plates the old fashioned way, but they are missing economies of scale that, in lean times, can mean the difference between staying in business or failing.
Printers adopting CTP have to answer some questions. Will you opt to go with metal or polyester? Are you in it just to save money or are you concerned about environmental issues? There are varying levels of “chemical free;” what is the best choice for your company?
“Many of the quick and small commercial printers adopted CTP years ago when polyester plates first came out in 1985,” observes Frances Cicogna, director of graphic arts marketing for Mitsubishi Imaging. “This was because they transformed their imagesetters into CTP devices simply by putting in a roll of polyester plates, instead of film, and changing the developing solutions. In today’s environment, many of those same folks have prospered as a result of that technology and continue to invest in a dedicated polyester CTP platesetter.”
Jim Luttrell, director of marketing for ECRM, concurs. “The majority of owners of smaller and quick printing operations have indeed accepted CTP as both a viable and valuable revenue generation tool,” he says. “This is especially the case with the development and availability of patented flatbed violet laser imaging technology, which has made CTP not only much more affordable, but increasingly necessary in achieving or maintaining profitability. The reliability and low cost of ownership quickens the ROI, enables new revenue streams, and enhances a shop’s production quality, as well as its throughput.”
Yet Mark Baker-Homes offers a different perspective. From his vantage point as vice president, sales and marketing, for Glunz & Jensen, he points out, “We see that almost all the quick printers we talk to want CTP. So, in that respect, it is being accepted. However, many of the smaller printers are having difficulty finding financing once they have made the decision to take it. Traditionally, metal CTP has been too expensive, and with the financial climate, we have seen fear in users.”
“Printers must shorten and remove cost from their production cycle, and implementing a CTP solution is one way to achieve this goal,” notes Brian Wolfenden, Presstek’s director of marketing communications. He goes on to say that the environmental friendliness of the CTP process is another reason for its growing popularity, but we’ll address that aspect in a moment.
According to Arthur Verwey, vice president, worldwide marketing for Xanté, quick and small commercial printers want CTP for the most basic reasons: “It saves time and money, and provides lower overhead,” he states simply.
The other aspect CTP that makes CTP so attractive is its innate facilitation of the digital/offset hybrid workflow that is so prevalent in the industry. The computer-to-plate process allows printers using digital prepress—and particularly a PDF workflow—the freedom to route any job to the most appropriate output device. With CTP, the digital original finds its way to the press as easily as it goes to the digital printer. As Wolfenden succinctly notes, “It’s all about the right tool for the job.”
“Most quick and small commercial printers are looking for CTP to replace [the process of] film producing, stripping, and burning plates. Most of these printers are printing small to medium size jobs, which make it a perfect CTP and digital/offset environment,” offers Verwey.
“CTP fits within a digital production environment by supporting the business owner’s ability to satisfy the client’s immediate needs,” says Luttrell. “Digital workflows are designed to feed both digital presses (for shorter job runs) and platesetters for longer, more quality conscious projects. An owner who can’t satisfy both demands is risking the loss of short term and long term business to operations that meet the clients’ needs for one-stop servicing.”