“We see an increasing number of copy shops adopting CTP and offset printing technologies because it allows them to take on more variety of work in terms of run length and quality,” observes Cicogna. “It also gives them a competitive advantage since they save money and can turn jobs around faster by keeping the work in-house.
She points to the example of Bob Gajewski, owner of Trend Graphics in Illinois. Running an all digital shop, he invested in a polyester platesetter and 4-up press. “His business has grown so much in the last two years since that purchase decision that a few weeks ago his company installed a second 4-up press. That’s a real testament to the power of offset printing,” Cicogna states.
“Many of the small printers have bought and paid for their offset presses, so anything that runs on them generally is where their profit comes from,” adds Baker-Homes.
“Digital offers immense flexibility, however users are rolled into lease payments—often click charges and a maintenance contract as well. They never tend to own the equipment, so its [the equipment manufacturer] that makes the profit,” he points out. “CTP, if it’s low cost, frees the printers up to maximize their profits by getting their presses running and helping them deliver profitable print. At the same time, they are using digital to deliver the flexibility required for some jobs. A mix of both is essential for the printer to be profitable in this current business environment.”
Metal or Polyester?
So are metal or polyester plate systems more common in our industry segment? Polyester has been the material of choice for a number of years, but metal is becoming more popular as the equipment becomes more affordable.
“In printers with 4-up printing presses, even if it is only one, we see virtually no polyester,” notes Baker Homes. “In smaller printers with duplicators, such as ABDicks or Hamadas, we believe there are 35-40% using polyester, 40% still using film, and quite a low installed base of the traditional metal CTP due to its price points.
Luttrell reports some pertinent statistics: “According to State Street Consultants, total new CTP sales in just the U.S. and Canada in 2005 were calculated to be 2,050 units. Of this figure, State Street determined that 750 were non-metal or polyester CTP systems. Using these numbers, polyester CTP system sales amounted to 36% of the total U.S. CTP market.
“According to a recent PRIMIR study, The Life Cycle of the Analog and Digital Lithographic Printing Plate, non-metal or polyester CTP sales in the U.S. and Canada are projected to increase by an average of 9.5% through the year 2010. The majority of these sales (90.9%) are projected to come from the commercial printer 1-19 segment (sales of $150,000 to $2.8 million). The buyers in this segment are expected to be mostly first time buyers who will purchase both workflow and CTP.”
Green Plate Special
Compared to traditional plate processing’s developers and chemicals, any CTP system is more environmentally friendly. Yet within the panoply of CTP products available, some are more green than others. While the truly processless and chemical free systems may carry a higher cost of entry, they tend to generate greater savings—for both the printer and the earth—over time.
“Today’s printers are acutely focused upon productivity and profitability issues,” states Luttrell. “The introduction of a chemistry-free media that can maintain or improve current production throughput, as well as reduce the existing plate processing cost, is good from both and economical and ecological perspective.”
“Many find [the green aspect] to be the reason to buy,” Baker-Homes reflects. “With such a large base of users still using film in the small printer section of the market, they see going green as a way to reduce their costs for chemical disposal and offer new services to the customer. And it provides a new way to promote their company.”
“When I talk to printers I see there is a real desire to be more environmentally friendly and to make purchase choices that are good for the environment,” concludes Cicogna. “Green printing has been a challenge, especially for quick and small commercial printers, generally because the cost of going green is still prohibitive for many of them. Much of the chemistry free CTP that is available on the market was designed for the larger printers and is expensive to purchase and maintain.”