Computer-to-plate (CTP) is becoming more of an industry standard with every passing year. The main reason is that the equipment has become more accessible and affordable to the quick and small commercial printing segment. Equipment manufacturers, recognizing the viability of our market segment, migrated their technology downstream to meet the needs of printers who still primarily operate a 2-up format.
Other reasons for CTP's growing popularity are streamlining of the print shop workflow, cost savings, and its environmental friendliness. Using the CTP process allows for the elimination of virtually all the chemicals associated with darkrooms and traditional prepress operations. Costs are lowered due to the elimination of darkroom supplies and because the process requires much less labor. CTP is environmentally friendly because if you are not using darkroom chemicals, you don't have to dispose of them. VOC emissions are cut drastically, if not eliminated entirely. All five printers interviewed for this article agreed that CTP is a win/win situation.
Efficiency & Quality Improvements
The first two things that printers using CTP want to talk about are the improvements they see in their workflow and in the quality of their plates. "It changed our workflow completely," says John Scott, owner of J&M Printing, Moscow Mills, MO. Scott runs a pair of Mitsubishi Eco 1630 CTP units. "It eliminated all the darkroom work, all the stripping, burning plates, and also it raised the plate quality—it's first generation quality. Besides removing all the time from all those processes, you just go from computer and within a minute you've got your plate. It just completely streamlined the whole operation."
"The impact was immediate," states Victor Kishter, owner of Corridor Printing, Columbia, MD, of his Xanté Speedsetter. "It saved us hours a day in our prepress. So getting a job from file to press was cut more than half. It went from a half day process to minutes."
Kishter bought his equipment, which was originally sold by RIPit, just as that company was being bought by Xanté. He initially had some concerns about the change of hands, but says there was no reason to worry. Across the board, every printer interviewed for this article was quick to point out that they have received outstanding service and support from their respective equipment manufacturers.
Jim Mitchell, owner of Mitchell Printing & Graphics, Batesburg-Leesville, SC, agrees. He opted for the Kimoto Kimosetter 410. "Because we aren't shooting from a paper master or layout to a negative, then plating that, we get nicer looking screens, nicer looking half-tones," he says. "I see a lot of things that kind of nibbled at us here and there that we didn't care for that seem to be improved. Registration seems to be a little tighter—that kind of accuracy we see with CTP that we didn't get from the old darkroom stuff. It seems we can maintain a higher degree of consistency across the same job on repeats."
Mike Benz, owner of Benz Press Werks, High Ridge, MO, installed a Glunz & Jensen PlateWriter 4200 when it was in beta. Prior to that, he had a prepress house produce his plates. Making the move to CTP "kept me from spending four to six hours a day stripping and burning plates," he states. "I literally have four to six hours a day to spend differently than I used to. And we don't spend near as many overtime hours because I'm not running out to get the film or waiting for the film to be delivered, stripping it, burning it."
Peter Savitt, owner of New York Digital Color Lithographers & Printing in New York City, chose the Presstek Dimension 225 Excel CTP system and Anthem Pro plates in September 2008. "Not having to deal with plates, not having to deal with film and stripping and all that is just fabulous," he insists. "This is better, faster, cheaper—I can do better work, and turn it out faster, and I can turn it out for less and make more on it. And I turn out a better product."