Every offset print provider is aware of the fact that environmental regulations are now more stringent. It seems that with each new law, the pressure to reduce chemical usage in the prepress department grows.
However, regulatory concerns are only the tip of the iceberg. Customers want to know that their printer is doing everything possible to minimize their environmental footprint. Also, employees are more concerned about the long- term effects of working with the kinds of chemicals required for traditional platemaking. Finally, there is the cost factor. The closer the platemaking procedure is to being chemistry-free and/or processless, the lower the cost over the long haul. There are fewer chemicals to buy or dispose of and energy consumption is dramatically reduced when using processless technology.
This perfect storm has caused the near demise of the once standard print shop darkroom and given rise to the wider acceptance of computer-to-plate (CtP) technology.
Suzanne Bostic, Senior Product Manager for Mitsubishi Imaging (Booth 841), believes that the most significant trend in the CtP field is simply the increasing prevalence of CtP adoption. “From a technological standpoint, better software and workflow products continue to be introduced and make CtP even more efficient,” she points out. “Another significant development is the move towards processless and/or reduced-chemistry plates. Many printers want to be more environmentally friendly, and reduced-chemistry processing is one way to achieve this.”
“We see customers placing orders simply to be able to eradicate their chemistry,” adds Mark Baker-Homes, Vice President, Sales and Marketing, Glunz & Jensen (Booth 432). “Customers are asking about it or staff are now more reluctant to handle it; causing discussions about who will clean out the processors. Owners, in these difficult times, are frustrated by having to pay to remove chemicals. It feels like they pay for something without getting a return.”
Brian Wolfenden, Director of Marketing Communications for Presstek (Booth 3200), agrees. He cites “true chemistry-free thermal CtP, which means no use of processing chemistry, gum, or fountain solutions to develop the plate,” as the most significant development in CtP technology in recent years.
Wolfenden notes all the benefits of adding CtP to prepress: “Reduced chemical dependency, safer products for the user and environment, lower cost with no need to purchase or dispose of chemistry, and streamlined production—no intermittent processing steps and fewer variables in the process.”
As important and attractive as the eco-friendly nature of newer CtP systems might be, there are also other benefits.
“Developing an imaging technology that is stable, high-quality, and delivers consistent on-press results is the most significant CtP development during the recent years,” states Kuty Paperny, Director, Global Product Management, Output Devices, Prepress Solutions for Eastman Kodak (Booth 2018). “Adding the automation and ease of use to the CtP system established this technology to be the de facto standard in the printing industry.”
Other developments have also increased adoption of CtP. “PDF has removed the problems with lost fonts, missing images, incorrectly linked files. It has enabled small printers to easily receive files from customers using Mac or PC-based systems and still produce print jobs; reducing time taken to lay up jobs, and better ensuring integrity,” observes Glunz & Jensen’s Baker-Homes. “It created a simple transparency that the really small mom-and-pop stores, five years ago, struggled to achieve, and now take for granted. It makes it easier for these types of shops to adopt CtP, too, as they are no longer worried about if they can accept the job.”
You’ll find the latest CtP equipment and prepress software in the Prepress/Software/Workflow section of the show floor at GRAPH EXPO 2011.