Plates & plate processors

Fuji and Agfa threw their hats into the chemistry-free violet ring with some eagerly anticipated launches in Dusseldorf. Agfa unveiled its Azura V violet chemistry-free plate while Fuji released its own product, the Brillia HD Pro-V. Unlike its rivals, Kodak abstained from the foray into violet, maintaining that processed and processless thermal plates still offer the best option.

So, imaging technology aside, what’s the difference between processless and chemistry-free? Put simply, processless plates are ‘developed’ on the press during makeready, whereas chemistry-free plates use a gumming unit to remove unexposed parts.

Processless, in theory at least, is probably the least environmentally harmful, followed by chemistry-free. Chemistry-free plates still require a mechanical wash-out, so there is technically still a process involved.

Whichever technology you support, the current market trend is towards processless, which lends itself more to small and medium-sized companies because of the costs and productivity. Two out of three of our SME customers are going processless, says Sean Lane, technical support manager for plates at Fuji.

But that doesn’t mean conventionally processed plates are going to disappear anytime soon. I wouldn’t write off processed plates yet – they still have a large part to play, but equally I think processless plates will be extended to handle the larger press sizes, adds Lane.

And regardless of current market trends, the recent changes in technology will have little impact on existing platesetters. There shouldn’t be any major changes to thermal or violet equipment. The only thing that might be affected is productivity, says Lane.

Certain plates do require more exposure energy, so one obvious question to ask, in light of spiralling energy costs, is will I continue to get the same level of productivity with my current platesetter for the same price? Other than that consideration, it’s each to their own.


• Fujifilm has launched a new direct-laser-exposure flexo plate, which it plans to commence shipping in 2009. The plate, which was on show at Drupa, requires no post-imaging UV exposure or processing. Fuji is also due to expand production of its Brillia HD CTP plates with a new £75m plate line at its manufacturing facility in Tilburg, Netherlands

• Kodak recently launched Electra XD, a new version of its benchmark plate Electra Excel, with a higher resolution and the ability to hold a 10-micron FM dot

• Presstek unveiled its Aurora Pro processless plate at Drupa. The high-sensitivity, non-ablative plate has been certified for Screen and Kodak platesetters and will work with other thermal machines

• Agfa chose to unleash its new chemistry-free violet plate, Azura V, at Drupa. The plate is capable of run lengths of 200,000+. The company also announced that the expansion of its Brazilian manufacturing facility, to produce its Azura, Energy Elite and N92 Violet digital plates, should be completed in 2009


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