Cover story: New plates to save ink and water


Distributed by Ferag in Australia, the Xingraphics range of plates has a new addition, the Primus Plus Hybrid, which the company says will reduce water usage by between 20-30 per cent and reduce ink coverage by 5-20 per cent in offset printing.

Ian Martin, general manager at Ferag, says, “The new Xingraphics Primus Plus is a game changer in that it provides both environmental and economic benefits with a reduction in water requirements and a corresponding reduction in ink. Furthermore, printing with less water ensures faster drying times, fewer water-on-paper related problems on sheetfed presses and can also lead to a reduction of paper breaks on web presses. All these factors further assist the bottom line through a reduction in energy consumption.”

Martin says the new plates are using a proven technology together with some innovation in the graining and coating technologies. There is effectively a shallower grain, which holds less water when combined with the new coating technology.

The new Primus Plus Hybrid plate is available as from now, and is aimed at commercial, packaging and newspaper printers. Martin says, “We have completed successful trials with a number of customers, in Australia as well as overseas, and are happy to provide a number of reference sites that printers who have or are thinking of switching to the new plate can talk to.”

Ferag will bundle the plates with the Screen CTP systems it supplies, which are supported by Screen technicians. Martin says, “The combination of Screen’s market leading CTP and the Xingraphics plate means printers are assured that they are achieving the quality, reliability and precision that they demand.”

Xingraphics is also releasing another new plate later this month, the UV Duplo. It uses double layer technology specifically designed for UV printing, which is rapidly gaining in popularity. The UV Duplo does not need any baking, which is commonly required for most current plate technologies due to the aggressive nature of UV inks.

The Primus Plus Hybid can also be baked and used for UV printing or to achieve 1,000,000 run length if required. This means that printers who specialise in this market sector can also benefit from significant savings of water and ink in the press room.


Quality control

Batch to batch consistency, the ability to print the same quality image at the end of the run as at the start and on later runs, is key to offset printing.

Martin says, “The quality control at the factory in Chengdu has to be seen to be believed. The procedure and processes are tight. There is a clear reason for this, Xingraphics is looking for long term partnerships with printers, and long term relationships only succeed if promises are kept and expectations met or exceeded.

“This is why the Chengdu plant has such an emphasis on quality control, nothing leaves the factory unless a stringent set of criteria has been met each and every time. When Xingraphics invites partners to the factory they are always surprised at the level of technology, it is almost sci-fi.”


Low chem or no chem processless

Lo chem or no chem processless means different things to different people. According to Xingraphics’ corporate vice president, Safwen Hijazi, The Primus Plus Hybrid is not a plate which develops on the press, as he says, “plates that are developed on the press will leave minute residue which could become problematic with the more plates you use, as you are washing away the non imaged area of the plate in the press.”

Neither are they plates that require a gum or rinse out unit, but simply use the standard thermal plate processors widely used today by most printers. He says, “The Primus Plus Hybrid plates combine a robust and proven technology and, unlike our competitors who have focused their R&D focus purely in the pre-press area by reducing or eliminating the processor and chemistry, we have focused ours on environmental, productivity and quality improvements across both the pre press and the press room.

“Using the Primus Plus Hybrid plates does not require any changes to customers’ existing equipment, or type of ink or founts used. Benefits are realised immediately in ink and water reductions on every press as well as the fact that the current environmental technology from our competitors is not suitable for web presses so we have an immediate competitive edge.”

He likens hybrid plates to hybrid cars, and says, “When electric cars were introduced they quickly realised they had a problem, unless you lived in a European city where distance and acceleration were not major issues. A technology was needed to handle short and long distances, therefore hybrid vehicles combining petrol and electric motors was needed.

“It is the same with plates, we are working towards a technology that will offer the best of both worlds, of robust and proven thermal technology, bakable if necessary, high resolution up to 10 micron and adding environmental and cost benefits in the press area by reducing the water on every press ranging from 20-30 per cent and in some cases higher. This is in addition to reducing ink usages by 5-20 per cent – equating to significant cost reductions, especially in the cold and heat set segments.

“All of these benefits are achievable and measurable during a trial, which makes it an attractive proposition for any printer wanting to reduce costs and be an environmental citizen.”

Chinese manufactured solutions raise an eyebrow in many quarters, but Hijazi points out that Xingraphics is ‘up there with the big three’ and says this is due to the joint venture the company had with Creo for many years, before Creo was bought out and the partnership had to come to an end in 2005. Hijazi says, “The investment in manufacturing, the systems, the processes, the materials, the quality control, these are all at the standards that Creo developed. Xingraphics for instance only uses the highest quality aluminium, exactly the same material, sourced from the same manufacturer as the three established players.”


Major player

Taking on the might of established market players is not for the faint-hearted, but Xingraphics can lay claim to being a serious player itself. It has no less than six production lines all operating 24 hours a day, and next year will move to a new factory twice the size of its current facility where it will add another two lines. It already has a 40 million square metre thermal plate manufacturing capacity each year, the new lines will take it beyond the 50 million square metre marker.

Some in the industry are predicting offset printing has already plateaued, but no-one seems to have told Xingraphics. Hijazi says, “There is a growing offset market in China, and in the rest of the world the Xingraphics plates are growing their market share. It is a winning combination of high quality products and market leading innovation that is causing the investment in the business, the calibre of the plates is at the highest level, and this is reflected in our customers, who include some of the best printers in Australia, who produce outstanding work.”

He says, “When you combine these factors with the innovation we develop and implement, you can see why Xingraphics is a powerful business. The company is not a me-too outfit; it believes it has the means, the money and the brains to develop new products, like Primus Plus Hybrid, UV Duplo and Fit eCO, that will bring tangible benefits to offset printers.”

Certainly Xingraphics has some top line credentials, in Europe for instance its plates have been distributed for many years by Heidelberg, Staples, manroland and Paperlinx to name a few, as well as Ferag here in Australia, which the company says shows that the approval is as high as it gets. Hijazi says, “There is no way these companies would distribute any product that was anything less than the highest quality, after all, their reputation and brand value depends on it. The fact that they supply Xingraphics plates is testimony to the quality we deliver.”

Major printers, including the biggest two in the world, RR Donnelly and Quad Graphics, use Xingraphics plates.

The company currently supplies plates to printers in more than 60 countries, with its thermal plates the primary line. In Australia Ferag has sales offices and warehouses in four states; Victoria, Queensland, New South Wales and Western Australia.


About the product


A combination of state of the art production technology and strict quality control procedures throughout the manufacturing process guarantees customers stable and repeatable performance.


Fast exposure to maximise the throughput of CTP devices and increase speed and efficiency.


Excellent performance in linearity of dot reproduction. The dot proportion tolerance is less than one per cent without calibration providing image and colour reproduction.


More than 250,000 impressions without post-baking, more than 1,000,000 when post-baked and up to 20,000 impressions unbaked with UV inks.


Primus Plus is a positive working thermal technology and does not require pre-heat, coupled with its wider operational latitude and reliability thus providing consistent, reliable plate making.

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