Tech guide: CTP and Plates

COMPUTER-TO-PLATE TECHNOLOGY

AGFA AVALON N8-80

The Avalon N8-80 is a thermal B1 size platesetter that uses an external drum engine combined with a choice of imaging technologies and automation levels to provide a customised CTP solution to suit printers’ particular requirements.

Among its key benefits, says Agfa, are high productivity through fast makeready times, registration accuracy, very high quality and consistent imaging, and high levels of automation to reduce prepress operator intervention.

The Avalon N8-80 employs Agfa’s GLV imaging head technology, using 512 and 1,024 beams to deliver between 32 and 65 B1 plates per hour in a fully automated CtP configuration. Agfa says these imaging heads produce tonal accuracy and uniformity from corner to corner, plate to plate and job to job.

The Avalon N8-80’s external drum design uses an automated lightweight clamping and vacuum system to secure plates to the drum.

Agfa considered each element that affects CTP efficiency when integrating the Avalon N8 series. The engine, the plates, the plate processing, the digital workflow, the screening and other additional software utilities need to be considered carefully when composing a customised CTP solution. Agfa will assist printers in making the right technology decisions.

The Avalon N8-80 offers a variety of automated features, including internal plate punching, single and multi-cassette loading, and inline processing. A drum auto-balance system allows switching between different sized plates.

The Avalon’s internal punching system performs punching for the on-press registration, immediately before mounting the plate on the drum. Internal punching improves register on press and reduces makeready times. Because the punching is done while another plate is being imaged, there is no loss of plate throughput. By adding optional press punch blocks, imaged plates can be loaded straight onto presses with different punching, eliminating further manual steps.

The Avalon N8-80 can be upgraded in the field to meet expanding production requirements. Using the same base engine, printers can upgrade from an entry-level manual machine to a high-productivity, fully automated model by simply replacing certain key parts in the field.

SPECS AT A GLANCE:

Imaging technology: Agfa Grating Light Valve (GLV) imaging technology

Imaging beams: 1,024

Laser technology: 830nm thermal

Recording system: external drum

Resolution: 2,400dpi

Approved plates: Agfa Thermostar P970, Energy Elite, Energy Elite Pro, Azura TS, Amigo TS

 

CRON CTP SYSTEM

Cron is presently the largest computer-to-plate manufacturer in China, after being founded in 1992. Cron CTP products are distributed in Australia by the Currie Group.

The Currie Group suggests that Cron CTP systems would suit start-up printers who want to start producing plates, as they are a cost-effective way of entering the CTP market. They would also suit printers who already have a CTP system and spend large sums on monthly service fees, or who have a CTP system which is now at the end of its life.

The Currie Group says it can support any format – 2-up, 4-up, 8-up and VLF – and can support printers who wish to print using environmentally friendly technology such as Agfa Azura plates.

Cron’s CTP systems are modular, and can be built up from a stand-alone manual CTP system to a fully automatic system. Buyers can load options so that their system can include an auto-loader and stacker to enable inline operation.

Cron systems are compatible with numerous approved thermal plates, and can include an automatic inline punching system.

Output resolutions up to 2,800dpi can be chosen to enable easy screening and 1-99% dot recovery. Registration accuracy is within 0.01mm, and the imaging quality of thermal plates is stable with little influence from the environment or human operation. Its output speed with high resolution can meet various demands.

DM screening digitally analyses and modulates every pixel that it produces, rather than repeating a fixed pattern of dots as in AM screening or randomly marking a pixel, as in FM screening.

Currie Group works with a finance company, SME Commercial Finance, which can arrange a number of different financing options. Curries have worked with SME Finance for many years and say they know the printing industry inside out.

Currie Group can also package (finance, service, CTP consumables) into one monthly payment so the customer can have a predicable outcome.

SPECS AT A GLANCE:

Plate type: 830nm thermal

Resolution: 1,800/2,400/2,540/2,800dpi

Processing speed: 23-36 plates/hr at 2,400dpi

Dot recovery: 1-99%

Max plate size: 925 x 660mm

Min plate size: 240 x 320mm

 

EPSON STYLUS PRO CTP SYSTEM

The Epson Stylus Pro CTP system combines high-resolution inkjet technology along with advanced aluminium press plates. The result is a CTP solution that lowers plate production costs, reduces job turnaround times and delivers production flexibility, while delivering high print quality for analogue press work.

The Epson CTP system is built around DirectPlate technology, which uses aluminium press plates with a chemical coating that is specifically designed to work with Epson UltraChrome HDR ink. Plates are produced for an Epson Stylus Pro 7890, 7900, 8890 or 9900 that is driven with a custom rip — a range of rip choices is available to suit different needs.

Once printed and punched they can be loaded directly into an analogue press for outputting images with resolutions up to 175lpi. They support print runs up to 5,000 directly from the Epson printer. If they are put through a short curing process (curing units are available from a range of vendors in a variety of configurations to suit different product volumes and needs), they support runs up to 20,000.

Unlike other CTP systems, the Epson solution is built around a standard printer running standard ink. This means that when plates are not being produced the printer can be used for a variety of additional activities including high-quality press proofs, imposition proofs and even high quality posters, artwork and photo work.

Printers have a choice of printer models to choose from, with the system provided as a separate kit that is quick and easy to mount. Kits come in two sizes — one supporting plates up to 500mm wide and 8mm gauge, the other 600mm and 12mm gauge. Plates come in a wide variety of sizes to suit almost all major analogue press types.

SPECS AT A GLANCE:

Plate technology: Epson DirectPlate alumium

Plate size: up to 24” wide (manual loading)

Resolution: up to 175lpi

Run lengths: up to 5,000; baked – up to 20,000

 

ESKO CYREL DIGITAL IMAGER (CDI)

The CDI offers flexo printers results that were previously only achievable in offset or gravure. There is a CDI to suit printers’ needs, from narrow web label printing to flexible packaging and wide-format corrugated printing; from one-colour printed corrugated boxes to multi-colour packaging and security printing.

Esko has developed software and hardware solutions for the packaging industry for decades. The company invented digital flexo in 1995, and claims that its products are used in about 90 per cent of high quality flexo production.

Esko says that over 90 per cent of all digital flexo plates globally are imaged on a Cyrel Digital Imager (CDI). Printers can configure a CDI to match their current production needs, and expand capabilities as their business grows. The CDI can accommodate all plate and sleeve sizes, and printers can choose any brand of digital plate and processing method.

The CDI can image flexo plates and sleeves for virtually any kind of application, in a wide variety of plate sizes. Any type and brand of digital flexo, digital letterpress plate or ablative film can be used on a CDI.

The quality of offset and gravure printing used to be unattainable for flexo. Now, with HD Flexo and Full HD Flexo plates from Esko, the gap is closed. They provide consistency and repeatability, smooth transitions, perfect ink laydown and vibrant colours with increased print quality.

SPECS AT A GLANCE:

Recording system: external drum

Screen rulings: up to 250lpi, depending on imaging resolution

Halftone: 1-99%

Standard optics: fully variable from 2,000 to 2,540ppi on job-to-job base

HighRes optics: fully variable from 2,540 to 4,000ppi on job-to-job base

Plates: all digital photopolymer plates, ablative film or polyester-base letterpress plates

 

FUJIFILM LUXEL T-9500CTP SYSTEM

The Luxel range of thermal CTP systems from Fujifilm includes a variety of models suitable for all commercial print shop requirements needing A3 to B1 plates, and a large-format Luxel News system specifically designed for newspaper applications.

Luxel thermal CTP systems start from an entry-level configuration for printers who do not require the highest throughput right up to fully automated systems incorporating Grating Light Valve Technology (GLV) with a maximum output of 67 B1 plates per hour.

All systems are suitable for daylight handling of Fujifilm PJE/PLE high definition, low-chemistry thermal plates, and when combined with the Fujifilm Zac processor, substantial savings in chemistry consumption can be realised.

The Luxel systems can optionally use the Brillia HD PRO-T3 processless plate. Applications include newspapers, direct mail, general commercial printing up to the highest quality lenticular printing using Fujifilm screening technologies, Co-Res AM and Taffeta FM screening.

Input options include semi-automatic plate loading or full auto-load from up to five cassettes capable of holding 500 plates. Commonly used punch systems are available, as well as connection to online processors.

Fujifilm assesses the environmental impact of all new products as part of the design review process, and as a result all Luxel systems minimise energy use during operation and idling while maximising safety.

Fujifilm provides installation, on-site training and full after-sales support. Finance packages are available if required. Systems are priced from $90,000 to $900,000 depending on configuration.

SPECS AT A GLANCE:

Imaging resolutions: 1,200-2,540dpi

Max plate production: 8-67 B1 plates/hr

Media types: Fujifilm Brillia thermal plates

Automation options: built-in bridge; bridge; multi-bridge; single cassette autoloader; multi cassette autoloader; cassette for single cassette auto loader; cassette for multi cassette autoloader

 

GLUNZ & JENSEN PLATEWRITER

The PlateWriter system from Glunz & Jensen is an all-inclusive solution for in-house platemaking, and is distributed in Australia by Australian Graphic Servicing. Everything needed to start making plates is included, from the imaging engine and finishing unit with automated gumming station, to the Harlequin rip with its own hardware platform, without extra cost or space requirements. There is no need for a processor, oven, rinse unit or conveyors.

The PlateWriter eliminates all chemicals and processing by harnessing high definition inkjet technology at resolutions up to 2,880dpi to add the image onto a blank plate. This is in contrast to traditional laser-based CTP systems which expose an image onto pre-sensitised plates and use processors and chemistry to remove the unwanted non-imaged areas.

AGS says the PlateWriter is easy to use and maintain. There is no need for skilled operators or special conditions, as the plates are neither thermal nor light sensitive. The PlateWriter can be placed in a regular office environment and is as easy to use as a standard desktop printer, plugging in to a computer.

By imaging directly onto plates, the PlateWriter is an inexpensive alternative to film and conventional processors. The software included with the PlateWriter readies files for print, so printers save time making plates.

SPECS AT A GLANCE:

Imaging resolution: 1,440 x 1,440dpi or 2,880 x 2,880dpi

Max imaging size: 1,112 x 1,073mm

Imaging speed at max res: 14 (plate size 400 x 511), 11 (plate size 550 x 650), 8 (plate size 605 x 745) or 6 (plate size 770 x880)

Run length: 50,000

Screen resolution: FM 25 micron dots. G&J owned technology customised for inkjet CtP application

 

HEIDELBERG SUPRASETTER

Heidelberg says that its Suprasetter range of CTP engines is primarily intended for the commercial and packaging print markets, special applications like lenticular printing (although it also requires special software for this application) and high resolution 5,080dpi, 10 micron applications (for which it requires special software and plate technology).

There are seven key factors that make the Suprasetter a market leader. Its plug and play functionality means the machine arrives preinstalled and is ready to use. The company claims that the laser head, which is designed by Heidelberg engineers, is the most reliable on the market with an exceptionally long life. Its small footprint means it is accessible technology for all business sizes, and its low energy use meets environmental requirements and reduces operational costs.

Servicing is almost non-existent, and for the rare occasions when there is a problem, Heidelberg engineers can remotely access the machine to make a diagnosis. It is also upgradable in the field, so printers who start with a basic model can upgrade from manual to automated processes and also increase speed. Due to its high reliability and productivity the Suprasetter family has been extremely popular with customers in remote regions such as the Pacific Islands.

Heidelberg offers several different finance options to suit the individual needs/possibilities of printers. Pricing is dependent on configuration, size, speed and automation.

SPECS AT A GLANCE:

Imaging technology: Thermal

Resolution: 2,400 or 2,540dpi

Max throughput: 15-38 plates/hr (depending on model)

 

KIMOTO KIMOSETTER 525

Kimoto’s Kimosetter 525 is distributed in Australia by Onyx Solutions. Capable of outputting polyester plates up to a maximum of 459mm x 525mm in size, the Kimosetter 525 is an ideal fit for graphic designers and press operators working in the 2-up market. Compared to others on the market, the Kimosetter 525 has a low capital purchase price, making it easier for printers to move into this segment.

The Kimosetter 525 is a daylight safe and completely chemical free system, doing away with chemical waste and costs for their removal and storage.

The Kimosetter 525 was designed as a small, compact machine, allowing users to operate in a studio or office environment.

An important feature of the Kimosetter 525 is its unattended operation — it does not require a dedicated person to output plates. The designer can produce press-ready plates as easily as printing at an office computer. This allows the designer to concentrate on their job to increase efficiency. The Kimosetter 525 outputs polyester plates automatically using its unique plate feeding system.

The Kimosetter 525 is a true one-step-to-press CtP system from Kimoto with UV inkjet imaging technology. The new model Kimosetter 525 maintains the same concept of earlier models while offering more advanced features, a higher screen ruling of 155lpi and much longer print run lengths of over 30,000 impressions.

SPECS AT A GLANCE:

Print method: Inkjet printhead carriage scan

Resolution: 1,080dpi

Inkjet printhead: Piezo drop-on-demand

Plate: Kimoplate Ze

Plate size: Max 459 × 525mm; Thickness 0.2mm

Max print area: 414.6mm × 498mm

Print speed: 10 plates/hr (normal), 4 plates/ hr (fine) for max size

Ink: UV curable ink (black), 200ml/cartridge

Auto feed: 20 plates capacity

 

KODAK ACHIEVE CTP PACKAGE

With the bulk of the medium to large commercial printers fully entrenched with automated CTP systems, the focus is shifting towards making high quality, thermal CTP platemaking more affordable to the smaller end of the print environment.

Traditionally, those printers who have started out with polyester, violet or CTCP (computer to conventional plate), can now affordably migrate to Kodak’s latest TH5 thermal imaging technology incorporated in both 4-up and 8-up configurations at an average throughput of 16 plates per hour when coupled with Kodak Sonora process-free plates.

The turn-key system includes a Kodak Prinergy entry-level solution with PDF batch trapping, along with operator training and start-up assistance for Kodak Prinergy workflow. A tailored Kodak service contract, after the warranty period, offers worry-free operation for the life of the system.

Both Achieve systems are priced well under $100,000 for the complete package, but further software and hardware upgrades are possible. A true chemistry-free platemaking system that can be installed in an office environment provides consistent image quality at 200lpi repeatedly. The complete CTP and plate system provides not only an environmental benefit through the removal of processing and chemistry waste, but also business sustainability by removing costs associated with plate processing, water, waste.

Kodak can also help customers manage their investment through its Solutions Lifecycle programme, tailoring repayments with flexibility for upgrades or changes in production and equipment needs during the equipment life cycle.

SPECS AT A GLANCE:

Imaging technology: 830nm thermal

Recording system: external drum

Resolution: 1,200dpi or 2,400dpi

Screening: 200lpi

Throughput (2,400dpi): 16 plates/hr S speed, 22 plates/hr F speed (1,030mm x 838mm plates)

Media support: Kodak Electra XD thermal, Kodak Sonora XP Processless, Kodak Trillian SP thermal plates

 

SCREEN PLATERITE HD 8900Z

Dainippon Screen’s PlateRite HD 8900Z thermal CTP device can output at a rate of 67 imaged B1 plates per hour, at 2,400dpi, or 80 B2 sized plates per hour.

For printers who don’t need that kind of speed, it is available as an S model at 43 B1 plates per hour or the economy E model at 33. The PlateRite thermal CTPs are so reliable that plate suppliers such as Fujifilm, Agfa, Xingraphics, Ferag and manroland chose them for their eight-page offering.

The primary market for the PTR8900 is the B1 commercial print sector but newspapers and packaging firms have also found Screen’s build, service, low energy use and dot quality an attractive proposition. While 2,400dpi is the industry standard for high quality plates, 4,000dpi is offered as an option. The S and E variants use a 512 channel GLV laser diode imaging head for pin-sharp resolution, while the flagship Z variant has a 1,024 channel head. Screen’s Spekta imaging delivers both AM and FM screening and Spekta2 can produce hybrid AM/FM screened plates.

Modular automation is available with the MA-L8900 autoloader, which can accommodate up to five plate cassettes, each with up to 100 plates of the same or different sizes. Plates can be loaded while the 8900 is in operation, without interruption. A single-cassette SA-L8900 that holds up to 100 plates is available, or the CTP can be fed manually. Plate punching is also automatic, and all popular punch systems up to 12 individual punch blocks can be selected.

Plate transport bridges for processors add to the automation, and there is a remote monitoring system available where important data such as operational use, plates remaining and service intervals can be displayed in a web browser or via email.

Screen’s PlateRite HD8900Z uses much less energy that most 8-up systems with watts used per B1 plate down 41 per cent over previous models during operation, and 88 per cent during standby.

Price, says Screen, is elastic depending on what kind of plate supply contract a printer has with his chosen plate partner.

SPECS AT A GLANCE:

Recording system: external drum

Light source: 1,024 channel laser

Plate: thermal aluminium

Plate size: max 1,165mm x 950mm; min 304 x 305mm

Resolutions: 1,200 2,400, 2,438, 2,540, 4,000dpi (optional)

Productivity: 33-67 plates/hr (2,400dpi).

 

PLATES

AGFA AZURA TE

The Agfa Azura TE is a direct-on-press, chemistry-free thermal plate for sheetfed commercial applications. Agfa says it offers environmentally friendly operations, quality and ease of use in one package.

Based on Agfa’s ThermoFuseTM technology, the Azura TE takes printing plate developments one step further with imaging off-press, and cleaning on-press. All you need to do is image, mount and print.

With direct-on-press, time to press is considerably shorter and waste is reduced. As the Azura TE plates are cleaned out on-press, the system requires no processor, no chemistry and no water. This entails lower energy consumption and less maintenance, resulting in environmentally friendly operations as well as cost reductions.

Agfa’s Azura chemistry-free and direct-on-press plates offer excellent lithographic behaviour on press, supporting up to 240 lines per inch with Sublima screening.

Plate sizes are available in 2-up, 4-up and 8-up with plate sensitivity of 160mJ per sq cm.

Azura TE plates are compatible with 830nm external drum platesetters. Image contrast is excellent, and the plates can be measured with all available densitometers and plate readers.

 

ANOCOIL NUVIO

Anocoil plates are made in the USA and distributed in Australia by Australian Graphic Servicing, based in Mulgrave, Victoria.

The company’s 830-T positive thermal plate is designed for the high quality commercial print sector and uses an electrochemically grained substrate that sheds water quickly and requires less ink. The 830-T plate is capable of 20-micron image sharpness with 1-99% resolution at 200lpi/2,400dpi/20 micron FM screening.

The N-200 negative thermal plate, designed for quality conscious printers, is a no pre-heat alternative capable of run lengths exceeding 500,000 impressions. It utilises a neutral plate chemistry (6.8-7.2pH) requiring no separate replenishment to maintain the pH activity of the bath. The N-200 is a durable long-run plate that requires less energy to image and process, and provides an environmentally safe aqueous imaging solution. It is rated for over 250,000 impressions (pre-baked), and can be post-baked for longer run length requirements. The N-200 is designed with no pre-heat (NPH) technologies, offering energy savings and improved performance.

Anocoil’s Verti no-process plate, designed to deliver high energy efficiency, is a no pre-heat (NPH) technology offering energy savings with high performance.

The NuVio, an aqueously processable CTP violet plate, is the latest in Anocoil’s new series of environmentally friendly plates.

NuVio CTP violet plates offer a solution that provides a no pre-heat alternative and neutral development compared with traditional high alkaline chemistries.

NuVio negative violet CTP plates image at 405nm, and are capable of 1-99% at 200lpi and 2,400dpi. Designed as a NPH (no pre-heat technology) plate for run lengths exceeding 100,000 impressions, it uses an environmentally clean development system (neutral pH 6.8-7.2 at disposal), with no separate replenisher. It uses an easy to clean aqueous development system, and waste from the system is pH neutral. It is available in .008 and .012 gauges in standard plate sizes

 

FUJIFILM BRILLIA PRO-T3

Fujifilm’s Brillia HD PRO-T3 is a processless plate that eliminates the processor, chemistry, gum and water used in the conventional plate production process. The plate is taken straight from the platesetter onto the press. This means PRO-T3 represents a fast way of getting a plate on press, and all the variables associated with processors and finishing units, including the time and labour involved with their maintenance, are eliminated.

The latest version of this processless plate represents Fujifilm’s most advanced plate to date. It features a number of technologies designed to optimise performance, including a new Multi Grain (MGV) technology. This new micro-graining process applied to the surface of the aluminium offers very wide latitude in ink/water balance on-press. The second is a multi-layer coating unique to Fujifilm which provides different functionalities within ultra-thin layers.

 

KIMOPLATE ZE

Kimoto’s 525 Ze is a processless plate, requiring neither special developing chemicals nor post-washing or post-fusing.

The plates are ready to use straight from the Kimosetter 525 platesetter. They are compatible with most fountain solutions because of their super hydrophilic properties. The plates have a black image on a white background, and this good image visibility, together with the film substrate, allows prepress operators to check the press-ready plates easily.

 

KODAK SONORA XP

Kodak’s Sonora XP plate is a non-ablative, thermal, negative working (write-the-image) plate incorporating Kodak’s press ready technology. The company says it is suitable for high quality, short to medium run sheetfed, heatset web, offset packaging (non-UV) and short run UV applications.

It uses an electrochemically grained and anodized aluminium substrate in gauges of 0.15-0.30mm, with a spectral sensitivity of 800-850nm. It is compatible with Kodak Trendsetter, Magnus and Achieve platesetters, as well as select Screen and Heidelberg platesetters.

It offers resolutions of 1-99% at 200lpi, depending on the capability of the imaging device. It can also has the capability for 20-micron stochastic screening, and for optimum FM performance, Kodak recommends Kodak Staccato Screening on Kodak squareSPOT imaging technology devices.

Run lengths up to 200,000 impressions with heatset/commercial coldset web presses are possible, and up to 100,000 impressions are possible with sheetfed presses. Up to 50,000 impressions for offset packaging (non-UV) and up to 10,000 impressions for UV-ink applications are also possible.

 

XINGRAPHICS PRIMUS PLUS HYBRID

Distributed by Ferag in Australia, the Xingraphics range of plates has a new addition, the Primus Plus Hybrid, which can reduce water usage by 20 to 30 per cent and reduce ink coverage by five to 20 per cent in offset printing.

Xingraphics says the Primus Plus Hybrid provides both environmental and economic benefits, with its reduction in water requirements and a corresponding reduction in ink. Printing with less water also ensures faster drying times, fewer water-on-paper related problems on sheetfed presses, and can also lead to a reduction in paper breaks on web presses. All these factors further assist the bottom line through a reduction in energy consumption.

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

The Primus Plus Hybrid is aimed at commercial packaing and newspaper printers. Australian supplier Ferag can bundle the plates with the Screen CTP systems it supplies

Xingraphics is also releasing another new plate later this month, the UV Duplo. It utilises 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.

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