04 September 2018 Analogue Printing Technologies

Eco plates get the green light under LED UV’s blue light

Part of the appeal of LED UV is the reduced environmental footprint through reducing the energy needed to dry the sheet. But environmentally committed printers that have wanted to use develop on press or chemistry-free plates have been faced with problems. The plates did not have the life needed when used with UV inks. That is now changing with a generation of plates introduced this year by each of the three leading litho plate suppliers. Printers can be green in their use of energy and green in their choice of plate to run.

Fujifilm

Greenhouse Graphics has always followed a path of least environmental impact. It has framed decisions from the company’s outset in 1993 and consequently the Basingstoke printer has been a user of develop on press plate technology for more than ten years, with the first Fuji ProT plates and latterly using Kodak versions.

It was a satisfactory set up until the company installed a Komori Lithrone S29 H-UV two-and-a-half years ago. Under the more aggressive UV inks the plates wilted. The ProT version was scarcely able to run at at all and Greenhouse could only get an absolute maximum of 6,000 impressions from a Kodak Sonora plate before it became blind.

It was a frustrating experience for operations director Darren Bennett. “Others suggested I try a plate which needed gumming after imaging, but that would have been a step backwards,” he says.

Instead the step forward came about a year ago when Fujifilm suggested that Greenhouse Graphics should become one of the first printers to trial its new Superia ZD plate, a more resilient develop on press plate. Instead of having to replace plates part way through a run, especially with the press running UV, the plate will last at least the 50,000 impressions without loss of quality or performance.

“We’re often asked to print jobs around the 10,000 mark, so previously we would have had to factor in two lots of plates for a job of that size. Now with Superia ZD, we just set up once and run. Our cost savings have been massive and the quality of the dot and the lifespan of the plate means we can keep the machine running and deliver consistently high quality work on time,” he says.

The Superia ZD plate has been generally available in the UK for only a few months having come through trials at a handful of printers. “It has been really good,” Bennett says. The plate surface is far more resistant to scratching on its way from platesetter to press. “I have been running processless plates for 11-12 years and have seen a lot of changes in the at time. The Fujifilm Superia ZD is the best I have seen,” he adds.

As well as the environmental benefits of working with plates that need no processing chemistry, the H-UV reduces the energy pumped through the machine for drying the sheet to cut the carbon footprint a little more.

Kodak has also improved its plate and would like to get its product back on the Greenhouse Komori. With the volume of work going through the business, there is no time to run tests even he wanted to, says Bennett.

“The Fuji plate has performed really well, it has not scratched at all. I know that sometimes a new product does not perform as well as the producer had hoped.”

In this instance there has been nothing like that. The plate has worked with the existing fount and inks set up and swapping over has been trouble-free. “With Superia plates, we’re confident we can adapt to any future demands the market may throw at us due to its versatility, durability and quality.

“I would definitely recommend both the Superia ZD plate and working with Fujifilm.”

Agfa

Selsey Press is the first printer in the world to work with the new Agfa Adamas chemistry-free plate running inline between platesetter and the COU 85 gumming unit.

The company is coming up to the end of the initial 90-day period since beginning to work with the more robust plate. It replaces the Agfa Azura plate which was giving no more than 15,000 impressions on the company’s two H-UV presses. The new plate has run 150,000 impressions without problem, says director Adrian Tyler who runs the prepress operation.

This is the key advantage and the reason why Selsey was keen to switch to the plate as part of a beta test programme. There are other advantages he says. The Clean Out Unit remains much cleaner and no longer needs a monthly clean to ensure the plates remain in top condition. On the other hand the company has added a cover from the imaging unit to the COU to avoid unwanted exposure to sunlight.

“It’s still early days, but I’m happy so far,” Tyler says. Currently the plate needs more gumming solution than the Azura had needed with Agfa working to align this more closely to the established technology. It is a faster plate, enabling the platesetter to run at full speed. The different coating provides additional latitude on press, already tight because of running UV inks.

“Platemaking is up to full speed, it is only a little bit but that can make quite a difference during the day. This a plate that ticks all the boxes.” he says. “I’m very pleased all round.”

The company was the first to retrofit the Benford EcoUV system to a B2 Komori Lithrone, since adding a new Komori Lithrone S29 H-UV. The company runs three five-colour B2 presses and a two-colour B3 Speedmaster supported by Xerox digital machines. It has also been involved in the roll out of Apogee 9 with Agfa.

“We like to help, especially where it helps us as well,” he adds.

Next up will be the latest versions of Agfa’s PressTune and InkTune software to improve colour quality with refinements to plate profiles as well as ink saving measures as part of Agfa’s Eco3 approach to economic as well ecological printing.

The Adamas plate works in a slightly different way to the Azura family and has been developed to meet demands from printers using UV technology for a plate with the environmental benefits of Azura, but which is more robust. It has a graining designed to help achieve ink water balance quickly. As part of the Agfa Eco3 concept, it will combine with PressTune and InkTune to cut waste and to reduce ink usage as well as needing no processing chemistry.

Kodak

Kodak’s Sonora X develop on press plate has undergone the most extensive testing of any printing plate introduced by Kodak in recent years. It was tested around the world with different inks, different fount solutions, different presses and extensively with low energy UV printing. It is testament to how important this plate is to Kodak. And to how good it believes it to be.

Among the testing programme was Blackmore Press, one of the first in the UK to install a Koenig & Bauer Rapida 105 with LED UV and veteran of testing different plates, blanket roller and ink combinations. It has endorsed the quality and performance of the plate. But it is not alone.

Gloucester printer Severnprint has put the limitations of other develop on press plates well behind it when switching to Sonora X. Lyndon Murray, production director, says the company wanted to stay with develop on press plates when installing a Komori Lithrone H-UV alongside its conventional Komori. But it quickly found that the Fuji plate it had been working with since adopting develop on press technology in 2007 simply would not work with the UV inks.

The company switched to Kodak and the Sonora XP plate, which could handle UV. Although it was only able to reach 5,000 or so impressions, “this covered most of our work and we did not want to go back to wet processed plates,” Murray says. With Sonora X there is no longer any concern that the image will be lost.

"Previously this might happen on fine screen rulings “especially on the yellow plate”, Murray explains. “We stuck with Kodak through the ups and downs and have come out the other end. These new plates are spot on.”

Severnprint runs the plate on either conventional or UV press with the same results, the only difference to profiles being whether the press is printing coated or uncoated work. It has not yet topped out the plate as longer runs tend to be scheduled on the conventional press with lower ink costs.

There has been no production penalty. After the platesetter was adjusted when the company started to use Kodak plates it has remained on the same laser setting and continued to produce 35 plates an hour.

“It ticks all the boxes for the business we are in. Going process-free was the best thing we ever did,” he says. “We don’t ever have to clean a processor at the end of a week.”

This is a common response says Adrian Shuttleworth, Kodak’s worldwide product manager for process-free offset plates. “From Sonora XP, restricted to a few thousand copies with LED UV, Sonora X has opened new markets,” he says. “We have run on UV presses to 120,000 impressions in Europe. LED UV is particularly strong in France.

“It just needs the press to be set up correctly to the press manufacturer’s specifications, and there is no need for special inks or founts for the plate. The fact that it’s process free means a better stability on press. We just recommend that printers do not over damp at start up. That’s not good for the plate.

“We have very high hopes forSonora X.”

Gareth Ward

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DARREN BENNETT

Darren Bennett, operations director at Greenhouse Graphics with a Komori Lithrone S29 H-UV running Fujifilm's Superia ZD plate. “I would definitely recommend the Superia ZD. It has performed really well," he says.

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All lights green as Komori H-UV at Greenhouse Graphics hits the mark

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Selsey Press has moved from Azura to the new Adamas plate, and is the first printer in the world to work with the new chemistry-free plate running inline between platesetter and the COU 85 gumming unit.

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Selsey Press is first with Agfa's resilient Adamas plate

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Kodak's Sonora X plate provides the robustness needed for longer runs on UV presses.The develop on press plate has undergone the most extensive testing of any printing plate introduced by Kodak in recent years, with programmes undertaken at Blackmore Press and Severnprint.

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Sonora X can take 80% of printers to process-free plates says Kodak

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