17 June 2018 Analogue Printing Technologies

Fujifilm aims to shake up printing plates sector

Pay for coating initiative will bring Fujifilm closer to its plate customers as well as saving them money.

Fujifilm has joined Agfa Graphics in offering a plate management service in which the supplier of the plates will charge users only for the coating that is applied to the aluminium.

The continuing rise in the price of aluminium is adding to costs for printers, even though the price paid for spent plates is also on the increase. This has been used by waste management businesses like J&G Environmental to offset the costs of dealing with other waste, chemicals, blankets, inks and so on that need careful disposal.

Now Fujifilm has devised Platesense, a programme under which the plate supplier will also offer maintenance of the CTP and processor while also taking away the plates. Printers who sign up will be protected from increases in the price of aluminium.

Agfa has offered a similar service to high volume users for some years, Newsprinters being one of the largest and earliest customers. But it has not extended it to all printers as Fujifilm says it intends.

The move follows on the introduction of the Superia ZD develop on press plate and the Super LH-S2, its first chemistry-free plate. The original plate price for these consumable does not include a processor or chemistry.

Chris Broadhurst, general manager of Fujifilm UK, calls Platesense “an entirely new business model”. Previously customers have been able to strike deals to mitigate the cost of imaging equipment through a deal on the supply of plates, but Fuji has not before taken out the scrap value of a plate from the price paid for an unused plate.

“This is the start of something completely new and we're excited about the opportunity we now have to deliver time and cost savings to our customers on a scale they would never have thought possible.,” he says.

The price a printer will pay is the cost of the new plate, reduced by the retained value in the aluminium plus an element for processor chemistry, the costs of waste removal, service and maintenance of the processor. This is still below the cost of the new plate.

A further benefit to Fujifilm will be increased proximity to its customers. The company has traditionally sold plates through dealers and distributors in the UK so has had an arms length relationship with many users. This began to change with the Superia programme to couple plates with pressroom chemistry, colour management and workflow to optimise a press set up.

Platesense will include the opportunity to switch workflow to Fuji XMF and opens the door for the company to promote its Jetpress 720S inkjet technology, though the scheme is about marketing analogue rather than digital print technology. “Despite the drive to digital, in which Fujifilm is a key technology pioneer, the volume of offset print output remains high both in the UK and globally, so the importance of continued innovation in this area cannot be overstated,” says Broadhurst.

Agfa’s approach is pan European and has been pitched as ‘the printer pays for the coating, not the carrier it uses’. It monitors plate usage by weight, comparing what has been delivered to a printer with the weight of plates collected to ensure that what is collected is what the company has expected to retrieve.

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New way to sell plates

New way to sell plates

Fujifilm has put together a new way to sell plates, enabling printers to pay only for the part that they use – the coating. Fuji will collect the spent pates in a closed loop system that keeps costs under control for printers.

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