09 March 2014 Analogue Print

Kodak decision spells end for platemaking in Leeds

Kodak is closing the factory that developed its first viable thermal plate and its latest no process plate.

KODAK IS TO CLOSE ITS LEEDS plate factory in order to focus production at three world scale plants in Europe, Asia and North America. Leeds has lost out to Osterode as the European site, both down to its size and to location. The German factory is closer to markets in central Europe, while the UK plant is more remote albeit closer to the source of plate grade aluminium.

The plant will close completely by the middle of next year with the loss of 210 production jobs. The future of a further 24 positions associated with product support and distribution is undecided. The shut down process will begin in the autumn. The move will bring to an end plate production in Leeds, once a major centre of printing plate production with Horsell Graphics (the Kodak operation) at one end of the city and Howson Algraphy (now Agfa) at the other end. The Agfa plant continues to process plate material but final coatings are applied elsewhere.

HORSELL WAS BOUGHT BY COOKSON Group on the eve of a public floatation when managed by Trevor Grice who went on to run Wace during the 1990s. Cookson sold the business on and Horsell Anitec was in turn sold by International Paper to Kodak Polychrome in 1998. Part of the attraction was the Horsell Electra plate, a thermally imaged CTP plate which became a highly successful product. Andrew Copley, then in charge of International Paper’s print business, rose through Kodak to become COO of the graphic communications group. He is now president global graphic communications for Xerox.

The factory has most recently been responsible for worldwide development and production of the Sonora on press processed plate. The world roll out of this plate across other production plants has removed the need for the Leeds factory. Currently 450 customers worldwide are using the plate, most in commercial printing though there is a version for newspapers.

KODAK IS PLACING HUGE FAITH in Sonora. It extends plate life to 150,000 impressions, increases imaging speed and has a better contrast than the previous ThermalDirect plates. It competes with Fuji’s ProT plate and with Agfa’s Azura TU as a more environmental development chemistry free plate.

Osterode began production of Sonora in November on an upgraded high speed production line. A similar upgrade is underway at its Xiamen plant in China and will also follow in the Americas once Kodak has settled on a site. “This is our strategy to win and best serve customers in the printing plate market,” says Brad Kruchten, president, Graphics, Entertainment & Commercial Films. “The technology strength of our the Sonora process free plates, combined with our plan to increase production capacity and locate our manufacturing closer to customers, will enable us to serve the many customers who are embracing this product.”

« »
The Elektra plate was hugely successful for Kodak Polychrome.

The Elektra plate was hugely successful for Kodak Polychrome.