18 April 2016 Prepress

Printing plate producers forging ahead

There is still development possible with the standard offset printing plate, even with those that require no development stage.

While very mature, the litho plate market is far from deceased as developments at Drupa will underline. The increase in short runs and almost universal application of colour has meant that plate volumes have at worst remained static while the print industry as a whole continues to consolidate.

Kodak last year opened a new plate line at its plant in Columbus, Georgia, to keep pace with demand for its Sonora XP plate. This is the develop on press plate that has been one of the stars of Kodak's climb out of its financial woes.

The plate has a decent latent image, is fast to image and relatively resilient on press. Kodak now boasts more than 3,000 sites around the world using the plate. Most will be commercial printers and to keep pace with the increase in use of new generation UV printing in this area, Kodak has extended Sonora's technology to cover UV printing.

A new low cost plate is also promised for Drupa, using a new technology, that will suit the entry level part of the market.

To accompany the demand for shorter runs and faster turnarounds, there is a new Trendsetter platesetter able to cope with a throughput of 68 plates an hour, including the develop on press Sonora XP.

Agfa also has a new platesetter for commercial print. This is the Avalon N4-30, a B2 platesetter which can image up to 33 plates an hours in the XT version. It will expose thermal and Agfa’s process-free Azura TU plates and the develop on press Azura TE.

The processing window of the Azura TU already allows it to run up to 10,000 impressions on a UV configured press. Now Agfa is offering this plate in a VLF version. Process-free technology is available across the full spectrum of print requirements.

However, the company is also introducing the Energy Elite Eco plate. This is the plate for all offset applications, suitable for long run sheetfed, packaging and web offset printing, with lower chemistry usage and providing long run durability with no need to bake the plate. It is good for 600,000 impressions, says Agfa. It is part if the Eco3 theme for Drupa, covering economic operation, ecology and ease of operation.

There are also new platesetters to newspapers, both in terms of high performance and the Advantage N Essentials, a low cost entry level easy to use system.

Heidelberg has equally responded to the fast turnaround drive with a new version of the Suprasetter with an Auto Pallet Loader system to reduce handling needed. It will cope with 1,200 B1 plates, fewer with larger gauge plates used in VLF presses.

Fuji has made no announcements about plates for Drupa, though has longer term aspirations to upgrade the develop on press ProT3. In the meantime its focus on low chem plates continues.

While the big three dominate the world of plates, printers do have alternatives. The fourth largest plate producer is Xingraphics from China. It will be promoting Primus Plus, a hybrid plate that it claims will cut water usage by up to 30% and ink consumption by half that amount. If the water saving is 20%, ink saving will be 10%.

This, it argues, will more than compensate for the money spent on processing chemistry compared to a develop on press plate. The plate, now being trialled at a number of web offset and sheetfed printers, delivers knock on benefits covering reduced drying, wider substrate latitudes and so on through the reduction in water used.

Another way to save on the plate cost is a return to UV exposed plates, something that another Chinese manufacturer, Cron, will be pushing. Its modular platesetter can be fitted with UV or thermal diodes, in different configurations to offer a highly customisable plate setting platform that Cron has now extended into imaging flexo plates.

Presensitised UV plates remain less expensive than thermal or violet CTP plates and to cover off questions of consistency, Cron has established its own plate production facility.

In this it mirrors Presstek which took full ownership of its own plate production earlier this year. The company has always had a strong environmental ethos, extending to Zahara, an aluminium waterless plate. At Drupa it will demonstrate GemPlate, a develop on press plate.

The company also offers JT an inkjet imaged plate as a plate for low volume jobbing printers. Once baked the plate is good for 20,000 impressions, says Presstek.

Market leader in inkjet plates, however, is Glunz & Jensen which will introduce a B2 version at Drupa with the PlateWriter 3600. Inkjet imaging is arguably the most environmentally friendly technology as there is no waste from unexposed coatings or chemistry used in processing.

The Danish company has been producing iCTP for ten years and reckons that this development could have appeal to small and mid sized commercial printers, book printers and community newspapers. The target is a replacement for older polyester platemaking systems as well as those entirely new to CTP. There are a few still out there.

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Kodak Sonora Plate

Kodak Sonora Plate

Kodak's Sonora XP plate has a decent latent image, is fast to image and relatively resilient on press.

Kodak now boasts more than 3,000 sites around the world using the plate. Most will be commercial printers and to keep pace with the increase in use of new generation UV printing in this area, Kodak has extended Sonora's technology to cover UV printing.

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Agfa is extending its process-free Azura TU plate to very large format, underling claims that process free can become the universal plate technology.

It is just one of a number of developments coming to Drupa to prove that there is still plenty of scope for developments in plate technology.

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Cron platesetter

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Another way to save on the plate cost is a return to UV exposed plates, something that another Chinese manufacturer, Cron, will be pushing. Its modular platesetter can be fitted with UV or thermal diodes, in different configurations to offer a highly customisable plate setting platform that Cron has now extended into imaging flexo plates.

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Heidelberg Suprasetter

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