Kodak believes that 80% of litho jobs can be printed on its process-free Sonora X, the latest iteration of its develop on press plate. And it has put the plate through extensive testing to stand up the claim. "Sonora X will transform this industry," says Kodak CEO Jeff Clarke.
In what the company says is the most extensive testing it has ever undertaken for a new plate, the plates been trialled on on 132 presses from 13 manufacturers working with inks from 21 manufacturers and chemistry from 20 suppliers. This covered commercial sheetfed, LED and traditional UV, heatset and coldest web printing, packaging, books and newspapers applications. with runs up to 1 million on the heatset web press and 200,000 on newspaper machines. It amounted to 50,000m2 of the plate by area.
The testing involved 111 printers across 25 countries. In the UK Blackmore ran samples on its KBA Rapida 105 with LED UV. "We think this is a fundamental change," says Kodak printing systems division head Brad Kruchten. "I don't believe any other competitor is doing what we are doing."
The Sonora X coating builds on the coating used for the Sonora XP plate, but with a graining derived from a heatset web plate and an additional scratch resistant layer to protect the surface and provide the longevity and to eliminate the care needed in handling that has dogged process free plates.
The new product will also roll up to colour faster and images in any 120mJ/cm2 thermal platesetter with only a slight drop in throughput compared to a conventional wet processed plate. In testing the Kodak Magnus platesetter Q800 Q speed platesetter ran at 47 plates an hour and a Heidelberg Suprasetter 106 at 38 plates/hour.
The plate will carry a premium of 3% over the Sonora XP, reflecting the additional coating needed, says Evandro Matteucci, head of Kodak's plate business. “There are three additional benefits to Sonora X,” he says. “It is rated at two to four times the run length, offers faster imaging for no compromise imaging this plate in standard CTP and can cope with more robust handling. Again no more care is needed than with a conventional plate.
“We believe that 80% of printers in the market can go process-free shortly.”
Sonora XP is already a fast growing product and one of the key elements for Kodak's future prosperity. It is in operation at around 4,000 accounts worldwide and is showing a 24% year on year growth, comparing Q3 in 2016 with the same period in 2017. While global plate volumes are edging downwards in line with declining demand for print, process-free and develop on press plates are an area showing growth as the technology expands its ability to address longer runs, higher volume users, and larger formats. It is no longer a process for a printer with just a single or multiple B2 presses with a strong environmental ethos.
This was underlined at the introduction of the Sonora X in the US last week. A panel of users included Valpak which last year produced 470million envelopes and 20 billion inserts and consumes 800-1,000 plates a day. Its logic for switching to process-free surrounds the elimination of processors, their maintenance and cleaning, and cutting the risk of chemical spillage.
Jim Tomblinson, VP operations at Modern Litho in Missouri, had also testing the new version of Sonora. “This new plate will ink up in 20 sheets and is in colour before the press is ready. We already print at 240lpi, and are looking to reach 300lpi with Sonora X. I have never seen a tighter rosette on the plate which means I can print cleaner tints than with stochastic. And when I put the new plate face to face with a Sonora XP in a bag and swung and shook the bag, the Sonora XP was scratched to hell, but the Sonora X had two scratches on it.”
The plate has been successfully bedded in at the Oesterode plant in Germany and in China. The US manufacturing line is running up with a view to plates being available commercially in Q3.
The next step is to enhance the contrast of the latent image before mounting on press. The dwell time remains at 1 hour in daylight conditions, though the colour has shifted from the bluish grey on the Sonora XP to a reddish grey on the Sonora X.