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May 1, 2002 12:00 AM

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This is an exclusive online sidebar to May's "CTP moves forward" article.

CTP used to be the sole domain of the big guys. While computer-to-polyester-plate has been a viable option for smaller printers (and polyester-plate and imagesetter manufacturers agree that quality on these plates has increased significantly since the first-generation products), metal-plate imaging has still been out of reach for many two- and four-up shops. "The smaller shop has unique needs and has waited on the sidelines while manufacturers perfected their technologies and brought pricing down to a level that was affordable for them," explains Marc Johnson, Presstek’s (Hudson, NH) product line marketing manager for off-press products.

Recent CTP introductions show, however, that vendors are beginning to court this market. Following are some of the latest platesetters for two- and four-up shops.

Advanced Prepress (AP) (Whitehall, PA) offers the AP Phoenix, a "transitional" CTP system that is actually a converted Opticopy, Misomex, Cortron or Rachwal camera step-and-repeat machine. AP removes most of the step-and-repeat system’s components--save the plate/film-mounting structure--and installs either a single or dual FD-YAG laser imaging head. Dual 24-inch heads would reportedly enable imaging of plates up to 60 inches wide and 48 inches high at 2400 dpi in about two minutes, with speeds from 30 to 60 plates per hour. Dual-laser systems are priced at approximately $310,000; single-laser systems start at about $150,000.

The Mako 2 from ECRM Imaging Systems (Tewksbury, MA) is a two-up, violet-laser platesetter based on the company’s Mako imagesetting technology. Using a long-life, 405-nm, violet-laser diode, the device images silver-halide plates at resolutions up to 3556 dpi. Plates are registered by means of a pin-bar system, which is configured to match the register notches on press. Interchangeable pin bars enable the same device to output plates for multiple presses: Plates sizes range from 10 x 10 inches to 22 x 22 inches. Plates are manually loaded and unloaded; an optional transport bridge allows plates to be automatically transferred to an online processor.

Global Graphics Hardware (Trenton, NJ) (recently sold by Global Graphics to its Hardware Div. management team) introduces the Cirrus 2M. A manual version of the Cirrus 2 metal platesetter, it is available with a Green HeNe laser or as a violet-diode imaging version. It can image 24 B3 plates per hour at 2540-dpi resolution or 37 plates per hour at 1270 dpi. It is suitable for printers with A3 portrait and landscape sheetfed presses that need fast makeready. The Cirrus 2M comes with a Harlequin RIP and an SDT 650 plate processor.

HighWater Designs (Salem, NH) has introduced Platinum 2218 Reflex, a fully automatic, two-page CTP device. The platesetter can image silver-halide violet plates up to 22 x 18.1 inches. Resolution is 2540 dpi or 1270 dpi. A cassette can hold up to 50 0.15-mm plates. At Ipex, the device was shown at both the HighWater and Komori booths. At the Komori exhibit, it produced plates for a Lithrone 20 press.

Switzerland-based L├╝scher AG’s Xpose! 75 can produce four-up plates in both manual and fully automatic mode. The internal-drum CTP device, demonstrated for the first time at Ipex, can reportedly handle the various thermal plates currently on the market. Plates are imaged via 32 1W, 830-nm laser diodes, at 2400 dpi. Maximum plate size is 760 x 650 mm.

Print Imaging Sciences’ (PISCES) (Nashua, NH) desktop CTP system, the JetPlate, is based on an Epson 3000 inkjet printer. It images conventional UV-sensitive, negative, subtractive aluminum plates using a proprietary imaging fluid. An optical plate-registration system supports four-color process printing or spot colors. The system includes the platesetter engine, Epson 3000 color proofer, a plate processor and a Harlequin RIP. Cost ranges from $8,995 to $13,995, depending on configuration.

"The Market Potential for Polyester Printing Plates: 2001-2005" concludes that polyester plates are suitable for a wide range of work, and up to about 25,000 impressions, depending on the condition of the press and the quality requirements for a specific job. William C. Lamparter, principal, PrintCom Consulting (Charlotte, NC), conducted the research and found that polyester plates are suitable for most printed products, including those with halftones, screen tints and heavy coverage.

The study notes that an increasing number of printers will be forced by their customers to become virtually 100 percent digital in the next five years. Many printers, particularly those operating small-format offset equipment, are reportedly overlooking the opportunity to adopt CTP technology by using digital polyester printing plates.

"The Market Potential for Polyester Printing Plates: 2001-2005" was distributed exclusively to Graphic Arts Marketing Information Service (GAMIS) (Alexandria, VA) members. For more information or to become a GAMIS member, contact executive director Jackie Bland at (703) 519-8179.