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CTP moves forward

May 1, 2002 12:00 AM


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Last month's Ipex continued the run of industry shows that offered glimpses into today's CTP trends. New product introductions largely focused on the now-resonant themes of violet technology and the next step of photopolymer plates, and the holy grail of thermal processless.

While not all of these technologies and product introductions will come to market in the near future, four- and even two-up printers can expect a new slate of CTP devices geared just for them (see “Small-format CTP” at www.americanprinter.com). “The penetration of CTP adoption is going to the smaller printers,” confirms Steve Musselman, senior worldwide strategic account manager at Agfa Graphic Systems (Wilmington, MA). “We still expect to see more 40-inch CTP engine sales, but the rate of adoption is certainly faster for the four-up devices.”

Here, then, is how these trends surfaced in vendors' latest introductions.

AGFA

At Ipex, Agfa formally introduced the Xcalibur 45, an eight-up thermal platesetter that outputs 20 40-inch plates per hour at 2400 dpi, in either manual or automatic operation. The external-drum platesetter is the showcase for the Grating Light Valve (GLV) technology, developed by Silicon Light Machines (Sunnyvale, CA) and originally designed for the high-definition TV market.

The Xcalibur 45's imaging system bounces laser energy off the GLV, which controls and calibrates the beams. The GLV's microscopic ribbons modulate the laser light to produce individually addressable writing beams, ensuring fast and high quality imaging, while only requiring a 190-rpm drum rotational speed. The benefits are said to be simplified operation and long-term reliability. The Xcalibur 45's suggested U.S. list price is $207,000; it began shipping after Ipex. Its ideal plate counterpart is Agfa's Thermostar P970, which is sensitized to 830 nm.

The Palladio, a fully automated four-up flatbed violet platesetter introduced at Print 01, has been a success for Agfa. According to Musselman, the 100th Palladio was shipped this April; the first client shipments started at the end of 2001. National Graphics (Stoughton, MA), a high-end, four-color-and-up printer that produces brochures, posters, ad pieces and other marketing collateral, was the world's first Palladio installation. “National Graphics actually had another, manual device on order, one quite typical for the four-up market,” Musselman notes. “But they saw how a person would be tethered to operating that engine.”

The Palladio, which handles Agfa's Lithostar Ultra-V plates, features automated plate loading via a 50-plate media cassette and automated slip-sheet removal. The CTP device, which has been re-engineered for Agfa, is said to be a faster and wider version of Screen's successful FlatRite 1050, but utilizes a 410-nm violet laser instead of a red visible-light diode.

On the plate side, Agfa introduced the Thermolite Plus, designed for on-press imaging with a 100,000-impression run length. It reportedly offers high scratch resistance, faster startup and greater working latitude on press. The direct-imaging (DI) plate is applicable for presses such as the Heidelberg Speedmaster 74 DI and Komori Project D; it requires no chemical processing, is non-ablative, and needs no vacuum extraction nor filtering. Operators do not need to wipe the plate after imaging.

Musselman says that Agfa will soon debut a new off-press processless solution, to replace its now-withdrawn Mistral thermal processless plate.

Additional Agfa CTP-related announcements at Ipex included the PlateManager for the Xcalibur VLF familiy, as well as Sublima hybrid screening technology. Holding up to 50 plates in each of its four removable cassettes, the PlateManager automatically picks the plate, removes the slip sheet and presents the plate to the Xcalibur VLF.

The Sublima screening technology, previously shown at IFRA, was shown for the first time running on the Palladio and Galileo VXT at Ipex — reportedly enabling a high level of printing with a low amount of effort on press. The technology garnered 340-lpi screening off the Lithostar violet plates.

BASYSPRINT

At Ipex, basysPrint (Atlanta) launched its computer-to-conventional-plate UV-Setter 710-f and -f2, which image conventional offset plates with UV light. The eight-up platesetters, based on the concept of the UV-Setter 710 S/-HS, have been completely remodeled and adapted to the design of basysPrint's UV-Setter 57 newspaper platesetter.

The “-f” refers to the models' faster speed, which is double that of the older UV-Setter 710 S/-HS, thanks to a new exposure head. The UV-Setters use a Digital Micromirror Device, a micromechanical, electronically controlled chip that projects image data onto the printing plate. BasysPrint has increased the number of micromirrors from 800,000 to approximately 1.3 million; this allows more data to be transmitted with each exposure step, thus increasing exposure speed. The 710-f has one exposure head; the 710-f2 has two, operating at twice the speed of the 710-f, and exposing 25 conventional printing plates per hour. Both models can image plates at resolutions up to 3000 dpi and screen rulings up to 250 lpi. The platesetters will be commercially available in June.

CITIPLATE

In October 2000, Citiplate, Inc. (Roslyn Heights, NY), manufacturer of the AQUA LHP system of silverless, UV-sensitive aluminum plates, announced the formation of a new business unit to market and distribute UV CTP devices by February 2001.

Up to this point, Citiplate dealt exclusively in plates; according to George Whalen, Citiplate's PR rep, the company received contract-manufacturing offers from several independent CTP-system manufacturers to create combination UV CTP and violet platesetters on their own, internal-drum, violet-laser-diode platesetter platforms. Customers will thus be able to choose their preferred internal-drum platesetter, and image either high-speed AQUA LHP UV plates or violet CTP plates at the same speeds.

Whalen notes that most Citiplate AQUA LHP platesetters will be internal-drum systems, fitted by the manufacturer with a 1,000-mW-plus UV laser and optical system. The first to be announced, the AQUA LHP UV platesetter, Escher-Grad edition, is manufactured by Escher-Grad Technologies, Inc. (Lachine, PQ). The chassis of this eight-up, internal-drum device is the same as Escher-Grad's Cobalt 8 violet-laser-diode CTP system. Full imaging of a Citiplate AQUA LHP eight-up plate (up to 41.5 inches) at 1270-dpi resolution reportedly takes under two minutes.

According to Robert Dainton, Citiplate technical director, the device has been tested at two customer sites and is now in the process of being moved to a third. High-volume plate users, he notes, are attracted by the 20 percent to 40 percent lower consumables costs of high-speed UV plates, vs. costs of thermal, YAG and silver plates.

Citiplate is currently discussing similar contract-manufacturing co-venture agreements with several other platesetter manufacturers. The advantage to this, Dainton says, is that they all bring something different to the table: “Some offer superior automatic plate handling and processing, while others specialize in manual systems.” AQUA LHP UV CTP/violet platesetters will be available in all sizes up to 80 inches, depending on the manufacturer.

CREO

Thermal CTP vendor Creo (Bedford, MA) offered a new speed for its top-of-the-line, eight-up, external-drum Lotem 800 Quantum platesetter at Ipex. The V-speed model of the fully automated unit (which includes multiple-cassette configurations, inline punch and slip-sheet removal) images 25 plates per hour. The new F speed images 16 plates per hour.

Despite continuing updates on its eight-up devices, Mark Vanover, marketing director, advanced solutions, says Creo is targeting more of its marketing and production at the four-up arena. The Lotem 400 Quantum, introduced at Print, is built on the Lotem platform and uses Creo's SQUAREspot imaging technology. The device outputs 27 plates per hour. A new option allows the automatic loading of more than 50 plates from a single cassette. It can be upgraded to full automation, with a three-tray multicassette unit that stores at least 150 plates.

According to Joe Luckett, marketing manager for CTP devices, Creo is currently taking orders for the Lotem 400 Quantum in the U.S. and Canada.

Luckett notes that Creo “understands violet technologies very well” but doesn't find it to offer any significant advantages to its customers. (Cost differences between violet and thermal devices are reportedly minimal.) But Creo is at work on a platesetter that images processless thermal plates, and Luckett says Trendsetters that image processless plates are ready to ship to customers. “We have been intimately involved all along with processless media,” says the exec. The platesetters require additional components when imaging to processless plates, but they can be retrofitted onto existing devices. Creo is reportedly already taking orders on these models.

ESKO-GRAPHICS

Esko-Graphics is the new name for the merged Barco Graphics/Purup-Eskofot. World headquarters will be in Gent, Belgium. The new president and CEO, Kim Graven-Nielsen, officially took his post May 1.

At its Ipex booth, Esko-Graphics demonstrated an engineering prototype imaging conventional plates. Based on the Dicon shown at Drupa 2000, the flatbed device images plates using UV light. The prototype used a single UV imaging head; a second can also be added. At 1270-dpi resolution, a twin-head Dicon can reportedly output up to 55 negative-working plates per hour, depending on plate sensitivity.

Esko-Graphics' PlateDriver Automatic CTP platesetter was launched at Print. At Ipex, the company also introduced the PlateDriver QPS 4, a four-up version capable of imaging metal violet plates. Because the QPS 4's violet-laser system has variable power levels (the diode can image from 2 mW to 30 mW), printers can use any violet-sensitive CTP plate — either silver halide or photopolymer. The device exposes plates as large as 26.7 × 29.5 inches, at resolutions up to 3175 dpi and screen rulings up to 1016 lpi.

Esko-Graphics also introduced a semi-automatic PlateDriver, where plates are manually loaded, one or two at a time — plate unloading and processing are still fully automatic. Available in either a four- or eight-up model, the PlateDriver Semi can be fitted with a 5-mW or 30-mW violet laser or a thermal laser. The semi-automatic version can also be upgraded to a PlateDriver HS (high-speed), delivering 29 plates per hour at 2400 dpi and 42 plates per hour at 1200 dpi. The HS version is equipped with a 30-mW violet-laser diode.

FUJI

Fuji Photo Film U.S.A., Inc.'s (Hanover Park, IL) latest platesetter is the Saber Luxel Vx-9600, an eight-up, violet-laser system based on Fuji's Saber Luxel P-9600, which utilizes a YAG laser. The Saber Vx incorporates up to two 30-mW violet diodes, featuring Fuji's InterTech Award-winning acousto-optic deflector (AOD) multilaser imaging technology (which is also used in the Sumo Luxel F-9000 eight-up thermal device). AOD technology reportedly enables faster imaging speeds in internal-drum platesetters.

With the dual 30-mW diodes and AOD technology, the Saber Vx can output up to 43 eight-up plates per hour at 1200 dpi, or 32 plates per hour at 2400 dpi in a yellow-safelight environment. It features six-, eight-, 10- and 12-gauge support in landscape and portrait plate loading — the latter being ideal for half-web presses.

According to Peter Vanderlaan, product development manager for electronic imaging hardware, “The Saber Vx provides a lower cost of ownership with a low laser cost and long laser life.” The device will be commercially available in a fully automatic configuration in September. Manual and semi-automatic versions will be introduced soon after. A four-page version — the Luxel Vx-6000 — will be released in Q3.

Fuji's Brillia LP-NV violet photopolymer plate, introduced at Ipex and optimized for the Saber Vx, is designed for platesetters utilizing a 30-mW laser. The 405-nm, silverless plate is ideal for run lengths up to 200,000 impressions — or one million baked. The plate supports a one percent to 98 percent dot reproduction at 175 lpi. It also uses new developer technology, which reportedly enhances the plate's resistance to pressroom chemistry, increases developer life and reduces sludge.

The Brillia LP-N3 negative-working photopolymer plate is designed to work with the Luxel P-9600 and other visible-light platesetters using 488-nm to 532-nm lasers; it also has a run length of up to 200,000 impressions (one million baked). The plate has a new sensitized layer that is said to enable sharper dot formation, less dot gain and clearer reproduction of fine dots, lines and fonts. It replaces Fuji's LP-NS plate; Jim Crawford, group manager, product development, output media, notes that Fuji is in the process of converting its installed base of the older plate, and now has more than 100 LP-N3 installations since January.

The Brillia LD-NS dry thermal processless plate is in the final stages of qualification. Crawford says that target markets include the Komori Project D and Heidelberg's Speedmaster 74 DI: “We think those are the best applications for this product because you can image the plate, start the press and print — there is no intermediate rinse stage,” he explains. Depending on qualification, the exec says the LD-NS may be available by Q3.

HEIDELBERG

Heidelberg (Kennesaw, GA) is now shipping its violet Prosetter platesetter, introduced at Print. “It's been quite successful for us,” affirms Ray Cassino, marketing director, prepress. “Violet technology brings all the benefits of CTP without the high price tags traditionally associated with CTP systems.”

The internal-drum Prosetter 52, 74 and 102 are available in two-, four- and eight-up formats, respectively. All are outfitted with 5-mW laser diodes to image silver-halide plates. At Ipex, Heidelberg introduced a single cassette loader that holds 100 to 150 plates (from 6 mil to 12 mil) online. Existing Prosetters can be retrofitted with the cassette loader; Heidelberg will begin shipping in December. The Prosetter 74 and 102 also have a faster-imaging version.

Equipping the Prosetter with 30-mW laser diodes is a future possibility: “We're just waiting for the plates,” says Cassino. “There are still a lot of questions regarding the [violet photopolymer] plates: What will the resolution be? How sensitive will these plates be? What will be the run length? All of these details have not been nailed down yet.”

Though the development of a 30-mW Prosetter is contingent upon finding any plate that can be imaged with 30-mW diodes, Heidelberg is already in discussion with several manufacturers on the development of its own violet photopolymer plate. “It's our desire to have that technology in our portfolio,” confirms Rick Boggess, director of consumables, but he says the U.S. manufacturers with which Heidelberg has been working had setbacks in bringing the technology to bear.

For now, expect to see a Heidelberg-branded silver violet plate in the next few months. Originally planned for a Print introduction, Boggess says Heidelberg elected to pull back on its development until next-generation technology was further established, allowing for better-quality plates that withstand longer run lengths. The plates will be released in June or July.

Boggess says Heidelberg hopes to offer branded thermal plates as well, but he notes there won't be any developments until at least the later part of this year. “We don't want to enter the market with a thermal plate that requires baking,” says the exec. “We're working in parallel on no-bake requirements and on a process-free plate.” Heidelberg is dealing with both U.S. and foreign manufacturers on these technologies.

At Ipex, Heidelberg also introduced the thermal Topsetter P74. The “P” stands for “plus,” indicating its accessibility for more formats. The machine now supports plate sizes for the QM46 and the GTO 46, and will support plates for the Speedmaster CD 74. Originally, the high-end platesetter only supported the QM46 on the small end and the regular Speedmaster 74 on the large end. The Topsetter P74 will now also image 20 plates per hour, vs. the previous 16 plates per hour.

KODAK POLYCHROME GRAPHICS (KPG)

Kodak Polychrome Graphics (KPG) (Norwalk, CT) introduced the SWORD no-preheat, no-post-bake thermal CTP plate at Print 01. After controlled sales early this spring, the plate is now generally available and KPG is ramping up on production, according to Bruce Davidson, worldwide marketing director, plates. The plate can handle run lengths of up to 400,000 impressions — a unique coating is said to make it highly resistant to both physical wear and harsh chemicals, such as UV and EB ink solvents. The plate is initially available in eight- and 12-mil gauges. It is processed in a specially designed straight-path, aqueous processor, currently available in 34- and 40-inch sizes. It also requires KPG's 956 developer.

KPG showed a thermal no-process plate at Drupa but Davidson says it has not commercialized it, since it requires a debris-collection system on the platesetter. Instead, at Ipex, the company showed some new no-process plates that the exec says are more robust, and do not require debris collection. He stresses that this is not an updated product of the one shown at Drupa but an entirely new concept. One plate will be for on-press imaging; another will be for off-press imaging.

While the exec says KPG is still working on the technology, “ideally by fall, we'll be in the beta-testing stage and have more to show at the next round of trade shows.”

LASTRA/WESTERN LITHOTECH

On April 5, Lastra America (Brookfield, CT) announced its acquisition of Western Litho Plate and Supply Co. (Western Lithotech) (St. Louis), a Mitsubishi Chemical company. Tom Saggiomo, president and CEO of Lastra America, has also become CEO of the wholly owned subsidiary, now called Western Lithotech, A Lastra Group Co.

According to Saggiomo, the acquisition allows Lastra access to all of Mitsubishi Chemical's technology. This includes the DiamondPlate LV-1 violet photopolymer plate, the no-pre-bake and no-post-bake DiamondPlate LT-N negative-working thermal CTP plate designed for newspaper and high-productivity markets, and the DiamondSetter platesetter for the newspaper market. Western Lithotech also has manufacturing facilities in the U.S.

Lastra first entered the U.S. market about two years ago, establishing a distribution center in Brookfield and a dealer network. At Print, it formally launched the Extrema 2G thermal CTP plate. The no-preheat plate is available in four- and eight-up sizes, and in six-, eight-, 12- and 15-mil gauges. No post-baking is involved for run lengths below 100,000 impressions. The plate is now shipping in the U.S.

After these developments, “it was time to move to the next step,” explains Saggiomo. “The acquisition gave us market share and manufacturing capabilities, and opened up a new market for us.” Though Western Lithotech is now a Lastra subsidiary, the exec says the two companies will be managed as one entity in the Americas. He adds that Lastra will study the possibility of blending the two names in the future, but notes the Western brand name carries a lot of value.

Lastra America and Western Lithotech are currently deciding how to organize their two dealer networks. “We're not keen on having dealers everywhere,” notes the exec, preferring instead to work with fewer dealers that would advocate Lastra and Western brands.

Lastra, which has been strictly a thermal-plate company, will continue Western Lithotech's work on the violet plate, as well as its other products. The LV-1 plate is sensitive to 410-nm violet lasers, with dot reproduction of one percent to 99 percent. The electrochemically grained, anodized-aluminum substrate is reportedly ideal for medium to long run lengths.

The plate is currently in two beta sites, where it will likely remain until September, according to Kathy May, general sales manager, commercial division, and U.S. and international marketing manager for Western Lithotech. One reason is the priority of working through the acquisition details, she says, and the other is because of a formula change to improve the plate. She adds that there are still some issue with widespread availability of the 30-mW violet-laser diodes necessary to image the plate. The exec expects beta testing on the plate to expand into longer-running, higher-quality markets in September. The product is expected to be ready for commercialization by the end of the year.

MITSUBISHI IMAGING (MPM) INC.

At Print, Mitsubishi Imaging (MPM) Inc. (Rye, NY) introduced the Silver DigiPlate Alpha Violet plate for imaging on violet platesetters. The negative-working silver-halide plate has an anodized-aluminum base, and is imaged at 400 nm to 430 nm for up to 300 lpi. It is available in six, eight and 12 mil, and provides run lengths of up to 200,000 impressions.

Mitsubishi Imaging also introduced the SDP 2500 V four-up platesetter at Print. The device is a fully automatic, flatbed imaging system that uses 5-mW violet-laser diodes. The platesetter features online punching and automated plate loading and slip-sheet removal. While the Alpha Violet plates are compatible with other manufacturers' violet platesetters, the P-Alpha 880 processor attached to the SDP platesetter is designated to process the Alpha Violet plates.

Mitsubishi Imaging began shipping both plate and platesetter at the beginning of the year (they are sold separately). Jeff Troll, director of marketing, says there are currently about 10 to 12 plate installations; platesetter installations are scheduled for the coming months.

Troll stresses that Mitsubishi Imaging's core product is still plates. The platesetter, he explains, helps the company offer total solutions to customers. Mitsubishi Imaging nevertheless works regularly with manufacturers of other violet platesetters.

The company is also finalizing its Eco-style version of the P-Alpha 880 processor, which pumps developer from a sealed tank to a unique coating head that applies the minimum amount of chemistry needed to develop the plate. Troll expects it to be released mid-year.

PRESSTEK

Presstek's (Hudson, NH) new Applause processless thermal plate was demonstrated at Ipex. The wet-offset plate is said to be 100 percent process-free: no cleaning, baking or gumming required.

The plate is composed of a hydrophilic ceramic material vacuum-deposited onto ink-receptive polyester. The ceramic layer is tough yet flexible, capable of surviving up to 100,000 impressions. The material absorbs infrared energy quickly and ablates completely, eliminating the need to wash the plate.

“The functional coatings on the plate are removed 100 percent by the laser,” explains John O'Rourke, director of consumables marketing. “There are no steps required after imaging. After the plate is written by the laser, it's done — put it on press and print.”

The plate will be available in two-, four- and eight-up sizes; formats include aluminum for DI and CTP applications, sheet-cut polyester for CTP and spooled polyester for DI. O'Rourke says it will be compatible with all Presstek equipment, as well as Creo's line of thermal platesetters. In addition, it can be used on many contemporary dampening-equipped DI presses that image ablative thermal media, such as the Heidelberg SM 74 DI and Sakurai 574 EPII DI. Presstek's PEARLdry will continue to be manufactured for existing DI systems.

Applause is still in the prototype phase. O'Rourke expects initial beta testing within 17 months. He notes that Presstek is already capable of manufacturing Applause in large-scale production quantities, so its ultimate commercial introduction is largely a matter of fine-tuning the manufacturing process.

Presstek's wet-offset, processless Anthem plate, which is used on most of the company's Dimension platesetters, has just been qualified for use on Creo's four- and eight-page Trendsetter Quantum platesetters. The Anthem plate offers dot reproduction of better than two percent to 98 percent at 200 lpi for run lengths up to 100,000 impressions. O'Rourke hints there will be additions to the Anthem plate family around Graph Expo 2002.

Presstek's Dimension platesetter family has just reached its 200th installation. (Dimension and Anthem both debuted at Drupa 2000 and were released for sale at the following Graph Expo.) Marc Johnson, product line marketing manager for off-press products, notes that this milestone was achieved with the smaller-format Dimension 200 two-up and Dimension 400 four-up CTP systems.

“It is no surprise to us that the largest growth in CTP will come from the 29-inch and smaller-size printers — it's the largest segment of the market with the smallest penetration to date,” he says. The exec adds, however, that Presstek just completed its first round of early production U.S. installations of the Dimension 800 eight-up platesetter.

At Print 01, Presstek announced Dimension AutoLoad, an automatic plate-loading option for the Dimension 200 and 400. Johnson notes that pricing, which was originally announced as “under $40,000” at Print, is expected to be offered at $19,000 for a new CTP system and $29,000 for a field upgrade.

PRINTING DEVELOPMENTS, INC. (PDI)

PDI's (Racine, WI) Eclipse Thermal no-bake polymer-over-aluminum CTP plate is now fully commercialized, and qualified on Creo, Lüscher and ECRM platesetters. PDI is working with other leading thermal CTP players to qualify the plate on their devices as well. According to Dwight Zilinskas, director of corporate and international sales, the plate is marketed for 500,000 impressions, “but we've been able to run up to a million impressions consistently.”

PDI has introduced a conventional companion product to the Eclipse Thermal, designed to be processed in the same chemistry and at the same processing speeds, and perform the same on press as the CTP product. The conventional plate will only be sold as a transitional plate option for printers planning on going CTP, says Zilinskas.

The exec says PDI plans to focus on Eclipse for the next year or two, but is working toward a goal of processless technology. “Processless means different things to different people,” he observes. “Some people consider ablation as a processless technology. We're looking to go toward the face-change direction. What we've learned from the Eclipse takes us a little closer.” He says PDI will go into full-scale R&D on processless technology in 2003.

PDI has a single-stage vertical processing machine that can reportedly develop the Eclipse Thermal plates in only two minutes. The unit's 70-degree angle is a space saver, according to Zilinskas. Nevertheless, PDI introduced a horizontal processor at Print. Zilinskas expects it to be commercialized by this Graph Expo. The exec says PDI is offering the processor because inline CTP devices currently need an interface to take the plate from a horizontal position to PDI's vertical processor.

SCREEN (USA)

Screen (USA)'s (Rolling Meadows, IL) two Ipex introductions were aimed at both the small- and large-format markets. The PlateRite 4300 four-up thermal device, with its maximum plate size of 32.6 × 25.9 inches, was developed to support larger-format, four-page presses; it also supports smaller two-up presses with a minimum plate size of 12.7 × 14.5 inches. Compared to similar four-up platesetters, the 4300 is said to offer a faster imaging speed, outputting 20 28.5 × 24.3-inch plates per hour at 2400 dpi.

Like Screen's PlateRite 4000II, 8000II and 8600 series platesetters, the 4300 features clamping and automatic drum-balancing systems, which reportedly provide greater precision and stability to handle a range of plate formats at high speed. It also has the same automatic inline plate-punching capability for maintaining plate registration. The 4300 will begin shipping in June; although pricing has not been officially announced, Screen (USA) marketing manager Yukiyoshi Tanaka suggests it may be around $139,000.

Screen's new, tentatively named PlateRite Ultima is a multiformat thermal platesetter with twin exposure heads that can output two eight-page plates, or one 16- or 32-page plate. It reportedly can output 36 eight-page or 13 32-page plates per hour. The Ultima can image from two 19.6 × 14.5-inch plates to 32-page 93.7 × 50-inch plates, making it suitable for printers with a combination of small-, medium- and large-format presses. For printers with eight-up presses looking for high-capacity plate production, the dual imaging heads provide simultaneous exposure of two eight-page plates or smaller.

Like Agfa's XCalibur 45, the Ultima incorporates Silicon Light Machines' GLV technology, for which Screen has developed what is said to be a fast multichannel thermal imaging head. The Ultima also offers inline punching and optional single- and multi-cassette autoloaders. An L-shaped conveyor transports the plates to the plate processor. The Ultima is scheduled for release at the end of this year.

New imagesetter film is stable, speedy and sharp

At Print 01, Kodak Polychrome Graphics' (Norwalk, CT) new product introductions included both plates and film. Its new Premier Recording Film System is a hard-dot film compatible with new recording devices as well as existing imagesetters that use red-laser diodes or HeNE lasers in the 630-nm to 670-nm range.

Premier is said to offer improved consistency in speed and density, better dot quality and fast processing times. The new film reportedly reduces process cycle time by up to 33 percent and is winning favorable user reviews, particularly from packaging specialists.

“Premier gave us the stability we needed without the problems we'd had with other film,” reports Jerry Buhl, vice president of operations for Schawk Minneapolis. “We can run Premier faster than the film we'd used in the past. And in our 7-mil work, it has a much higher density, in the 520 range. We used to be lucky to get 480.”

Schawk Minneapolis is a 120-employee prepress trade shop specializing in packaging, point-of-purchase, coupon and free-standing-insert work. Buhl reports that when using other film, the company had to adjust its light exposures several times every day to get an accurate dot percentage. “If we were very busy, we'