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Quick thinking

Nov 1, 2009 12:00 AM

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Speed and accuracy

Express Printing Center ( in Wheeling, IL, recently upgraded to a fully digital prepress workflow built around Screen (Rolling Meadows, IL) technology. The company had been running a chemistry-free system, and according to production manager Rich Schroeter, “Metal plates and chemistry-free technology were the way to go, but we wanted a platesetter that offered lower maintenance requirements and better efficiency. We compared all the systems on the market and concluded that the Screen PlateRite 4100 was the ideal fit for us.”

Established in 1979, Express Printing provides offset printing and large-format copying, primarily for midsize companies seeking low cost and high quality.

In the pressroom, Express Printing runs a 4-color Heidelberg GTO 52, two 2-color AB Dick 9910s and a 2-color Itech 3985. The PlateRite 4100 four-up computer-to-plate (CTP) machine has been producing plates for these presses virtually maintenance-free since 2004.

The PlateRite 4100 accommodates plate sizes from 12.8 × 14.5 inches to 32.7 × 26 inches. The auto-balance system enables the use of different-size plates without manual balance adjustments. The PlateRite 4100 averages eight to 12 plates per hour depending on the “burn rate” of the plate brand, according to Schroeter. With the PlateRite 4100, Express Printing images Kodak Thermal Direct and Fujifilm Ecomaxx-T non-process plates. Both plate types process on press. Once mounted on the press, fountain solution washes away coating in non-image areas.

Schroeter and his staff make the most of the PlateRite's production-enhancing features with Screen's Trueflow PDF- and JDF-based workflow with PDF creation, preflight, imposition, proofing and multiple output screening options.

On print jobs that require greater quality and detail, Express Printing applies Screen's Spekta hybrid AM/FM screening. “The quality that can be achieved with an ordinary setup of 175 lpi and 2,400 dpi will appear equal to that of 400 lpi printing,” Schroeter says. “Spekta gives us high resolution, sharp dot reproduction and superb registration. It is difficult to tell the difference between a photograph and the real thing.”

The biggest gains with the PlateRite 4100 are the speed and accuracy it provides, according to Schroeter. “Everyone needs their job quickly, so the time we save is really crucial in this business. Once we burn the plates and put them on press, we know the registration is accurate to within a half-millimeter, which is phenomenal. We don't have to spend time with cock-and-tilt. Plates are in perfect registration without more than a hair of movement on the press.”


Real savings

Agfa Graphics (Ridgefield Park, NJ) announced during PRINT 09 that Real Graphix ( of Bensenville, IL, is overcoming the tough economic climate by reducing waste, cutting costs, improving quality and decreasing turnaround time with a new :Avalon N4 platesetter and the :Azura TS Thermal Plates. The company also is increasing its automation with Agfa's :Apogee Suite version 6.0 workflow.

Real Graphix is a midsize shop handling a wide variety of jobs, including trade work. Over the years, Real Graphix has built a solid reputation for turning out high quality work on time, every time.

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The shop had been running a film imagesetter and analog plates. Seeing the need to continually improve customer satisfaction and reduce expenses, brothers and co-owners Joe and Ken Alfirevic chose Agfa, in large part due to the :Azura TS plate.

“With the :Azura TS plates, :Avalon N4 platesetter and :Apogee workflow, we are saving money when compared to our old process,” says Joe. “The higher efficiency yet decreased cost of plating jobs gives Real Graphix the ability to offer more competitive prices, thereby increasing the amount of incoming jobs. Plus, we've reduced chemistry costs and eliminated time-consuming maintenance, which is also a major savings.”

Ken adds, “It just made sense for us to get rid of the former equipment and make the investment for our business. This move has helped Real Graphix, especially now in a down economy. :Azura TS is a cleaner and more effective solution and we have actually increased our quality. The register is great and we've gone up to a higher line screen on our process work. Now we have a more competitive edge.”

The :Azura TS thermal plate requires only a clean-out unit to make press-ready plates without chemical processing. The :Avalon N4 thermal platesetter has a maximum imaging speed of up to 21 4-up plates/hr.


Green, clean & lean

Dothan Printing & Litho Inc. (Dothan, AL), recently augmented its prepress department with a Suprasetter A52 CTP device from Heidelberg (Kennesaw, GA). The new platesetter joins the 5-employee, family company's existing violet laser Prosetter 52, and offers the low maintenance of chemistry-free thermal technology. Most importantly, according to company president Tim Rhodes, the new platesetter enables Dothan to “run a little greener.”

Rhodes explains, “We are saving upwards of $350 a month in developer that we do not have to buy, and we also save dollars on spent developer and finisher that we do not have to have processed for silver reclamation. While only around 10 percent of our customers actually want that information noted in the body of the work we do for them, all of them are pleased to be saving money.”

While Dothan continues to use the Prosetter, it has transferred the bulk of its platemaking — an average of 800-900 plates per month — to the new Suprasetter. Dothan also uses Saphira violet and Saphira chem-free plates in its platemaking devices.

“Our run lengths are not so long as to make an appreciable difference in plate life from violet laser to thermal plates, provided the violet processor is maintained properly,” says Rhodes.

Dothan operates a Speedmaster 52 4-color press and a Printmaster 52 4-color, 2/2 perfecting press, in addition to postpress equipment that includes a Stahlfolder B20 and two Stahlfolder T36 folders with right-angle attachments for pharmaceutical folding. Along with Saphira-branded thermal and violet plates, the company uses Saphira pressroom consumables including blankets, inks, fountain and wash-up solution.

“Business as usual in the printing industry stopped a number of years ago,” Rhodes says. “The timely addition of proven technology that best addresses the needs of a given customer base without adding labor overhead to produce the work is a hallmark of sound business decisions, regardless of the business or industry.”


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Keeping it simple

Progressive Graphics & Printing of Newark, NY, has been meeting the needs of local businesses for more than 15 years.

Progressive had considered moving from polyester to metal CTP for several years, but the price had been prohibitive. “We were spending time and money we didn't have,” says Dennis Chase, owner of Progressive. When his local equipment vendor, Buffalo Printing Supply, recommended the PlateWriter 2400 from Glunz & Jensen (Granger, IN), Chase decided to test it.

“We were worried about quality and speed, and the PlateWriter 2400 exceeded our expectations,” says Chase. “No one has to babysit the machine. We can load a plate and walk away. And registration is even better than with our old system.”

The PlateWriter 2400 applies an innovative inkjet technology to produce press-ready aluminum plates without chemical processing.

Chase notes the low maintenance requirements: “There's no gunk for us to clean up and we don't have to pay someone to take away our chemical waste.” He adds, “Using the Plate Writer 2400 frees up the hours I used to spend stripping. It lets me focus on my business and lets my employees be more productive.”


Poly perks

In 1989, three small, independently run storefront printers combined to form Econoprint of Racine, WI ( The three locations continued to operate at their respective locations until 2003 when they moved into a single facility. Sales in 1989 were $200,000. Today, the full-service printer's sales exceed $2.3 million.

Keeping pace with technology and expanding services offerings has helped Econoprint to expand and grow its business. Its most recent purchase was the PlateStream Elite polyester CTP solution from Printware. It produces plates up to 18.1 × 27 inches.

“We chose the PlateStream Elite for two main reasons,” says Mike Hart, general manager. “The most important is the lower total cost of ownership associated with the unit. Material cost for the PlateStream is less than for competitive units we compared. Second, the PlateStream Elite format allows us to produce plates for our 5-color Heidelberg GTO. Our previous CTP system was not able to produce plates this large.”

Hart notes, “We are seeing a reduction of at least five minutes per job plus a reduction in paper stock required for makeready as a result of the inline punching.” Econoprint produces more than 300 plates per month on the PlateStream Elite.

When asked how the economic conditions of 2009 have affected his business, Hart says, “We have seen a 10% reduction

in our business in 2009 vs. 2008. In spite of the decrease in business, we continued to invest in technology required to improve our business.” Each year, Econoprint sponsors a United Way Campaign with nearly 100% participation by its employees. “Our community has supported us and, in turn, we support the community,” he adds.

With company values that include accountability, passion, quality, teamwork, customer focus, integrity and family, it is not surprising that Econoprint of Racine has experienced dramatic growth and — even with a small decrease in 2009 — is preparing itself for increased business in the future.


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Ease of use, reliability are key

Carvell Printing ( of Sacramento, CA, is a full service print shop that has been providing quality printing and mailing services to its customers for over 12 years. Owner Carol Carvell credits the company's success and longevity to the hard work of her professional staff and her investment in the latest computerized systems — including the Xanté SpeedSetter 300iL poly platesetter and Symphony RIP.

“We love the platesetter,” says Carvell, “because it has made life so much easier since we got it. We didn't want another piece of equipment that would be obsolete in a few years.”

John Pesce, the shop's production manager and lead press operator, adds, “First of all, it's easy to use. It's simple to change materials, the clear LCD readout is easy to understand and the controls are easy to navigate when you want to change materials or look at settings. That's a big plus.”

Carvell produces plates at 1,200 and 2,400 dpi. “The speed is good,” says Pesce. “Depending on the resolution we're running, it's fast enough that if we plan ahead we can have a good supply of plates without waiting for the machine.” He also notes that the RIP's PerfectBLEND transitional (hybrid) screening enables him to hold a 240-line screen on press.

“The Symphony workflow has done wonders to streamline and optimize our prepress time,” says Pesce. It allows him to RIP and manipulate images and files the way he wants, to ensure they run well on press. “This is very helpful,” he says. “It lets me, the operator, control the press sheet in terms of coverage — and that's the person who should be doing it.” He can see the individual separations in a rasterized view, to make sure everything is correct or change screen angles, resolution, type of dot, etc. He says, “In my position I often get samples others have printed and I need to go back and reverse engineer how the last shop made the job look the way it does, adjust an angle of one color etc. This is easily done in the RIP and without wasting our graphic designer's time.”

Pesce concludes, “Since I'm the one that's going to print the job, I'm the best one to make the changes. Symphony allows me to do just that and the results we get, the awards we've won and the customer satisfaction we continue to achieve are proof that SpeedSetter and the Symphony RIP are the right duo for our shop.”


Faster, less costly changeovers

When Bill Cole, owner of Tri-C Printing ( in College Park, GA, installed Mitsubishi Imaging's (Rye, NY) DPX 2 platemaker in conjunction with a new Ryobi 524 press, he immediately began to see savings on consumables and makeready time vs. his previous direct imaging press. With his new system, Tri-C gained more clients and jobs, resulting in an increase in profit margins.

“The Mitsubishi DPX 2 and Ryobi 524 were key elements in my decision to invest in the new technology since I was confident they would be easy to operate, virtually indestructible and high quality equipment,” says Cole.

Tri-C's press operators now change plates — Mitsubishi's polyester Silver DigiPlate — in only four minutes with the combination of the DPX 2 and Ryobi offset press — a savings of 11 minutes. Tri-C can now print more jobs without adding people or shifts, which generated about $50,000 in additional revenue. “Combine that with the savings in consumables and we've got a real money making proposition here,” says Cole.

The DPX 2 comes with an internal drum for high-resolution imaging and image-to-punch for consistent and accurate registration. Constructed to be environmentally friendly, the DPX 2 is RoHS-compliant, which means it meets new European Union standards for ecofriendly electronic equipment.

Cole says that because the quality of the output is so improved, his 15 employees' morale is up 100 percent. “My employees get compliments every week from customers who say the quality of output is outstanding, and we know that it is due to the plates. We are providing the best quality product at the best cost to our customers.”

The DPX 2 and Silver DigiPlate save time and money for Tri-C Printing.