American Printer's mission is to be the most reliable and authoritative source of information on integrating tomorrow's technology with today's management.

CTP from A to Z

Jun 1, 2004 12:00 AM

         Subscribe in NewsGator Online   Subscribe in Bloglines

Drupa's plate and platesetter developments included the following highlights:

  • Several companies joined Presstek on the chemistry-free/processless plate front; most run lengths were under 75,000 impressions. Agfa's and Kodak Polychrome Graphics' (KPG) products are commercially available; Creo's and Fuji's are still under development.

  • Drawing upon its Hell, Linotronics and Hercules electronics heritage, Heidelberg took the wraps off a new laser-imaging module. It's currently found on the company's new Suprasetter external-drum platesetters.

  • Although Agfa, Creo, Heidelberg, Luscher and Screen rolled out Paul Bunyan-like platesetters for supersize presses, two- and four-up introductions also boomed.

  • A.B.Dick, with some imaging assistance from Presstek, unveiled a two-up, chemistry-free thermal-plate device aimed squarely at the small printer who might previously have been eyeing polyester options.

  • As described in our April issue, Agfa, Creo, Enovation/Fuji, Heidelberg and Screen are leveraging CTP capabilities with new screening options.

A.B.Dick (Niles, IL)

Vector TX52 is a two-up thermal metal CTP system that uses chemistry-free plates. Designed, engineered and manufactured by A.B.Dick, Vector TX52 features the company's ThinDrum technology as well as Presstek's SureFire imaging.

The plate washer is built directly into the platemaker, rather than as a separate unit, resulting in a compact footprint. The Presstek Freedom plate is inserted at the front, imaged and water-washed inside of the unit before emerging as a press-ready plate.

The Vector TX52 is compatible with A.B.Dick's Momentum workflow. DPM owners can use the same RIP and workflow modules such as Ink Key Estimator, which sets calibrated ink fountains.

Agfa (Ridgefield Park, NJ)

The :Azura chemistry-free thermal digital plate is based on the :Thermolite Plus plate for Heidelberg's Speedmaster 74 DI that Agfa introduced at Ipex 2002. :Azura, an aluminum non-ablative plate, reportedly has wide exposure and press latitude and can be used for run lengths of up to 100,000 impressions. Only non-image areas require gumming. :Azura plates are for medium volume (up to 8,000 m2 per year) users in the two-, four- and eight-up format.

:N91v is a negative-working, violet-sensitized version of an existing photopolymer plate the company first developed for newspapers. The plate's coating technology is sensitive to the 405-nm diode, making it compatible with 30-mW violet diode CTP systems.

Agfa acquired Lastra's plate business earlier this year. Lastra, which had previously concentrated on analog printing plates, entered the digital-plate market in 2002 by acquiring Western Litho.

The manual input :Palladio is a four-up violet platesetter for entry-level users. Both the manual and automatic :Palladio, as well as the company's :Galileo violet platesetters, have switched from 5-mW laser diodes to 30-mW. The manual :Palladio outputs 17 pph vs. 20 pph for the automated version. :Acento, a four-up thermal platesetter, is for midsize printers. A variety of different automation and speed configurations are offered. Users have three plate-loading choices. The :Acento L-300 plateloader keeps 300 plates online in three cassettes, the :Acento L-100 keeps 100 plates online in a single cassette and the :Acento L-50 plateloader with manual slipsheet-removal keeps 50 plates online. The platesetter is optimized for :Thermostar plates and :ApogeeX workflow and is capable of :Sublima screening at 240 lpi. Options include an inline punch for major press configurations.

For larger printers, there's the thermal :Xcalibur XXT, offered in 45-inch width/eight-up and VLF formats.

BasysPrint (Peachtree City, GA)

The eight-up UV-Setter 731e (entry-level) and 736 (fully automated) platesetters can use conventional plates — what BasysPrint calls “CTcP.” The 731e includes a Bacher Control 2000 pin bar and a standard vacuum layout. The company's 710 device, the predecessor to the 736, reportedly has more than 300 installations. The 736 can process up to three different plate formats in three cassettes (five are optional). Maximum plate size is 940 × 1,150 mm. Slipsheet removal is automatic. Before exposure, the plate can be punched using a choice of two different inline systems for register accuracy. The flatbed exposure table holds the plate via a vacuum. After imaging, the plates are transferred to the online processor. Each of the five plate cassettes can accommodate up to 100 plates with a thickness of 0.30 mm or 150 plates with a thickness of 0.15 mm; the plates can be loaded into the Autoloader under daylight conditions.

Creo (Billerica, MA)

The Clarus WL is a waterless polyester plate for direct-imaging (DI) presses. It can be used for run lengths of up to 30,000 impressions. Its high sensitivity reportedly reduces energy consumption while allowing lower power output from the laser-imaging unit. The Clarus WL plate is currently being used in Europe and North America and will be commercially available in Q3.

The new Clarus PL processless plate was shown being imaged by the Trendsetter 800 Quantum platesetter in a technology demonstration. It requires no gumming, processing or post-imaging treatment. The Clarus PL plate is targeted for run lengths of up to 50,000 impressions. Commercialization plans haven't been announced.

Creo introduced its Positive Thermal Plate this past fall and, following its Spectratech acquisition, announced the Mirus, a high-resolution, UV- and IR-sensitive plate suitable for runs of up to 250,000 impressions unbaked and up to one million post-baked.

The Magnus very-large format (VLF) CTP device for large commercial and packaging printers can image 15 80.7 × 59.4-inch plates per hour, or, if smaller plates are loaded two at a time, 31 28 × 39.3-inch plates per hour. A two-plate buffered system allows the operator to load one plate and queue the next plate on the load table. After exposure, the first plate is ejected to the processor and the queued plate is automatically loaded onto the drum. With multicassette automation, the Magnus VLF device operates with four cassettes of 75 plates per cassette. Slipsheet removal is automatic. Operators can reload cassettes while the device continues imaging and picking plates from another bay. The platesetter's 63 × 83-inch drum enables it to image plates for KBA's Rapida 205 and other VLF presses.

ECRM (Tewksbury, MA)

The MAKO 8 combines violet imaging with a straight plate path and a maximum plate size of 41.3 × 32.4 inches. Another violet offering, the MAKO 4matic, reportedly can deliver more than 20 plates per hour at 2540 dpi (depending on the plate type) for four-up presses. Plates stored in a light-tight cassette are automatically fed to the integrated pin registration system, which matches the configuration on press.

Esko-Graphics (Kennesaw, GA)

Espresso, a four-up platesetter, can image conventional UV-sensitive plates. Users of EskoScan copydot scanners will note Espresso's similar design. The manual load/unload platesetter reportedly operates like a contact frame. Users can choose between normal and high-sensitivity plates, depending on speed requirements.

Espresso can help users transition from film-based to CTP production — press settings and on-press plate behavior reportedly are identical. A continued parallel computer-to-film and CTP operation is possible, using a single plate type and one plate processor. Key specifications include plate sizes from 12.8 × 19.1 inches up to 25 × 29.3 inches. Resolution is 2400 dpi and speed is 13 to 20 four-up UV plates per hour, depending on plate sensitivity.

Esko is growing its PlateDriver CTP family with the addition of the four-up PlateDriver Compact CTP system. It uses a 40-mW violet laser, which carries an unconditional three-year warranty, and can expose silver and photopolymer plates. The system can be integrated with an existing prepress workflow or with Esko-Graphics' FlowDrive 4 workflow solution.

The company also offers Plate-Driver models in four-, six- and eight-up configurations in semi- or fully automated versions.

On the polyester side, Esko-Graphics has DPX 4, a four-up internal-drum machine. Producing imaged, processed, punched, dried and cut-to-size press-ready plates as large as 26.77 × 29.90 inches, the DPX 4 can expose plates at any resolution between 1200 and 3000 dpi.

Fujifilm USA (Hanover Park, IL)

A new positive thermal CTP plate, Brillia LH-PJ, is said to offer good tone reproduction and is compatible with 10-micron-dot FM screening. The plate also is scratch-resistant and can be used with UV inks without post baking. Double coating and graining technologies are said to facilitate high durability and printability without losing tone reproduction. A new multigraining technology, which allows additional micro grains on the aluminum surface, reportedly can provide a wider ink/water balance and reduce scumming problems with the plate. Run length is 200,000 impressions with normal ink; 50,000 to 100,000 impressions with UV ink, unbaked; and 70,000 to 150,000 impressions with UV ink, baked.

Fuji announced it is working on a processless plate rated at 50,000 impressions and incorporating polymer materials technology from its thermal plate for the newspaper market as well as the Brillia LH-PJ's uniform grain technology.

The vendor expanded its Saber series of violet platesetters with the entry-level Luxel V-6 platesetter. The internal-drum four-up device is offered in manual, semi- and automatic configurations and features a compact footprint. A single cassette autoloader has a 120-plate capacity. The V-6 can output 20 plates per hour at 2400 dpi or 35 at 1200 dpi. The system can be configured with or without internal punching and is supported by a new entry-level Celebra RIP.

Heidelberg (Kennesaw, GA)

The thermal external-drum Suprasetter features its new laser imaging technology. The platesetter is offered in four- and eight-up formats for sheetfed and commercial web presses. Its modular construction supports a variety of add-on options — all punch, speed and automation options are field-upgradeable.

Suprasetter is offered in five different speeds and with configurations ranging from manual to fully automatic. There's also a high-performance system with a multicassette loader.

The Suprasetter 74 is compatible with all Heidelberg presses, from the Quickmaster QM 46 to the Speedmaster CD 74, as well as other vendors' presses. The Suprasetter 105 can image plates for the new Speedmaster XL 105 and web offset presses. Users can image plates with center or side registration.

The more laser modules a Suprasetter contains, the greater its imaging speed. Additional laser modules reportedly are field-retrofittable. There are two Suprasetter 74 versions:

  • “S” (standard), with two laser modules, rated at 19 pph

  • “H” (high-speed), with four laser modules, rated at 30 pph.

Suprasetter 105 versions include:

  • “E” (entry-level), with two laser modules images up to 14 pph

  • “S,” with three laser modules, outputs up to 19 pph

  • “H,” with six laser modules, can produce up to 30 pph.

The laser modules feature an intelligent diode system (IDS). If a diode fails, the system automatically identifies the greatest string of active diodes to the right or left. These active diodes can then maintain production.

The Suprasetter and Prosetter will share the same design for single- and multiple-cassette loaders.

KPG (Norwalk, CT)

The Thermal Direct no-process plate is based on fourth-generation technology. It can be imaged on most thermal CTP devices and doesn't require a debris-removal system. Thermal Direct plates reportedly are compatible with a wide range of inks and fountain solutions. Capable of producing run lengths of up to 75,000 impressions under optimal press conditions, the plate is said to hold one percent to 98 percent dots at 200 lpi and can be used with 20-micron FM screening.

The pre-sensitized aluminum plate can be handled in daylight environments for up to one hour or yellow-light environments for up to four hours. CTP equipment used with the plate doesn't need to be made light tight and plates can be manually loaded. The electrochemical grained and anodized aluminum substrate provides a traditional hydrophilic surface said to equal the on-press performance of processed thermal plates.

KPG also announced an agreement under which it is now offering co-branded KPG/Screen CTP and workflow solutions to customers in the U.S. and Canada. Under the agreement, which is retroactive January 1, 2004, KPG markets, sells and supports Screen's thermal:

  • PlateRite 4100 and 4300 four-up platesetters

  • PlateRite 8600, 8000II and 8100 eight-up platesetters

  • PlateRite Ultima large-format platesetters for four-up and larger commercial printers and package printer output applications.

In addition, KPG will offer the associated tools and workflows, including the Trueflow PDF workflow for CTP production. With the agreement, KPG becomes the largest distributor of Screen labeled products in North America.

Presstek (Hudson, NH)

SureFire provides high-power single-beam laser imaging for A.B.Dick's Vector TX52, a two-up internal-drum, chemistry-free platesetter. It reportedly supports 200-line screens, 2400 dpi and 15-micron spot size.

Presstek's ProFire Excel is fourth-generation thermal imaging technology that supports 300 lpi, stochastic, hybrid and conventional screening and 16-micron spot size. In addition to Presstek's Dimension Excel platesetters, this imaging technology is incorporated in Ryobi 304X-DI, 46 Karat Plus and KPG DirectPress 5634 DI presses.

The company also debuted ProFire Digital Media for use with Excel-laser equipped DI presses.

Screen (Rolling Meadows, IL)

PlateRite Micra, a two-up platesetter, features a 30-mW violet-laser diode and resolutions of 1200 or 2400 dpi. It can handle plate sizes ranging from 9.8 × 13 inches to 20.3 × 22.8 inches at 23 plates per hour.

PlateRite Ultima 16000 thermal multiformat platesetter can handle plates ranging from four-up (25.6 × 21.6 inches) to 16-up (57.9 × 45.9 inches). Depending on media sensitivity, the Ultima 16000 can image up to 23 57 × 45-inch plates per hour. A variety of plate-handling options are offered.

Another thermal platesetter, the PlateRite Ultima 32000Z, can handle plates ranging from 25.6 × 21.6 inches to 83.6 × 50.2 inches, with imaging resolutions of 1200, 2400, 2438 or 2540 dpi. Twin 512-channel laser diodes, based on grating light valve (GLV) technology, enable the platesetter to output 40½ × 31½-inch plates per hour at 2400 dpi.

Screen's Randot X second-generation FM screening is based on Harlequin HDS screening and includes 20-, 15- and 10-micron screening. Screen will incorporate Randot X into its Spekta screening package to give its thermal platesetter customers a broader range of options.

Xante (Mobile, AL)

PlateMaker 4 targets small commercial printers, print shops and in-plant operations. It's rated at 10 ppm and offers up to 2400 × 2400 dpi resolution. It outputs Myriad 2 polyester or Myriad 4 paper plates that reportedly can go from the user's desktop to the press in minutes, since the plates don't require processing. Full-bleeds can be printed — the platesetter accepts Myriad 2 plates up to 13⅜ × 19⅞ inches and Myriad film and paper plates up to 13 × 35½ inches. Negative enhancement imaging technology is said to ensure crisp hairline images and text. A gripper offset feature lets operators adjust image placement to ensure correct on-press alignment.


  • “The Digital Dots Buyers' Guide to CTP” reviews silver halide, photopolymer, thermal and processless plate options as well as key output developments.

  • The typical printer can spend $40,000 to $100,000 per year on chemistry and related items, according to J Zarwan Partners' free report, “CTP Plate Making: Understanding the Real Costs.”

  • Agfa, having stepped into territory once occupied by Autologic, Esko-Graphics and Western Litho, can reportedly claim bragging rights for about two-thirds of the estimated 1,600 newspaper CTP installations worldwide.

  • HighWater's Python, distributed in the U.S. by GraphLine, is an internal-drum, violet platesetter for the two- and four-up markets. It works with HighWater's Torrent RIP and can produce 20 four-up metal plates an hour.

  • Luscher's XPose! 190 thermal VLF platesetter offers 600-dpi resolution and can image plates for KBA's 205 and other supersize presses.

  • Screen reportedly has the leading worldwide market share of four- and eight-up platesetters.

  • Krause's LaserStar Edition features violet-laser diodes and can image silver and polymer plates by linearly moving the exposure bridge across the registered plate. It is controlled by the touchscreen SPS panel, integrated onto the moving exposure head.

Inkjet platesetter offers press-ready plates

Glunz & Jensen (Elkwood, VA) sells plate processors, so it was an unlikely candidate to introduce a platesetter that requires no processing chemicals. At Drupa, however, the company demonstrated PlateWriter 4200, its inkjet-based computer-to-plate (iCTP) system targeting smaller printers.

It's built around a customized Roland SP-3000 inkjet engine driven by a Xitron RIP. “Liquid Dot,” Glunz & Jensen's imaging solution, supplied in 220-ml cartridges, is jetted onto the plate surface. A finishing unit located below the print engine dries and bonds the liquid dots to the plate surface. A built-in gumming station provides a protective gum layer. The PlateWriter 4200 can be operated in daylight in an office environment. It images grained, anodized and non-photosensitive plates in two- and four-up formats.

Although PlateWriter 4200 uses inkjet, Glunz & Jensen's Hank Clifford characterizes it as second generation technology. He explains that while the PlateWriter 4200 incorporates inkjet technology, its plates require neither a coating nor processing chemicals/equipment.

Clifford estimates that the Liquid Dot marking solution costs $0.40 per sq. ft., based on 30 percent to 35 percent coverage. The complete system, including the RIP, costs approximately $35,000. The PlateWriter 4200 is slated for commercial release at Graph Expo.