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ONLINE EXCLUSIVE: Take a new look at polyester CTP

May 1, 2001 12:00 AM


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Once panned by "real" printers as producing low quality, polyester plates are slowly becoming fashionable in a CTP environment. Vendors targeting the quick and small commercial printer are offering direct-to-polyester plate alternatives to the typically more expensive metal platesetter systems. A.B. Dick (Niles, IL), for example, introduced the Digital PlateMaster 2508, which can image to polyester plates or offline film, at the Graphics of the Americas in February. Xanté (Mobile, AL) has the PlateMaker 3, a desktop CTP system that images to polyester plates.

Even Heidelberg (Kennesaw, GA) has gotten into the polyester game, having introduced the Quicksetter 350 and Primesetter imagesetters at Drupa. Both units image to both film or polyester plates. The Quicksetter is for two-up applications; the Primesetter is offered in four- and eight-up versions.

OVERALL ACCEPTANCE

"CTP is ‘computer-to-plate’ and polyester is a plate. There is a large market that has short runs of 20,000 or less and do not exceed a 175 line screen. Polyester fulfills this need," observes Ray Cassino, prepress marketing director at Heidelberg. Stu Gallup, senior product manager, digital systems, A.B. Dick Co. (Niles, IL), says he has seen an overall acceptance of polyester material for higher-quality printing. He estimates a minimum of 3,000 polyester CTP devices have been installed in the marketplace in the last five years.

This growing acceptance of polyester in a CTP environment is due to a number of factors, according to Barry Happé, principal of Vantage Strategic Marketing, a UK-based graphic arts consultancy:

  • Substitution for camera polyester applications

  • Increased gauge plate availability

  • Improved process chemistry systems that have made polyester plates cleaner and more "eco-friendly"

  • Lower costs of dedicated polyester platesetters and imagesetters when compared with metal CTP platesetters

  • Press enhancement by manufacturers to make polyester plates as easy to use as metal plates.

PUTTING IT INTO PERSPECTIVE

Despite its growth, though, polyester may still have limited appeal, at least in the minds of larger commercial printers. Eighty-five percent to 90 percent of the silver halide polyester plate market exists only in the quick and small commercial print shops, and in in-plant printing operations, observed Bill Lamparter, president and principal of PrintCom Consulting Group (Charlotte, NC), at a quarterly meeting of the Graphic Arts Marketing Information Service in March.

And "metal CTP investment has continued apace," says Happé. He adds some 2,200 metal platesetters were sold in 2000. But depending on the printer and the application, polyester has its appeal. "With the right CTP or computer-to-film and polyester material, printing polyester plates has made strides beyond printing spot colors," says Heidelberg’s Cassino. "Again, this is one of the niche markets [in the industry]. Having the right solution for the printer’s need is our goal."

For more information on polyester CTP, see:

  • "Imagesetters & beyond," January 2001, p. 50

  • "Choices 2000: what’s new in CTP," October 2000, p. 36