CTP at IFRA: A Greener Plateroom

By: Jim Rosenberg

In addition to their digital developments, plateroom products suppliers exhibiting at the IFRA Expo in Vienna often emphasized increased efficiencies and often the related environmental benefits, from consumables to hardware design.

And unlike many supplying the print side of the newspaper industry, platesetter purveyors are still making sales by converting users of photochemical platemaking and selling more economical systems to users of earlier-generation computer-to-plate equipment.

J?rgen Horstmann, owner of parent company The Horstmann Group, said that Krause-Biagosch remains in the black and that based on orders, he is “optimistic for the year 2010.” The CTP systems supplier has upgraded all its imagers, added one new model and redesigned all its processors.

Based in Bielefeld, Germany, the manufacturer put its business under the banner of “Resource Efficiency,” a concept that includes not only imaging and processing low-chem and waterless plates, but also everything from direct drives and brushless DC motors to integrated softproofing, including TrueColor contract proofing, according to Sales and marketing Director Stefan Beke-Bramkamp.

In addition to such features as automatic compressed-air switching, double-media sensing, hot-air-circulation preheating, fast-start mode and cool-air drying, Krause minimized use of wear-and-tear parts and offers NetCare remote service and crew training for in-house maintenance to boost efficiency and savings.

Some operations have demonstrated a willingness to pay more at the outset, said Beke-Bramkamp, to gain the longer-term savings, as well as to benefit from a seven-day, round-the-clock technical-support option rather than dialing into a call center. At the same time, however, he said Krause has designed its machines to be easier to understand and maintain, allowing customers leaner service contracts.

Among highlights of Krause developments are new BlueFin processors, including a waterless-plate model, improvements to the year-old XJet imager for waterless plates, and version 6.2 of JetNew workflow software, with a more graphical presentation using a picture of a tower press.

At approximately 4.5 feet wide, 9 feet long and 4 feet high, the compact BlueFin 850 (its 34-inch maximum plate width in millimeters) offers high speed, processing 300 silicone-based plates per hour through five stations, from pretreatment through drying. It uses less energy and, through filtration and reuse, 90% less water, according to Krause.

Now in models with 64-diode infrared arrays directly imaging up to 250 Toray plates per hour, the XJet has a second customer. The S?dkurier, Konstanz, Germany, uses machines at maximum throughput on two lines supplying plates for its KBA Cortina press. In addition to new drum loading, the external drum itself has a larger diameter, which requires less bending of the plate and therefore improved register in the punch-bender.

Another kind of resource efficiency is enabled by the LSJet 350, a higher-capacity platesetter with an optional 160mW violet-laser diode. Imaging up to 350 pph at 1,016 dpi, the LSJet 350 allows just-in-time production, reducing or eliminating plate storage (with proper sequencing). In the similarly productive BlueFin 350 processor, rollers are adjustable for use with narrower page widths.

Reducing time, paper use and the associated costs, PressProof color-calibrated softproofing can be integrated with several press-control systems’ consoles, and the Krause workflows can now integrate with others’ planning systems and include the PDFInkAdjust GCR/UCR-based color-ink-optimization module.

Krause’s range of imagers and processors for all speeds and for waterless includes its high-end, 350pph BlueFin LC processor for violet low-chem plates. Its 100-liter bath supports the high volumes in a smaller footprint and with easier cleaning, and can show 50% energy savings, according to Beke-Brankamp. He said Krause was ready a year ago with a low-chem machine but awaited customer acceptance of the new plates.

Sales in the past year ranged from six domestic customers (including CTP lines for Kiel, LS350s replaced an another suppliers’ older system in Regensburg, a third German daily upgraded older Krause equipment, and another upgraded its optics) and a seventh expected to sign before leaving Vienna, to sites in Austria, India, Malaysia, Sri Lanka and South Korea (where the buyer added four LS Jets to the six already installed) to the Los Angeles Times (which ordered Krause platesetters after testing three suppliers’ machines).

Indications of CTP’s progress in productivity are that Kruase considers 100 pph the threshold for entry-level newspaper platesetting, which once ranged from 50 to 60 pph, and that high-end throughput has reached 400 pph, in the VMax flatbed imager introduced by DotLine, also headquartered in Bielefeld. Factory testing at 1270 dpi delivered 421 Berliner-format single-page plates per hour and 327 Nordic-format (large broadsheet) single-page plates per hour, according to DotLine.

With its autoloader software completed, VMAX becomes available in different performance classes in January, configured in semi-automatic (with online processing) and fully automatic (for up to 1,000 plates) models exposing plates in formats ranging from 12×20 inches to 25.6×37.2 inches.

Since the IFRA Expo, DotLine has reported 12% growth in 2009 and looks to new markets in 2010. Its other platesetters use internal drums and polygon laser reflectors for speeds ranging from 110 to 240 pph.

Krause’s LS Performance platesetter was running in Fujifilm’s IFRA booth, along with a BlueFin LC processing Fuji’s Brillia Pro-VN low-chem plates. According to Fujifilm Offset Solutions Product Manager Sean Lane, Brillia Pro-VN lowers cost, chemistry and water use while improving print quality and maintaining productivity. He cited trials at Finland’s Lehtispepat Oy Kuopio, where the violet-sensitive plate reportedly cut chemical use and waste by 70% and eliminated water-rinse waste. A weak alkaline solution removes unexposed plate surface and gums the plate

The Pro-VN joins the LH-NN2, introduced earlier in the year for fast thermal platesetting at lower laser power to extend laser service life. Fuji’s second-generation thermal plate is designed for longer runs of up to 300,000 impressions and offers improved safe-light properties and less need to replenish developer.

Lane said Fuji counts more than 100 low-chem violet and thermal installations since last fall.

Adding to its environment-friendly product line-up, Fuji also introduced a solvent- and water-free wash to its Pressmax pressroom chemicals. It becomes available by next spring.

While most current offset washes are based on hydrocarbons, vegetable oils or some mix of the two, Fuji developed a solvent-free wash without either. The older approaches, said Fujifilm Graphic Arts Chemicals Technical Manager Dieter Zang, lose solvents to evaporation, impact the environment, are petroleum-price sensitive, clean paper dust only when mixed with water, and rely on fast-separating emulsions to enable filtering.

Zang said Fuji’s solvent-free wash cleans well without water, therefore requiring no emulsion separation and providing a wash “100% for the printer’s needs, and we don’t have to care about the wash-up.” The new product dries fast but contains no volatile organic compounds, and it adds no bad odor to a pressroom, according to Zang, who called it “optimal for the U.S. market.” By leaving a dry blanket, he added, it speeds restarts.

Naohiro Fujitani, senor vice president and Graphic Systems general manager of Fujifilm Europe, said his compay is developing digital solutions for all print applications, among them, the Jet Press 720 inket printer, iGen4 print-on-demand machine and Accuity Advance large-format color printer. Newspapers’ transition to digital printing won’t be sudden, Fujitani said, and customers need solution for their current offset production “to minimize cost and maximize output.”

Nevertheless, Fujitani said that Fujifilm is not offering its own CTP devices for newspapers, although it earlier had tried and still has its own platesetters for other markets.

Agfa, in contrast, signed a new, four-year contract with the Punch Graphix subsidiary of Punch International as exclusive manufacturer of Agfa’s Polaris and Advantage newspaper platesetters. It sold two Advantage DL units to Israel’s biggest newspaper, Yedioth Ahronoth NP, where they joined three other Agfa imagers in the main Tel-Aviv printing site.

New hardware includes the trolley-equipped Advantage N-TR, producing up to 220 plates per hour and holding up to 1,500 plates in four sizes. In early 2010, the Advantage N series will offers speeds as high as 300 pph, which in combination with the trolley offers the line’s highest productivity.

On the consumables side, “market interest is growing” in the N92-V violet-sensitive plate and its chemistry-free cousin, the N92-VCF introduced last year, according to Agfa Graphics’ Marc Op de Beeck. The senior vice president and marketing and sales saidproduction of the plates is moving form the single European site to all sites worldwide (including North America). The plates, he said, now have longer run lengths — up to 300,000 impressions (150,000 for the VCF) — and improved resolution for commercial work in hybrid production environments.

The VCF version, with a single, neutral gum type, said Op de Beeck uses no chemical developer and no water in gumming, creating 40% less waste water and consuming 20% less power. More than 60 newspaper printing sites adopted the plate since IFRA 2008, he added.

For Arkitex, Software Development Manager Andy Grant said the suite has six upgrades and a new family member. Prepress now offers six production components, and version 7 will support automated plate delivery.

Among the upgrades, Arkitex Intellitune has a Macintosh version and the latest version includes adaptive contrast enhancement for dealing with global and local image-quality issues, using content-recognition techniques to achieve consistent quality.

The new member is Arkitex Portal, which more tightly integrates printer and customers, facilitating page submission, soft proofing, and approval without increasing labor costs.

Op de Beeck said Agfa Graphics also is at work on business-continuity services and integration with non-Agfa suppliers, including manroland for plate delivery, punch-bender supplier Nela and Barenschee for lock-ups. with a series of new services.

At IFRA, Agfa said that it is working with newspapers on possibilities for digital printing. It is still investigating where such printing would make sense: at the newspaper production plant, distribution site(s) or even by customers. A Portuguese was testing the Dotrix printer. Although a technical success, it still lacked a clear business model, especially in light of the distressed economic situation, according to Agfa. As of now, the digital inkjet color printer remains in Agfa’s product portfolio, but not for newspapers.

Kodak promoted its scaled-back Trendsetter range, which reaches 150 pph. The three models offer manual or automatic loading and unloading or a combination. Featuring much the same technology under the hood, the thermal platesetters occupy a smaller footprint, according to Rinus Hoebeke, a Kodak regional newspaper marketing manager. For thermal output exceeding 150 pph, it offers the Generation News, introduced at the last Nexpo, in early 2008.

More notable, perhaps developments in plates. Kodak’s new thermal plate requires no preheating or prewash, although preheating can be applied to extend the plate’s run length to as many as 800,000 or 900,000 copies, according to Hoebeke. Though only a technology demonstration early last fall, the aim, said Hoebeke, is to replace the Kodak Thermal News Gold in the first half of 2010. Imaging the new plate, he said, requires less energy and consumes less developer.

Meanwhile, Kodak launched the Violetnews Gold digital plate, with better chemical resistance, faster imaging, lower chemistry consumption (by as much as 40%) and longer processing bath life. Kodak designed a developer and replenisher system for the plate, which may also use an existing processor.

On the software side, Kodak highlighted ColorFlow and the combination of functions in one server-based system. Its NewsManager workflow features edition planning, CTP throughput management, multiple file and plan transmission across multiple print sites, real-time remote status reporting, and page-pairing availability.

ColorFlow software, an integral part of the Prinergy Evo workflow, features ink optimization utilizing ICC device link profiling for reseparation that maximizes grey component replacement while preserving primary and secondary colors.

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