‘Hickory Daily Record’ Saves Time and Money With Thermal CTP

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By: Meg Campbell

The plateroom at the Hickory Daily Record has an old imagesetter and plate burner sitting in the corner, and production director Jim Lillagore is optimistic that he’ll never have to fire them up again. “I’ve got only one system here now, and I’m not worried about getting the paper out,” he says. “It’s that reliable.”

The new system is a thermal computer-to-plate imaging system that the Media General paper has been using to produce plates since mid-February. The system consists of a Screen PlateRite News 2000 CtP platesetter driven by ProImage NewsWay workflow software. A NELA Benchmark punch/bender with three-point registration is used to precision-register exposed Southern Lithoplate VIPER 830(r) thermal lithoplates.

The equipment was purchased through Southern Lithoplate, which handled the installation and continues to handle support of the different pieces of equipment.

Lillagore says the results have wildly exceeded his expectations. “The quality improvement from analog to thermal is unbelievable,” he says. “The system eliminates registration problems and color balance.” Going CTP has also eliminated the hassle of double trucks, he adds. “There is no longer any need to cut film or splice double truck ads.”

The new system is also reducing labor and supply costs. “We’ve cut back on water to next to nothing, and we’ve cut ink usage back 30 percent. Startup is quicker because with the registration and automatic plate bending, everything falls dead on.”

Next week, the paper will test thermal plate output for commercial customers at sister paper Independent Journal in Concord, N.C., and production executives from other Media General dailies, such as the Bristol (Vir.) Herald Courier and the Lynchburg (Vir.) News & Advance, are seriously considering their own installation based on the Hickory paper’s success and cost savings, Lillagore says.
“With price of the equipment dropping, and the cost of thermal plates the same as analog, you get serious savings,” he explains. “I’ve eliminated all film, I eliminated (through retirement) two and a half positions, and it’s almost like getting an additional press operator, because we don’t have to fool with the plates.” The lower prices and the cost savings make the system ideal for smaller papers, Lillagore says.

The Hickory Daily Record reports a daily circulation of 25,000, and Sunday circulation of 27,500. The newspaper also prints a six-day paper, a five-day paper and a twice-weekly paper in Media General’s North Carolina community newspaper group, with circulations ranging from 6,200 to 12,500 copies.

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