CTP Why Are You Waiting?
Smaller formats, chemistry-free alternatives and a variety of imaging technologies are motivating in-plants to successfully—and profitably—bring computer-to-plate imaging in-house.
By Vincent De Franco
Doug Fenske is one of the growing number of in-plant managers who have realized the benefits and profitability of converting to a computer-to-plate (CTP) workflow.
"It's just awesome," he enthuses, referring to the productivity gains he's enjoyed since leading the transformation of the Minnesota State University at Mankato Print Center to CTP.
According to Fenske, the range of new opportunities and benefits includes perfect registration, faster imaging speeds and significant process improvements.
"It's just so cool," he says. "Changing over from one to four colors is just a minor adjustment—that is so sweet."
Making the transition easy was the fact that Fenske's in-plant already had experience with a digital workflow, previously imaging film on an Agfa SelectSet imagesetter. He was able to minimize the overhead costs by investing in an economical CTP box, an ECRM Mako2, which was not only attractive due to its relatively low $50,000 price tag, but also because he could continue to run his existing Agfa Apogee RIP.
• Chemistry-free and process-free systems are gaining in popularity, as they offer a simplified, cleaner CTP process and significant savings.
• Up to 30 percent of all plate costs are associated with chemistry.
• Violet, visible-light CTP offers a lower-cost solution in the long term over thermal systems and potential speed advantages over process-free.
• Desktop paper and polyester platemaking devices are increasing in sophistication.
• RIPing software is also evolving to accommodate the needs of in-plant printers.
With the low cost of the investment, Fenske has already realized labor savings, reducing his staff by one because his setup times have gone down by as much as 75 percent. He estimates that the total time required to image a press-ready plate has decreased from four hours to about 30 minutes, partly due to the elimination of the need to re-image film to add color bars and other marks, since the imagesetter could only handle 13˝ film. In addition, he is also able to increase the line screens he prints from 133 to 150.