Imagesetters Fill Important Niche
ICTP may get all the attention, but at some in-plants imagesetters still have a few advantages.
By Vince DeFranco
Though computer-to-plate (CTP) and direct-to-press digital printing steal much of the technological spotlight, imagesetters still hold a place among in-plants and small commercial printers. Since many in-plants use older imagesetters that are paid for, the idea of re-engineering their plants to accommodate new, pricey CTP devices isn't a very popular one.
"We didn't go CTP a few years ago because the cost to get an aluminum platesetter at that time was prohibitive to us," explains Michael Schrader, printing and publishing manager for Mercury Marine, in Fond Du Lac, Wis. "To get the new equipment we estimated it would have cost us over $120,000 and I'm not exactly sure where we're going to be in three to five years; we might not even have offset. As it stands now, 40 percent of our work is DocuTech, and that number has been increasing steadily by 2 to 5 percent per year."
Schrader's 16-employee in-plant produces approximately 120 million impressions per year on its mix of two DocuTechs and three offset presses. The operation has been producing Mercury Marine's literature, including service documentation and owner manuals (primarily black-and-white) for more than 50 years.
Its output numbers are on the rise, however, as production of the company's inboard and outboard boat motors continues to grow. As the world's largest marine propulsion company, Mercury demands a great deal from the literature included in its new products and its after-market support documents.
To create plates for its offset-printed literature, the in-plant utilizes a six-year-old ECRM imagesetter to image film. The company has looked into purchasing a CTP device and has even explored the possibility of imaging polyester plates on an imagesetter.
Schrader notes that despite the growing use of digital photography in the design community, Mercury's service materials still largely remain text- and line-art-based. With infrequent printing of halftones, the plant's quality concerns are not the main focus, and most of the work it prints is 120 lpi. For Schrader, this somewhat negated one of the primary benefits of CTP technology: improving quality.