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Panpa Bulletin : April 2007
24 PANPA Bulletin March 2007 production Chemistry-free plates have been available in the commercial print market for several years. Agfa Graphics has installed over 1000 of its :Azura thermal plate systems in that market since launching it at drupa 2004. The company has now developed the same no- chemistry, no-water, "photopolymerisation" process for violet-laser imaging -- the stand- ard in plate-making for newspaper printers. Working demonstrations of the violet plates were run at IPEX in April 2006 and again in October at IFRA, proving that it is an achiev- able technology for the newspaper market. 2007 will mark the year when the first chemistry-free violet plate technologies be- gin to emerge. The question for the newspa- per industry is how much impact this tech- nology will have. This white paper examines the plate technology; what it will offer and how newspaper printers will benefit. Why not thermal for newspapers? Thermal chemistry-free plate technologies are already available from the major suppli- ers, so the first question is "Why are these technologies not as popular as violet for the newspaper industry?" Why do we need violet chemistry-free plates? The answer lies in the existing platesetter technology that is already in full production at the majority of newspa- per CtP sites. Approximately two-thirds of newspaper CtP installations have been for violet platesetters. The main reason for this has been a com- bination of the violet benefits -- unbeatable speed, unbeatable laser reliability, low cost of ownership, excellent image quality, etc. The newspaper industry will continue using violet CtP for these very reasons --- and that is why thermal CtP has not been as popular as violet in newspapers. The ongoing case for violet technology in newspapers The reliability (lifetime) of a violet diode is significantly higher than that of thermal diodes --- this is why some suppliers offer violet laser warranties over the lifetime of the platesetter. For newspapers, reliability is paramount --- everything depends on the need to produce the plates quickly in the short time available before the press starts. Although thermal CtP has its benefits, these are of less value for newspapers. It is a simple fact that three key benefits of violet are: • Violet diodes are inherently more reliable than thermal diodes; • Violet plates are naturally more sensitive than thermal plates, and violet plateset- ters remain the best choice for high speed platemaking; and • Violet technology intrinsically carries a lower cost of operation for the total sys- tem (daily production, maintenance and reliability included). What bene ts will chemistry-free bring to newspapers? Chemistry-free plates have already been widely accepted as one of the most important recent innovations to sim- plify platemaking for commercial printers. Elimination of the developer means that one of the main variables affecting im- age consistency disappears. Cleaning out the processor and disposing of exhausted developer is no longer required, nor is the expensive plate processor itself All these benefits are important to newspaper printers looking to streamline, simplify and reduce costs. Chemistry-free also increases the green credentials of any newspaper keen to minimise their environ- mental impact. Which newspapers will be the rst to bene t from violet chemistry-free? Smaller newspapers with shorter run lengths and less demanding plate produc- tivity requirements will, initially, be the most likely early adopters. Time will tell if the first violet chemistry-free plates have run length restrictions that may limit the initial applications. However, image quality will be just as good as existing newspaper CtP plates. Assuming that run length, productiv- ity and other performance requirements are met, there should be no restrictions to using violet chemistry-free plates. How will these violet chemistry-free plates work? The plates are exposed in a violet laser CtP device. In Agfa's case, existing low-power violet lasers (30-60mW) will be sufficient to expose the plate, so no hardware re-invest- ment is needed. Once the image is "written" onto the plate all that remains is to remove the non-image area. This is done using a gumming unit. It gums the plate and re- moves the non-image area at the same time. Chemistry-free plate technology Two of Agfa's technical specialists --- Tony King (global marketing manager for visible light plates) and Kurt Meseeuw (global newspaper systems marketing manager) --- reveal how chemistry-free plate technology will bene t newspaper printers. This image shows a violet chemistry-free plate produced at a demonstration on the Agfa Graphic's stand at IPEX in April 2006