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New Advances in Inkjet CtP

(August 2004) posted on Tue Aug 31, 2004

Conventional inkjet systems are furthering computer-to-plate solutions

click an image below to view slideshow

By Stephen Beals

Glunz & Jensen iCtP

But Glunz & Jensen (www.glunzjensen.
com), well-known for its plate and
film processors for the commercial print
industry, has taken inkjet CtP a step further
with its iCtP system. This is a chemistry-
free solution, using only a relatively
cool (110"?) curing process and the only
"chemical" used is a finishing gum. The
imaging is also done on non-sensitized
plate material"?a considerably lessexpensive
solution. Since these units will
sell for about $35,000 (published reports
immediately after Drupa incorrectly
stated a $25,000 figure), the total cost
per plate produced is dramatically less
than conventional CtP.

The PlateWriter 4200 platesetter prototype
units used an FM screening algorithm
generated by a Harlequin-based
Xitron RIP, which the company reports is
giving them excellent quality. The FM
screening in the prototype is capable of
emulating 175 line conventional screening.
Hank Clifford, G&J's US VP for sales
and marketing, says the company also is
actively working on AM screening for the
device and has set that as a high priority.

Breakthrough technology

The chief problem that has delayed the
release of a high-quality metal imaging
device through inkjet technologies has
been in the screening process itself.
Recent developments, however, have
allowed manufacturers to develop much
greater control of dot size and shape to
avoid coarse screening and banding and
stepping issues. While printing on paper
has been more forgiving, and manufacturers
have effectively mitigated most of
those issues, imaging on metal had its
own set of issues that have been much
more difficult to solve. Early entries to utilize
CtP for plate marking have been done
with polyester plates that are largely used
in lower-quality commercial print.

To move to a commercial quality level
of imaging meant hitting the 175 lpi
mark, and that was a tough proposition.
Both JetPlate and Glunz & Jensen say
they have been able to hit that benchmark.
The samples printed at Drupa
seem to indicate to those who have seen
them that they have indeed made the
breakthrough that has escaped them for
so long. This writer did see a sample of a
G&J piece printed at Drupa, which gave
every appearance of having come off a
conventional laser CtP device.
Both companies also say the issues of
registration and repeatability have successfully
been dealt with.

Lowering the barriers

What is happening industry-wide is a further
blurring of the line between "copyshops,"
commercial printers, and wide-format
print providers. Commercial printers,
for instance, are buying digital presses
such as the HP Indigo and the Xerox 6060,
while copy shops are buying "direct imaging"
(DI) solutions like the KPG and Ryobi
DI presses.

Certainly, wide-format operations
would look askance at buying a $100,000
platesetter with a totally new front-end
computer system to step into the realm of
commercial print. But now the bar has
dropped a couple of notches"?the price of
admission has been cut by two-thirds.
And the technology itself is no longer foreign:
it's something the wide-format print
provider deals with every day.

Will these new CtP offerings entice
some companies who specialize in wide
format and similar graphics to cross
over the line? The device manufacturers
are orienting their marketing to small
commercial printers and larger copy
shops, but wide-format printers may not
want to wait and watch their competition
exploit a promising new technology that
they have a great deal of experience
with. These new products might well be
worth a look, if only to see where inkjet
technology is headed.