A Full Plate
Offset plate suppliers stretch to manage conventional- and digital-world needs.
By Susan Friedman
Many offset plate suppliers are stretching to be in two places at onceedging conventional technologies up a notch while running like mad to win the digital marathon.
On the conventional side, Dwight Collier, national sales manager for pressroom products at Pitman Co., a distributor of printing consumables, equipment and services, sees "a conscious effort to continue to improve plate latitude in a variety of environments." Three areas of emphasis, he notes, are developing coating weights that are more resistant to abrasion, improving grain structures to achieve a more efficient water balance, and honing support chemistries.
In addition, Collier sees manufacturers looking at more stable aluminum materials that guard against tearing and cracking. Conventional plate latitude has already been boosted by the "wide industry sweep" from mechanical to electro-chemical plate graining, he says, which means only subtle processing adjustments are necessary to accommodate a new plate.
At Fujifilm, emphasis on conventional offset plate offerings continues "due to the projected slow implementation of CTP," states Product Manager Jim Crawford. Recent conventional plate improvements he cites include a matte surface that facilitates faster film drawdown to the plate surface in the vacuum frame. This increases platemaking productivity, while virtually eliminating halation. Environmentally safe aqueous developers are facilitating faster, cleaner processing, he adds.
Tom Saggiomo, chief marketing officer at Kodak Polychrome Graphics, also believes conventional plate needs can not be ignored, because "on a worldwide basis, even the most aggressive forecasts for computer-to-plate predict only 25 percent usage by 2002." At the same time, in his opinion, conventional innovations have been rather ho-hum. "There have been incremental improvements in conventional plates, but not a significant step-change," he comments.
Offset pressmakers, too, seem to have a short list of conventional developments. Randy Siver, product manager, Mitsubishi, says not much has changed since automated plate hanging improved plate mounting efficiency 10 years ago. From a press perspective, Siver sees the most potential in on-press direct-to-plate imaging (see sidebar page 36), particularly on smaller presses.