Imagesetters stay active in lieu ofor alongsidecomputer-to-plate.
By Susan Friedman
Make no mistake, the imagesetter is alive and kicking. Aggressive advances in computer-to-plate (CTP) haven't proved fatal to imagesetter usage or upgrades, and suppliers haven't let up on steady releases of both hardware and software improvements.
Hardware, software review
Each basic imagesetter design offers a fit for a certain segment of package printers. "Capstan-driven devices are better for dimensional stability over long images, and drum devices offer superior repeatability," states Pierre Ferland, marketing director, Alan Graphic Systems. Several color separations can be grouped on a single piece of film only in a drum device, he adds.
Peter Kushnieruk, product manager at Agfa, elaborates that higher resolution drum imagesetters are the logical choice for stringent color or brand identification requirements. Capstan imagesetters may be able to run longer images, he notes, but typically two pieces of film will need to be stripped together for larger corrugated jobs.
Advances in imagesetter designs leave them looking ever more chameleon-like. Adaptable, versatile features on Agfa imagesetters include dual cassettes, the ability to handle film, paper or plate media in a variety of thicknesses, and the ability to produce typical flexo and offset screens as well as stochastic screening.
While hardware progressions enable steady hops ahead in efficiency, software's impact is more akin to a whirlwind. "Advances in imagesetter speeds only amount to mere seconds per job, if that," explains Ferland. "The real productivity enhancements come from software, such as Alan Graphic Systems' alanRIP for flexo and Flexo Assistant, that automates repetitive tasks such as step and repeat, distortion, dot gain compensation, and film and file optimization, while offering customizable calibration and high-end screening controls."
Ian Hole, market and business development manager for BARCO, implies that the software and workflow revolution has reached standard procedure status. "Imagesetter technology is ripe, so faster RIPping has become something the industry expects and relies upon, as well as the collection of data and ability to change it, without any time penalty, just as you RIP," he comments. "Advanced screening, dot gain compensation control and quality shaped dots have become the norm for BARCO output, whether you are going to flexo or offset."