Sussing Trade Shop Facilities
by Michael Paeth, President, FlexoGrafix
The one thing consistent in the world of prepress is change ... daily! If keeping up with new software, proofing, screening technology, plate exposure technology, direct-to-plate, and the myriad of other ever-changing facets of prepress isn't for you, you are not alone. But before you put your work into the hands of a trade shop, you should evaluate your needs, and then evaluate the trade shop that will be getting your work. Here are the "Top 10" criteria (in ascending order) to keep in mind when deciding on a trade shop to handle your work. Since everyone's needs are different, this list is in no particular order.
1) LOCATION—This is a no-brainer, but it's important. This is not to say that a trade shop in a different part of the country shouldn't be awarded your work. But if you have a press that regularly mangles plates, you'll always appreciate a trade shop that can get you a duplicate plate made the same day.
2) FORMAT SIZE—Always make sure your trade shop can make a plate to handle your largest press and your largest repeat size.
3) SOFTWARE COMPATIBILITY—Most trade shops are Macintosh-based, but a lot of artwork gets created in a Windows environment. If you are one of those converters that runs into a lot of IBM disks, make sure your trade shop can handle them.
4) MINIMUM DOT/MAXIMUM SCREEN RULING—As 900-line to 1,000-line (and climbing!) anilox rolls become more common, the need to push the envelope becomes more apparent. If you are a converter that regularly requires 175-200 line screen and/or 1 percent minimum halftone dot, make sure your trade shop can meet these needs.
5) PLATE GAUGE—Most trade shops make .067˝ flexo plates daily. But if you use different gauges (.045˝, .090˝, .107˝, etc.), make sure your trade shop keeps the appropriate photopolymer on hand. Also, not many trade shops make gravure cylinders or rubber plates. If you have a regular need for these, check out the trade shop's capabilities.