Home' FLEXO Magazine : October 2014 Contents rotates while ablating the carbon mask of the polymer plate material.
For the narrow web market, speeds are 7.5-w. to 35-w.
Capacity is what determines speed. If production requirements
demand up to eight cases of 25-in. by 30-in. polymer a month, slower
lasers will meet the demand. Higher volumes or the need for high
resolution requires higher wattage lasers. For mid and wide web, you
can start out as low as a 15-w. laser, i.e. produce a couple of plates a
The other extreme recently introduced is a dual 100-w. laser sys-
tem that can image a 50-in. by 80-in., 2,540 dpi plate in less than 20
minutes (approximately 39-ft. per hour). For corrugated shops that
work with large 50-in. by 80-in. polymer plate material all day, every
day, this can be a huge advantage to making deliveries while impact-
ing labor costs positively. In the same example, you can imagine high
resolution 50-in. by 80-in. plates at 40 minutes. Important to note, the
speed of the laser has no influence on the quality of the plates being
imaged—it’s simply faster.
Since the CTP market has reached maturity, manufactures are bring-
ing some fantastic innovations addressing productivity, efficiencies
and plate handling. We have addressed speed and resolution, so the
next piece bridges plate processing downstream. Esko continues to
build on its UV inline applications that allow the plate to be ablated
while an LED exposure head follows, creating the face exposure. This
eliminates the need for the backlight face exposure. There is a critical
effect or series of trickle down benefits that positively influence flat
top dot applications, exposure systems and again yields better quality
plates. LED is on or off, unlike bulbs that degrade in energy with use,
resulting in inconsistent exposure times.
There are semi and fully automatic plate handling solutions offering
efficiencies for mid to wide web applications (48-in. by 35-in., up
to 50-in. by 80-in. plates). These options include back, face and
germicidal exposures. Plate handling tables that load and unload
the plates into the CTP imager, like Xeikon’s Gen2 devices, make
life and plate handling much easier. Inline/carwash type solutions
are also available, where the plate exits the CTP device into post
exposure and then washout.
There are solutions that pass air over the optics to keep carbon/dust
from settling on the lenses and mirrors. Vacuum zone control is
gaining popularity to make imaging easier and faster for partial plates.
Smartphone and tablet applications are being developed to monitor
the progress of plate imaging while the operator is performing other
tasks. There are visual lights and sounds that can broadcast the status
of the devices across the room. Lastly, data capture capabilities are
being built into the software, reporting back to the ERP systems to
manage the production, material, billing and shipping specifics.
DIGITAL FRONT ENDS
DFEs are where we see equally exciting advanced technologies being
presented to the industry as a whole. Today, we can offer an ERP
system that delivers jobs through automation from a Web storefront
to customer service. Triggers can be placed to send out soft proofs to
customers, passed on to prepress with S&R instructions that then get
imaged on the CTP devices. You can also drive advanced laser finish-
ing solutions with the same file, add shipping costs, and archive the
jobs, all the while reporting back to the ERP throughout the process.
Screen CTP solutions include workflow and high resolution already in
the purchase price, while rival manufacturers have a more compre-
hensive, a la carte offering for workflow.
We will continue to see significant contributions in innovation
coming f rom CTP device manufacturers. As an industry, we will also
benefit from all the touch points around CTP, digital printing and
finishing with truly best of class offerings. By taking advantage of
these global offerings, customers can pick and choose the options that
impact their business the most, making our lives easier, more produc-
tive and driving better profitability. n
About the Author: Lee Zerfass is
digital business manager for Anderson
& Vreeland, Inc. He manages digital
hardware and software solutions
offered by A&V and fosters the
expansion of digital products and
services. Lee has more than 20 years of
technical sales experience across vari-
ous printing industries with a focus on
50 FLEXO | OCTOBER 2014
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