Archive for January, 2007

  • A tale of two printers – Scott and Bill

    It’s never one-size fits all in the printing game. According to Dave Bell of Quote & Print, everyone has to work out where they fit in and more importantly, what they are good at. It’s a novel idea.

    It was a sunny Wednesday in April and Scott was feeling very pleased with himself. He had just come home from his youngest daughter’s graduation ceremony and now he felt that some of the pressure was off his back. He was the sole owner of a second generation printing business. He had bought his brother out about 15 years ago. He was too young to retire but he did not want to spend more money on plant and equipment or have to mortgage his house.

    His plan for the future was to make the most of his location. He was in a shopping strip on a main road that had lots of passing traffic, had invested in a colour copier and trained himself in Photoshop. He knew that he could handle the one- and two-colour printing.

    In the past he had turned away full colour printing as too much trouble but now he formed an alliance with a four-colour printer in Western Australia who could turn around jobs in five days. In addition he could now design business cards and was making more money on the design than he ever did with the printing. In addition, he could always count on a steady flow of work from his mates in the Rotary Club. He thought he would be right until he turned 60. Thank goodness he owned his premises as he had very little in his super fund.

    and then there was Bill

    It was a rainy Tuesday morning and Bill had just dropped his youngest child at kindergarten. He was in a pensive mood. His printing business had grown since he started it 10 years ago and was able to comfortably support his family, including those private school fees.

    However, over the past few years he had noticed that it was getting harder and harder to attract new customers. After much discussion with his accountant about what areas they could value add they noticed that for most of his customers they only did a fraction of their printing. Their decision was to reinvent themselves over the next few years as a boutique print management business.

    They replaced their two old one-colour presses with a new two-colour press. The savings in wages paid for the lease payments. In addition they installed an online ordering system from their MIS supplier which handled online stock ordering and personalised stationery. Bill spent several weeks working on a presentation showing how businesses could save money by purchasing all their print from the one supplier. He then approached his top ten clients about placing all their print with him. After one year two had agreed to do so which resulted in an additional $12,000 of sales every month.

    Like Scott, he was content to send out the colour print work and was often surprised at how cheap it was. His MIS system let him export all his stock reports into Excel format which impressed his customers’ accountants. Two more customers were looking at using him for print management in the next few months. He felt that he had made the right decision.

    And the moral of the tale is …

    Like Scott and Bill, you can’t just let your business drift along. You need a plan which you can modify from time to time. Your plan does not necessarily involve spending a lot of money, rather your need to leverage your existing strengths and make sure you cover your weaknesses.

    For Scott it was playing within his comfort zone, holding back on investment while edging into areas such as design. His strengths were the local connections and personal contacts as well as being able to offer a one-stop shop – even though his own equipment was fairly limited. Importantly, his strategy allowed him to meet his goals.

    For Bill the move into print management is likely to transform his company within a few years. With children still at school his comfort zone is going to squeezed if he doesn’t keep moving.

    For both, the need for good management information is key. Without a good handle on where you are, you’ll never get to where you’re going.

  • Heidelberg presents the new Speedmaster 102 at drupa 2004

    Major technological advances including new feeder on the SM 102 and CD 102, and innovative coating unit features and new delivery on the CD 102. Productivity increased by eight to ten percent depending on job spectrum.

    At drupa 2004, Heidelberg is to unveil its flag-ship Speedmaster SM 102 and CD 102 presses with a number of new developments. These include the completely redesigned Preset Plus feeder for both series and – also completely remodeled – the new Preset Plus delivery for the Speedmaster CD 102.
    “With the new Speedmaster 102, we are offering our customers the latest state-of-the-art technology,” says Heidelberg Management Board Member Dr. Klaus Spiegel (pictured). “Productivity is enhanced by a synthesis of increased automation and simplified operation. In the field of application technology too, customers can look forward to some completely new ideas at drupa.”

    The global market launch will take place following extensive field tests at drupa 2004, where Heidelberg is to present even more innovations, in particular new developments to the eight- to twelve-color perfecting presses in the Speedmaster SM 102 ranges, providing a further boost to quality and productivity.

    Heidelberg is set to continue forging ahead with its customized ranges concept for straight and perfecting printing. Its highly flexible range of printing stock and inline production options makes the CD 102 the highest-selling 3B-format straight printing press.

    The SM 102 dominates the eight- to twelve-color perfecting press market. The Speedmaster 102 portfolio is augmented by special machines such as the Speedmaster Duo which combines flexographic and offset printing, offline coating and other finishing machines or the CutStar sheeter.

    Machines with UV configurations for processing UV and hybrid ink systems are also available. These machines are helping to shape the current market trend for increased spe-cialization.

    Heidelberg already supplies every second straight printing press in 70 x 100 cm format being installed. For eight- and twelve-color perfecting presses, the cmpany’s market share is over two thirds.

    The new feeder – higher productivity and minimum makeready times.

    The Preset Plus feeder is the first feeder in 70×100 cm format to use a central suction tape without guide rollers. As well as allowing shorter makeready times, it also makes the feed process far more stable.

    The Preset Plus feeder provides a whole raft of innovative solutions, not least the high-performance suction head and a completely new suction-tape control and sheet-alignment system. The sheet-alignment system features an automatic sheet-arrival control system, 65% sheet slowdown and a pneumatic pull lay even at top speed with perfect feed registration.

    Air and format settings on the Preset Plus feeder are automatically preset using the preset function. The control system receives the required printing stock pa-rameters from the electronic job ticket which is based on the industry standard PPF/JDF (Print Production Format / Job Definition Format). This saves precious setup time and enhances reliability in production.

    Combining the Preset Plus feeder with the CutStar sheeter also allows users to process low-cost reel stock from Bible paper and foil to 300-gsm light cardboard. Other add-ons provide access to extended special applications that make plastic and foil easier to process.

    The new delivery – perfect sheet travel and precise pile stacking.

    The sheet travel, sheet drying and sheet deposition systems on the new Preset Plus delivery have been completely redesigned. Sheet travel in future will be performed using gripper bars whose aerodynamics have been perfected in wind tunnel tests and computer simulations.

    The combination of these optimized gripper bars and the Venturi guide plate will mean sheets can be transported extremely smoothly. The development of the new generation of DryStar 3000 dryers also forms part of Heidelberg’s comprehensive approach to developing the new sheet-travel system. It is finely tuned to the air guidance system of the delivery and with 30 to 50 percent more power can reliably dry even the most demanding dispersion coating.

    The dryers and all the other peripheral units such as powder spray devices are centrally controlled from the CP2000 control console. Additional control panels on the sheet guide plates also allow fine-tuning of the air guidance and direct visual control of sheet travel.

    The eddy-free delivery air system and new sheet joggers precisely align the edges of the pile which saves a great deal of work at the finishing stage. As with the feeder, all air and format settings are performed automatically via the preset function on the CP 2000 Center. This includes the sheet brakes which are adapted automatically to the selected format and can be used both for card and thin paper. As with the new feeder, changes to preset values can be saved for repeat jobs.

    High levels of flexibility in the final printing unit – printing or coating.

    The Heidelberg solution for the CD 102 is a modular coating system which enables the final printing unit of the press to be converted for full-area protective coatings. The dispersion coating is applied directly to the blanket via a screen roller system.

    The modular coating system thus offers an attractive entry-level solution for proc-essing dispersion coatings on five-color and six-color presses. Companies only wanting to apply protective coating to around twenty percent of their jobs can therefore choose whether to set the final printing unit to print or to coat. This flexibility increases the range of services they can offer their customers.

    Innovations for coating units – faster register and short makeready times

    Heidelberg has also further enhanced its coating units proper for professional inline coating. Innovations include the remotely adjustable diagonal register and the modified screen roller system.

    The diagonal register on the CD 102 is controlled via the CP 2000 Center and is the only available system enabling register corrections of +/- 2 mm in circumferential and lateral directions and +/- 1 mm on the diagonal. Coating jobs with spot coating or fine fonts can thus be set up much faster. Makeready times are also cut by the modified roller system which enables the screen roller to be changed within as little as three to four minutes.

    Want to work for Heidelberg Australia?
    An A-Grade Electrician position is available in Melbourne…… Click on the following link to view this position through Print21Connect – the industry recruitment service powered by Print21Online

  • CyraChrome takes large format to the framing world

    CyraChrome will be exhibiting at the Art & Framing Show this Friday, Saturday and Sunday at Sydney’s Fox Studios. CyraChromes presence at the show clearly demonstrates the broadening appeal of large format digital printing and the growing interest for on-demand digitally printed fine art and photographic art.

    “The prospects for this sector of the graphics market are enormous,” according to CyraChrome marketing director Andy McCourt (pictured). “Content and variety is everything and traditionally, picture framers have relied on either original works, offset or screen printed medium-run frameable prints or limited editions, signed and numbered.

    Digital printing of art, décor and photographic images represents an excellent niche expansion for printers and copy shops. “There is no doubt that it is high-growth and high-return. Famous artists like Ken Done are using Epson technology already for limited signed editions and doing very nicely.” says McCourt.

    “Printing digitally and on-demand means that images can be stored on computers or online and only printed when an order is in hand. If limited editions are called for, it saves having 100 in stock at the same time.”

    McCourt continues, “A growth market in the USA and Europe now is online libraries of downloadable art images. This facilitates the management of copyright since only a low-res version is viewed and if the high-res download is required, it is purchased online.

    “It’s another form of digital asset management. Frame shops can even buy software that simulates the frame around the image on-screen so customers can preview the finished result. Hotels, office blocks and clubs frequently update their wall art, which can add so much pleasant ambience to a room or suite.”

    CyraChrome’s offerings to this market include the Epson Stylus Pro 7600, 9600 and 10600 printers with UltraChrome ink. Printed on the appropriate acid-free rag paper stock, longevity of at least 75 years before noticeable fading occurs is realistic.

    Canon has confirmed a BJ W8200 pigment ink machine will be made, which will be exhibited alongside Epson 9600. The BJ W8200 machine can run either directly from PhotoShop 7.0 or an RGB-friendly profile can be created in CyraChrome’s flagship Rip, ORIS ColorTuner 5.0 for fast printing with surgically-precise colour.

    Being next door to new Fine Art inkjet papers and canvass from Intelicoat, Hahnemuelle and Rembrandt at the Art & Framing Show is a bonus as the companies are cooperating in this market.
    “Ross Coffey of Intellicoat probably knows more about the digital art market than anyone in Australia, so it is a pleasure to partner with him at the Art & Framing show,” continues McCourt.

    “We also have an agreement with Framing & Graphic Arts supplies P/L who market the ‘Wizard’ mat cutters in Australia and New Zealand and will be supporting the Epson printer on their stand also.”

    CyraChrome’s knowledge of colour management will be a boon to this industry sector, which requires the widest possible gamut as opposed to the print-process specific gamuts of the proofing market.

    Free Art Images!

    The Epson printers at the show will be printing a series of mono, duotone and full colour photographic art images taken by McCourt who trained as a commercial photographer in the UK.

    Reproduced here is the Treewind Triptych – three original images taken at Wilson’s Promontory, Victoria in 1978 using a 6x6cm roll film camera and recently drum scanned by Amazing Faces.

    “My idea was to depict a gentle breeze by its effect on the branches, so the first two shots are at fast shutter speeds and the right-hand image is at 1/8th second. There is no PhotoShop manipulation. No pixels were harmed in the production of these images,” says McCourt.

    Some of these images will be on display and available FREE, signed by the photographer, in a maximum limited edition of 50 per image, to visitors who have the full demonstration.

    The Art & Framing Trade Fair starts today, Friday 25 July, at the Hordern Pavilion, Fox Studios, Sydney. The show runs over the weekend, finishing at 5pm on Sunday evening.

    Visit the shows web site for further details

  • IPEX starts in Vancouver

    In-depth technology briefing at Creo headquarters in Canada for Australian industry group will form the basis of the first overseas Print21online report next issue.

    The two-day event will be hosted by Amos Michelson, CEO of Creo who will give a preview of the company’s IPEX strategy and new products.

    Amos Michelson

    Other presentations to the industry group off on its way to Birmingham will be by legendary industry figure Dan Gilbert, Chief Technical Officer and President of Creo. Gilbert who is one of the founders of Creo is recognised as one of the most influential developers of graphic arts technology and is almost unique in being the head of a company for which he did much of the originating technical development. Creo laser technology, especially the square dot is a particular area of his expertise.

    Dan Gelbart

    Mark Wilton, Marketing Manager of Creo Australia who is looking after the local group believes it is a unique opportunity for participants.

    “We had this opportunity to take a group to see and experience Creo head office, meet the people that make this company what it is today, meet the decision makers for all our products and developments. Everybody who is attending will get a great insight into what we are doing and where we are going,” he said.

    Interested travellers to IPEX can contact Mark to enquire about help with accommodation costs if they want to join the group going via Vancouver. The next issue of print21online will come from Vancouver and will be the first time the Australian industry’s e-bulletin will report direct from overseas.

    Contact Mark Wilton
    Marketing Manager Creo
    Australia, New Zealand

    Ph: + 61-2-9879 4744

  • Making the right choice in CTP printing plates – Agfa White Paper.

    The heat generated by differing claims as to the best imaging method for computer to plate technology – visible light, photopolymer, or thermal – is made irrelevant by Agfa, which has the widest range of plate technologies in the industry. Positioning itself firmly on the side of customer’s choice, the imaging giant not only has the market leading LithoStar visible light plate, but a comprehensive range of other plate technologies such as thermal or photopolymer as well. It’s a matter of horses for courses as Tony King, Agfa’s Worldwide Marketing Manager for Digital Plates explains in this in-depth review of the CtP sector.

    CtP – not ‘if’ but ‘when.’

    For many printers, CtP is now definitely a case of ‘when’ rather than ‘if’. In some areas of the print market the majority of the printers have already gone CtP and some of the first generation CtP devices are already coming up for renewal.

    The major saving reported by users of CtP is the savings on press, specifically the make-ready (or ‘start-up’) time. For colour printers, CtP gives almost instant colour register on the press and there is no need to worry about stopping the press to delete dust marks and scratches that sometimes came from the film. In a world where reducing run lengths mean that many press runs are getting shorter and shorter, the benefits of CtP are becoming increasingly important – specifically the improved make-ready times, which allows printers to get the jobs on and off the press faster. CtP allows printers to increase the yield and quality of their main asset – the printing press. CtP allows these improvements to be done without a need to increase labour costs, if anything the automation often frees up labour for other tasks.

    Although there are differences between geographical regions, there is a clear interest in CtP technologies from a high proportion of those printers that have not yet converted to CtP. With many of the larger printers telling us that CtP is now definitely part of their investment plans for the coming years, the only question is ‘which technology?’ In this review we hope to explain the different technologies in a simple and clear way. The good news is that the CtP technologies are now fully proven and widely available.

    Stand by your lasers

    CtP as almost everyone now knows is the laser exposure of a printing plate, without the use of a film intermediate. This can happen on-press or off-press. It may happen with or without a plate processor. It may happen with a green laser, a violet diode, a thermal laser head or even a red laser. Even the type of imaging platform (internal drum, external or flat bed) has a part to play. Systems are now available for all plate formats, speeds, budgets and applications – and that partly explains why there are a wide variety of different types of CtP. The plates used in CtP are often referred to as ‘digital’ plates.

    CtP first attracted serious discussion in the 1990’s and since then has come a long way. Not all of the original products and suppliers seen at Drupa ’95, for example, are still around. But many of the enabling technologies such as proofing and workflow have received a great deal of investment and now offer very high levels of reliability and affordability.

    Competition from the suppliers is also good news for the buying public, which now has a wide range of suppliers and technologies to choose from. But that can, and does, confuse would-be buyers. The new challenge for the suppliers is to ensure that the buying public understands the technologies, the differences between these technologies and how they are used. Lets explain more….

    One size does not fit all.

    For a long time offset printing plates were imaged using traditional films and high power UV lamps – nowadays this is often referred to as ‘analogue film and plate technology’. This was, and for many still is, a very good way of supplying plates to pressrooms. The technology is widely available, affordable, proven and robust.

    But the suppliers were quick to realise that no single analogue plate and film product/technology was able to meet the wide needs of an industry as diverse as ours. Differing features and benefits were needed according to the print application and customer; in fact analogue plate and film technologies were developed so that all the applications had products that met their needs.

    One of the important facts to remember today is that this same customer base has exactly the same wide range of applications from CtP systems as it had from analogue systems. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that no single CtP technology is right for all customers. A quick look at the market place today shows just that – a variety of CtP technologies has emerged, each with features and benefits that will closely match the needs of a particular printer. The challenge for the suppliers is to explain this technology in a coherent way so that the customer gets the best CtP technology for his business – be that violet, thermal, silver halide or any other technology.

    Business drivers for CtP

    But first a word about the business drivers for CtP. This also shows differences from customer to customer, and each reason is valid. Typical business drivers include, amongst others:

    • Labour costs: Busy plate-making rooms can be replaced with a CtP device that may be fully automated and can operate round the clock. Some prefer a manual device where the purchase cost is lower, especially if the staffing rota means that there are people available for plate loading and unloading of the CtP device. Some printers prefer the highest levels of automation possible. It all depends on the individual printer and how his workflow, business and people are organised.
    • The need to replace an imagesetter: For some the move to CtP is sparked by the film imagesetter reaching the end of it’s natural life. Although imagesetter sales are still continuing, many are now looking increasingly towards a platesetter as a natural replacement.
    • Labour & skill shortages: Recruiting and retaining skilled prepress technicians has been an issue for many printers. The automation associated with CtP means that sophisticated workflow and CtP devices are increasingly replacing many of the traditional ‘apprenticed’ prepress skills. Labour can be more effectively used elsewhere, or is simply made redundant.
    • Quality: A first generation dot imaged directly on a plate bypasses the film intermediate and allows new levels of quality to be achieved. For some publications this means more advertising revenue since the overall print quality is superior.
    • Press productivity: Particularly for colour work, the rapid make-ready and register means that jobs are turned around faster and the printers’ main asset (his press) becomes more productive, increasing revenues and profits. This competitive edge given by CTP is often forcing the hands of those who fear being ‘left behind’.

    This list isn’t exhaustive – but these are some of the most frequently quoted reasons to go CtP. A good supplier will help any CtP prospect to calculate the cost benefits of CtP. In the early days the suppliers tried to make a “one fits all” spreadsheet calculation to work out the financial benefits – this is easier said than done given that printers are different in the way they operate their resources, time, people, equipment and raw materials. It is futile to suggest that any single CtP technology will fit all applications – though it would make life easier (and less costly) for all the suppliers if it were true.

    Digital plate technology

    The best digital plates use high quality grained and anodised aluminium substrate. This technology is well proven from the world of analogue plates. For the higher quality plate suppliers, good quality electrochemical graining and anodising ensure robust wide-latitude press performance, stable ink/water balance, good quality printed results and importantly it also ensures predictable press behaviour.

    Next comes the surface coatings and here is where the diversification comes. Many analogue plates might have just a single coating layer. Digital plates may have several layers. The chemicals used in these layers determine how they respond to different laser wavelengths as well as how they will perform in different print applications.

    Research began typically in the 1980’s on these higher-speed plate coatings. Back then the suppliers knew that the lasers might not be delivering the kilowatts of energy given by UV lamps in printing down frames – typically lasers would be operating with a few tens of watts, as is the case with thermal plates today. Beyond that there were even more possibilities if plates could be made to operate on lasers that were using just milliwatts. Photopolymer plates and silver halide plates have plate coatings that are even more sensitive than thermal plates and can be exposed by the new violet lasers for example.

    The plate coatings undergo a physical and/or chemical change during laser exposure. This is a critical stage since it is important that the plate surface is not under-exposed or over-exposed. For a positive working digital (CtP) plate, ‘over exposure’ causes excessive sharpening of highlight details, the opposite is true for a negative working digital plate.

    One of the early hopes of the CtP suppliers was that thermal plates in fact might be impossible to over expose. The theory here was that thermal plates allow the image to form at a threshold temperature and so over or under exposure would be impossible.

    Unfortunately for the suppliers this proved to be an impossible dream – a shame since all of the suppliers would have had a plate technology with the widest possible latitude that would be totally foolproof. In the real world however, thermal plates need precise exposure control to give optimum reproduction characteristics, just like any other type of digital (CtP) plate (or analogue plate). That’s why the manufacturers all recommend optimising exposure using specially designed exposure wedges.

    Thermal energy can be overdone…. just like any other form of energy – just like cooking food at the wrong temperature. High-resolution imaging is a precise technology and requires careful control. The platesetters have to be consistent and the plates need to be consistent. But when a printer has decided on his preferred CtP technology and supplier, very few go back to analogue platemaking.

    After exposure there is development.
    The correctly exposed plate is then developed. For digital plates this may (but doesn’t always) involve a pre-heat before image development – in simple terms the pre-heat can be thought of as an ‘image amplification’ stage. Pre-heat is used in photopolymer plate technology from e.g. Fuji & Agfa; it is also used for some thermal plates. Pre-heating does use additional energy (kilowatts, perhaps) and is an additional step in the process, but with advances in modern plate processors it is a controllable process and isn’t considered a major issue. Agfa, for example has sold hundreds of it’s Polaris newspaper CtP systems to some of the biggest newspapers – most of these newspapers use photopolymer plates (though a significant number use silver plates) and the pre-heat section hasn’t led to either product or system issues.

    The real issue for the suppliers is ensuring system stability and predictability, when they can achieve this they will have commercial success for one important reason – they have satisfied customers. Today the CtP market has shown that several different technologies have all led to satisfied customers in different applications. The three biggest selling CtP technologies are silver halide, thermal and photopolymer – all of which are well proven and available from different suppliers. All these technologies offer a proven route into CtP and are considered safe, reliable choices.

    On-press is where the savings are.

    ‘On-press’ is an area where digital plates really help printer’s save/make money. As the use of colour increases so does the need to get accurate register and ‘make ready’ as quickly as possible. CtP users typically report that this is an area that shows dramatic improvements when CtP is implemented. Specifically on-press deletions (“spotting out”) is often dramatically reduced or eliminated. Register is very fast since the images on the different colour cylinders on press have been digitally registered. Make ready is achieved quickly and this ensures that the printer’s turnaround time for the job is improved. Newspaper printers report that that the better quality digital plates can run with lower damp levels, leading to reduced web breaks and therefore (again) higher press yields and faster turnaround time.

    Silver halide CtP plates (from e.g. MPM or Agfa) are rated for runs of up to 350,000 and sometimes more. They have been a popular choice in both commercial and newspaper CtP, achieving high levels of quality – certainly on a par with thermal plates. Silver plates are also well matched to the new violet laser diodes; silver is still the fastest, most sensitive, digital plate technology. It is easy to sensitise to any convenient wavelength of light.

    Silver was used by the whole world for graphic arts film, so is well proven for laser exposure. Therefore, silver technology was a natural choice for CtP. However the silver halide plate manufacturers tend not to recommend silver plates for very long run applications nor are they strongly recommended for UV printers. Again, we return to the common theme.… no single digital plate technology suits every application.

    Thermal plates offer high resolution – equivalent to silver halide. Thermal plates are also typically bake-able for the longer run printers or for those with aggressive press conditions – such as UV. Typically the plates are sensitised to the 830-nanometre IR (infra red) wavelengths, and typically the plates are exposed on external drum platesetters.

    Thermal has been a good choice for many printers and has served the industry well, but there are areas where thermal hasn’t been successful. For example thermal CtP has struggled to make an impact in the newspaper business – in fact the bulk of newspaper CtP installations has been with visible light (or ‘non-thermal’ CtP technology). Reasons for this are various, but the high speed of visible light CtP (plates are typically thousands of times more sensitive than thermal plates) means that the high-speed newspaper CtP devices have been better matched to silver and photopolymer plates. Unfortunately, and this question is often asked, thermal plates are NOT compatible with the violet diode CtP devices.

    Photopolymer has a wide range of uses.

    Photopolymer plates are most typically used in newspapers but have been successful in some commercial print areas as well. Typically, photopolymer plates are rated at lower resolution capability than silver and thermal plates – so photopolymer plates wouldn’t be the best choice for the highest quality print. For example Agfa rate their N91 photopolymer plate to a maximum of 175 LPI, but thermal and silver plates are able to image at 200 LPI (and above).

    Photopolymer plates do have a well-deserved reputation for being robust in use with wide working latitude on press; this perhaps explains why they have been such a popular choice in newspaper CtP. Why not thermal for newspaper? – Look at the benefits of thermal: high resolution, bake-able for 1 million+ runs, daylight handling for manual platesetters. These benefits are good benefits, but irrelevant for newspapers, so why pay for thermal?

    Again we return to the theme that each CtP technology has certain features and benefits suitable to certain applications. No single CtP technology can meet everyone’s needs. A variety of technologies are required and that’s exactly what the market place shows today – silver, photopolymer and thermal plates have all been successful.

    Violet v Thermal

    Silver and photopolymer plates can be sensitised to the popular violet diode wavelength, but thermal plates can’t. Thermal has certain features and benefits and so does violet. CtP systems based on the different technologies offer a range of productivity, differing degrees of automation and differing levels of resolution for a given range of plate sizes…and of course there is a system to fit your budget. A longer run printer, or a printer using UV inks might be advised to look closely at thermal plate technology – maybe getting a supplier to make you a set of (baked) plates to run on your press.

    A VLF (very large format printer) might well also consider thermal as the best option – especially if he needs a manual load CtP device that can be operated in daylight. A printer looking for fast platemaking with a low cost of purchase and a low cost of ownership might well look towards violet, especially if the run length requirements are not above the 350,000 region. Even small printers in the price conscious 2-up markets have found that violet has not only driven CtP downmarket but it also offers incredible levels of laser reliability.

    A few more violet questions answered.

    The latest technology to see widespread CtP success has been violet diode technology. Violet was launched at DRUPA 2000 and has been well received ever since, the success showing no signs of abating. Violet diodes have been a spin-off from the DVD industry where the lasers offer incredible lifetimes – some expect 10-20 years. If true this will mean that the violet diode will probably outlast the platesetter itself. This may mean violet offers the lowest cost of ownership so far as laser maintenance/repairs are concerned and no doubt this contributes to the ongoing popularity of violet CtP.

    The diodes are cheap to produce and offer high quality imaging. This has allowed manufacturers to offer affordable CtP for the 2-up and 4-up printer; furthermore the incredible reliability means low cost of ownership and worry-free CtP. This is a combination that has proved very attractive to many customers, and has attracted the obvious attentions of the suppliers as a result – many of who are now successfully marketing violet diode CtP systems. But, again, the competition is good news for the buying public who see competitive pricing, high-speed imaging and long-life lasers – all of which are making CtP increasingly attractive. Violet also offers the same high quality imaging characteristics as thermal, especially when used with silver plates.

    Process- free plates are not the be-all and end-all.

    Process-free CtP has been the topic of much discussion, the advantage of eliminating the processor and chemistry being advantageous to some. So far process-free hasn’t gained widespread use. If process-free plates are to gain their place in mainstream success customers will want to see a combination of affordable pricing and robust press performance.

    Process-free is almost certain to be thermally based technology, but to counter a common myth, process-free will not replace all other forms of CtP. Process-free will take it’s own niche in the market, just like the other technologies. Meanwhile it’s worth remembering that the ‘regular’ CtP technologies (silver, thermal, photopolymer) now all boast very simple, robust and reliable performance. Whilst elimination of the processor and chemistry does hold its attractions in CtP, perhaps it is no longer golden goal it once was perceived to be. This in part is simply because the ‘regular’ CtP technologies that exist today are now so reliable and offer strong financial incentives to implement.

    There are good CtP solutions available today for everybody from 2-up to VLF to newspapers. Many would argue that holding back and waiting for process-less would only be a benefit to a printer’s competitor – especially if those competitors are already taking advantage of the CtP benefits.

    And then there is the environment.
    Ecological issues are often discussed within CtP. Certainly this is an area where processless plates offer some attractions – but what of the other technologies? Many countries now see the environmental laws tightening with restrictions to any processor waste being discharged directly to drain, especially where higher pH developers are used. So containerised collection of processor waste is increasingly becoming the norm for many.

    But what about the differences between the waste from silver, thermal and photopolymer plates? This is a contentious issue for some. Some used to argue that any form of silver waste is to be avoided. Others argue that waste from silver plates is no longer an issue since a silver containing waste-stream allows the active ingredient in the waste (silver) to be recycled. Remember that the graphics business has been using silver films for years and has been happily recycling silver without any problems.

    In reality those companies that market silver plates – such as MPM and Agfa – don’t make any differentiation between their digital plates based on ecology issues. It’s worth remembering that simply by going CtP, there are already significant ecology advantages – since the process eliminates the film, the analogue plates, the respective processors and chemistry anyway.

    Three mainstream digital plate technologies

    CtP has always attracted heated discussions between suppliers about which one technology is the best. Ultimately, the market place itself (rather than supplier hype and clever marketing) decides. The market today shows three mainstream digital plate technologies have been the most successful – silver halide, thermal and photopolymer.

    My advice for any printer looking at CtP is to take technically unbiased advice from a trusted supplier on the different technologies before taking the plunge. Be suspicious if a supplier only offers one particular type of CtP technology and, after analysing your needs (surprise, surprise), tells you that his solution is the one you really need. In a sometimes-complex world of CtP possibilities, the most important commodity is a fair explanation of the facts, followed by an honest recommendation on the best technology for you.

    For many printers the choice is becoming one of either thermal or violet. Make no mistake, violet does a tremendous technology that is in incredible demand right now and big names such as Agfa, Fuji, Heidelberg and others see violet co-exist alongside thermal. Most suppliers will be able to explain the potential benefits of violet and thermal, but here I would like to offer a hint. The only suppliers that are anti-violet are those that don’t sell violet and typically those suppliers will always recommend thermal irrespective of the printers real technology needs.

    Last words of advice.

    So with CtP increasingly becoming a logical business step for printers the question remains “which type of CtP?” With claim and counter claim from the suppliers being both frequent and at times contradictory, it is not an easy decision to make.

    The best advice I can give remains this: Speak to suppliers that can answer your technology questions in an unbiased way. They will look at your needs, match them to the right technology and a good supplier will have the support and experience to guide you every step of the way.

    Tony King is Agfa’s Market Development Manager for Offset plates with offices in Leeds and Mortsel (Belgium HQ office). He has held a number of positions at DuPont and Agfa’s graphic businesses, having most previously worked as Marketing Manager for ‘Visible Light’ CTP products. He can be contacted at the following e-mail address

  • Fuji Xerox D-Print Digital Design Competition deadline nears

    An impressive response to this year’s D-Print Digital Design Competition sees a more sophisticated approach to the creative uses of digital printing.

    As the entries roll in for the fifth annual competition industry creatives are reminded of the end of February deadline to get their entries in.

    This year’s campaign calls on the Australian creative community, including graphic designers, creative directors and marketing personnel, to experience the multitude of benefits that can be gained by utilising digital printing.
    The D-Print Competition invites participants to experience the complimentary advantages of digital printing alongside traditional offset. A media campaign to support this initiative highlights the comparable high-end capabilities of Xerox DocuColor 2045, DocuColor 2060 and DocuColor 6060 digital printing presses. These include colour quality, variable data applications, short-run economies and quick turnaround times.

    D-Print 2003: Think Outside The Square
    In addition, this year’s D-Print Competition aims to increase the awareness of personalised communication through creative applications. Entrants can achieve this by utilising the Fuji Xerox VariColor software range.

    “We want to encourage creatives to really think outside the square and utilise digital printing innovatively,” said Brett Maishman, Fuji Xerox Australia’s Industry Marketing Manager, Graphic Arts. (pictured) “Our customers have embraced digital print and our aim is to build the consumers’ knowledge of this printing process and develop market awareness and business opportunities.”

    During the D-Print campaign, members of the creative community are encouraged to visit participating printers to have a piece of work digitally printed. The entrant will be asked to describe in 25 words or less explaining the benefits of printing their application using Xerox digital technology.

    Further information about this year’s D-Print Digital Design Competition, including details of the nearest D-Print providers can be found at

    The closing date for entries is February 27, 2004. The work will be judged by a panel of design and print professionals, including representatives from AGDA and ADMA.

    D-Print 2003: Giving Creatives The Chance To Win The Trip Of A Lifetime!
    The creator of the winning entry will receive a travel voucher offering a holiday of their choice to the value of $10,000, whether its going on Safari in Africa, soaking up the sun in Vatulele, discovering remote China, or any other custom designed adventure. The three runners-up will each win a stay at their choice of B & B around Australia, to the value of $500.

    D-Print 2003: Boosting Business For Participating Printers
    According to Maishman, one of the most important aims of the D-Print Digital Design Competition is to assist Fuji Xerox Australia’s DocuColor customers by fuelling awareness and demand for digital print.

  • Blueprint takes first Horizon StitchLiner 5500

    Blueprint takes first Horizon StitchLiner 5500
    Powerhouse Melbourne printer, Blueprint Dynamic Print Services, has boosted its capability to deliver a complete printing and publication service by installing Victorias first Horizon 5500 saddle stitching line. Focused on developing its product differentiation in the crowded and competitive full colour A3 market, the company sees the latest acquisition as helping to put more space between itself and the rest.

    According to Stephen Reichelt, co-owner with Phil Gurry & Chris Terry, the company has always regarded itself as a full service provider.

    “We don’t send out any work. We take the jobs in on disk and deliver fully finished bound and stitched products out the other end. The Horizon StitchLiner will improve our speed and throughput,” he said.

    While acknowledging that growth is hard to come by in the present tough market conditions, he illustrates why Blueprint is more than just holding its own with the example of a catalogue job the day before. The 3,000 copy, 8-page colour job arrived on disk in the morning, was processed to the press, printed, stitched and delivered to the mail house the same day.

    “You can’t get that kind of turnaround by using trade binders. That’s why we’re different. Very few other blokes with A3 colour have the substantial line-up of plant we have. We don’t just put ink on paper, we’re a complete service provider,” he said.

    Blueprint was recently in the news with the purchase of the 100th Australian Purup-Eskofot DPX computer to polyester-to-plate system. Its print production capacity includes two Shinohara presses, a four-colour 52 4P perfector and a two-colour 52llP. The new Horizon 5500 augments a powerful bindery that has a Horizon BQ440 perfect binder, a Horizon MC80 collator and a Shoei KT52 folder.

    The company continues to explore ways of differentiating itself in the market place, keeping an eye on coating equipment and digital presses. “But we haven’t seen a clear cut reason there yet,” said Stephen.

    The StitchLiner 5500

    For further information contact Bernie Robinson, General Manager of the Currie Group on 1800 338 131 or e-mail

  • Jobs of the week: R&D Engineer – Printing, Melbourne

    Securency is a joint venture between the Reserve Bank of Australia and Innovia Films. They are the world leader in the development of polymer bank note technology and are committed to an intensive ongoing research and development program to provide innovative solutions to bank note security. The organisation operates from a world-class facility and has undertaken high levels of investment in equipment and personnel to maintain the technological edge.

    As part of a team involved in R&D activity, you will manage a pilot press facility, assisting in the development of new features to increase bank note security, production efficiencies and longevity of finished products. Specifically you will be involved in:

  • Planning and supervising trials on the pilot press plant
  • Undertake data logging and reporting of trial outcomes.
  • Provide detailed, data driven written reports on trials
  • Maintaining the pilot press
  • Assisting with other R&D processes

    To succeed in this role you will require a highly developed understanding of printing press technical setup and operation processes, ideally with knowledge of gravure processes and equipment. You might be a qualified Engineer who has specialised in the installation and/or maintenance of printing presses, or a trained Printer who has undertaken additional engineering studies in engineering. Consideration will be given to experienced gravure printers who have a desire to undertake tertiary engineering studies.

    You will be joining a world class organisation with excellent prospects for growth both locally and overseas. Interested applicants are encouraged to email their resume to or contact John Williamson on (03) 8629 1192 for further information.


    To view more printing and graphic arts career positions click here for Print21 Online employment section.

  • Book Club –

    Printers have not had a resource to share with designers or other industry professionals that would explain the folding process and all of the different folding styles they can offer to their customers.

    In the publication industry, there has never been a guide for folding. Designers have never understood all of the folding options available to them, and have not had access to the math behind proper digital document set-up. Until now.
    Finishing Experts Group, an industry-specific publishing company, has just released Fold, a first-of-its-kind, two-volume set that creates an essential system for the printing and design industry by establishing naming conventions and standardizing the folding process.

    Fold is an 850-page reference manual with over 1,000 illustrations that systematically documents and classifies more than 180 brochure folding styles, breaking them down into eight folding families (accordions, basics, exotics, gates, maps, parallels, posters and rolls). Each folding style is named, numbered and illustrated. Then, each style is diagrammed with proper folding compensations for accurate digital document setup. There are also tips and considerations for each.

    The reference manual, written by Trish Witkowski, a creative director with a Baltimore marketing firm, is the product of five years of industry research.

    Geared toward print and design professionals, industry organizations, binderies, folding machinery manufacturers, and the graphic arts education market, Fold provides a common language for designers and printers/binderies, giving everyone the same frame of reference and saving valuable time and resources.

    “As a professional designer, I would often become frustrated with the lack of a comprehensive resource for folding,” said Witkowski. “This guide fills a vacuum in the industry. My hope is that the book not only will be the go-to guide in the industry for folding, but that it also can serve as a springboard for creativity.”

    Trish Witkowski is currently the creative director for a marketing and communications firm in Baltimore. She earned her master of science in graphic arts publishing from Rochester Institute of Technology’s world-renowned School of Printing Management and Sciences and a bachelor of fine arts degree in graphic design. She has taught design and desktop publishing at the college level, and is the co-author of The Adobe InDesign Guide.

    Fold is available exclusively in Australia and New Zealand from Print21Online

    To buy FOLD: The Professional Guide to Folding and to browse the Print21Online Graphic Arts Library click here.

  • Magno moves on to CPI

    The decision to distribute through CPI Group wasn’t easy but Tim Schafer, managing director of Sappi Trading Australia, says that he was swayed by CPI’s vision for the stock. “We were so impressed that it seemed only fair to let them take the opportunity to move it [Magno] forward,” he said.

    David Bull, director of CPI Group believes that these benefits work both ways for the two companies. “Now Magno is with CPI, customers … will also benefit from local mill representation and technical support from Sappi,” he said.

    “Securing the Magno range from Sappi is a testament to CPI’s merchanting reputation in the Australian marketplace. Over many years Magno has developed a proven reputation for its high quality, reliability and consistency – attributes that have positioned it strongly in the design, print and corporate market segments,” he said.

    “Importantly, Magno meets CPI’s stringent environmental criteria with environmental accreditations including ISO14001, PEFC and EMAS. Customers keen to make an environmentally friendly choice of fine paper can rest assured that Magno meets the highest standards.”

    CPI will also become more actively involved in the Sappi Printer of the Year awards and David Bull invites entrants to get in touch with him. David Bull

  • Jobs of the week: Senior Customer Service/Sales Support

    As an integral member of our company, your role will fundamentally be to provide support for members of our sales team and to be an internal contact for our valued clients. It is expected that you maintain strong relationships with our customers by providing accurate and professional advice and service. As well as performing administrative functions, you will be required to have knowledge and an interest in the technical aspects of our industry.

    Your duties will include:

  • Generating work tickets and quotes from our internal system
  • Liaising with production to follow WIP
  • Managing several house accounts
  • Briefing detailed and coherent specifications to our pre press and production departments
  • Generally providing support to customers and sales team

    To succeed in this position you must have initiative and flexibility with strong attention to detail. Excellent communication skills are required as is a high level of computer competency. Experience with the PRISM operating system would be a definite advantage.

    If you are serious about customer service and have a genuine desire to develop a rewarding sales career, take this step for your future.

    All applications by email to


    To view more printing and graphic arts career positions click here for Print21 Online employment section.

  • Graphic World auction deadline extended

    The company was flooded with calls from perplexed bidders demanding to know what had happened. The technical glitch occurred in Gray’s internet providers hardware and took the company’s website offline for a number of hours.

    To ensure there is no disadvantage to anyone Grays has now extended the closing deadline of the Graphic World auction to 1300 today Thursday. To take part log on here. Strewth! returns to scandal and hard-hitting journalism

    The purchase for a reported seven figure sum, which the new owner admits to be something of “an act of faith,” will see the once notorious masthead return to its heyday preoccupation with sex, drugs and rock’n’roll.

    Current editor, Wayne Butler, who has only been with the newspaper for three months, said that he would be leaving Fairfax to remain the editor. “We’re looking to take it back to where it used to be in the 60s; it’s been an iconic Kiwi newspaper – the new owners want to revive it and make it a hard-hitting newspaper once again,” he said. “Readers will be treated to exposes and rip offs.”

    Truth was well known in the 1960s for scandal reporting and controversial news. It suffered a decline from the 1970s onwards with its circulation dwindling to around 20,000 readers. It makes most of its revenue from outrageous sexual advertising. Fairfax said the Truth no longer fitted easily into its publishing portfolio.

    The buyout group includes Horton Media, the printing and publishing venture of Matthew Horton, scion of the well-known newspaper publishing family that owned the New Zealand Herald. Horton emphasized that he would print the newspaper but would have no role in running it. Malley is pinning his hopes on a return to Truth’s good old days with increased editorial content, sports-related and investigative stories. He intends to employ a larger editorial team.

    The new Truth hits newsstands 22 February.

  • Learn from the experts in Shanghai

    Well-known industry identities, Greg Grace and Stan Solomidis, will present on a number of finance and marketing-related topics in their seminars from March 11 to 16. Print industry professionals from over the world are set to gather in the bustling Chinese city to learn from the experts.

    Greg Grace originally began his career as a lithographic printer and platemaker and has since worked for Heidelberg Australia as a consultant on production, print quality improvements and training. His seminars for this year are entitled ‘From marketing to technology’; ‘Print calculation’ (in conjunction with Karl Kowalczyk); ‘De-mystifying integrated workflows’; ‘General introduction to PSO’ (also with Kowalczyk); ‘Print colour management virtual prinect experience tour’ (also with Kowalczyk); ‘Making money by adopting quality’ and ‘Maximising the impact of print production’.

    “I’m looking at the different trends within the graphic arts industries and some of the models, like niche marketing, traditional type printing,” he said.

    Stan Solomidis started by working in senior management positions at Citicorp Australia and Associated Midland Corporation. He is now working as a freelance consultant for the print media industry. His seminars are called ‘Lateral marketing’; ‘Marketing – a holistic approach’; ‘Managing for continuity and performance’; ‘Management: optimising your enterprise’; ‘Financial controlling – the need for transparency and prudent financing’ and ‘Financial controlling’. Solomidis says that these seminars will cover marketing, finance and management as it relates to both the graphic and visual arts industries.

    “The particular emphasis is that a lot of companies are trying to improve their performance and that’s what I do; I help companies improve their businesses and strategies which also include exit strategies,” he said. Solomidis said that those organising the Winter University wanted a speaker with “industry experience, not just someone from Heidelberg.”

    After speaking at the Winter University in Dubai 2006, Grace said that he was particularly looking forward to speaking again this year. “It was a great experience. Dubai was a melting pot of people right around the world,” he said. “The thing I particularly liked was the questioning: there were really interesting questions. It should be the same this year.”

    It is expected that a number of Australian students will travel to Shanghai to attend the Winter University seminars. More info: Melanie Dooley

  • Competition deadlines – you gotta be in it to win it!

    Now’s the time for all printers who want to have a go, who lust after the glittering prizes, who think they are the best of the best, to put their print where their belief is and enter the raft of printing competitions organised by the industry.
    But be quick, time is short.

    The 24th National Print Awards

  • This year, the National Print Awards will be held in conjunction with PrintEx07 at the Sydney Exhibition and Convention Centre, Darling Harbour, from May 24 to 26.
  • A new category, entitled Art Reproductions, has been added this year.
  • Gold medallists will have their work exhibited for the duration of PrintEx and will also be considered for the Heidelberg Award for Excellence in Craft.
  • Entries must be submitted to National Print Awards, Unit 3, 5-7 Compark Circuit, Mulgrave, VIC 3170. Any project completed in the period January 1 – December 31, 2006, is eligible.
  • For further information, contact the administrator at the National Print Awards at or or phone (03) 8541 7333.

    Pride in Print Awards

  • The Pride in Print Awards are a forum for recognising the achievement of excellence in New Zealand Print. Entries are invited that utilise any printing process and are welcome from any person or company associated with the production or purchase of print. Entries must have been printed between 1st January 2006 and 31st December 2006.
  • The standard entry fee is $57 per entry (GST inclusive).
  • Entries close 31 January. There is also a late entry closing date, 28 February. To submit work by this date attracts a late fee of $72 per entry (GST inclusive).
  • Further information can be found through visiting

    2007 Sappi Printers of the Year Awards

  • Printers all over the world are invited to submit their best work, printed between 1 January and 31 December 2006. Regional printers are entered into the Sappi Trading division.
  • The only qualifying condition is that the work must be printed on Sappi paper.
  • Competitors must submit at least two copies of their entry.
  • The deadline for the Sappi Awards is 31 January.
  • For more information visit

  • Blue Star NZ gets into high-end digital colour printing

    A seamless offer crossing over between offset and digital without any discernible difference in print quality was the bottom line for Glen Climo, CEO of Blue Star Print NZ, the largest printing company in New Zealand. “We wanted to maintain the same offer to our clients, not provide a substitute quality for offset. The decision had nothing to do with price, the big thing was quality of the print,” he said.

    The HP Indigo 5000 is Blue Star’s first digital colour production machine and is the only A3 press at high-profile Auckland printer, Nicholson. Its arrival at the major printer represents a significant step forward in the acceptance and development of digital printing in New Zealand. A second HP Indigo 5000 is due to be installed at Blue Star’s Format printing company in Wellington in February, by the local HP Indigo agent, AM International.

    According to Glen Climo, the intention is not to go and seek out digital work as a separate business but to bring all of the company’s current digital spend in house. “We currently do a truckload of digital business and this will give us complete control of our branding. Because we already have the front end in place and the ability to move files across our network its not been a huge learning curve for us.”

    The ability to provide high quality variable data printing has already drawn the attention of some Nicholson clients and a number of VD jobs have already gone through the press. This is an area where the company sees the opportunity for expansion.

    Format already does some black and white, and quick printing digital colour out of Wellington but Climo sees the HP Indigo as moving the offering to a different level. “This is a very different technology. The quality is as good as offset and it will allow us to provide the short print runs demanded by our clients.”

    The Blue Star decision is seen as further evidence of the quality of the HP Indigo technology by Rob West, (pictured) channel development ANZ HP Indigo. “When companies of this size make a decision, it’s only after exhaustive testing and comparison. I’ve always been confident that when people see the quality coming off the HP Indigo they’ll decide in our favour.

    “Blue Star’s two presses provide a solid recommendation for all companies, large or small, considering entering or upgrading their digital printing offer.”

  • Students get eco smart with their art

    The competition, which has been running since 2003, provides funds to schools that have demonstrated an interest in environmental management programs. Dee Why Public School won the group mural, while Manly Vale Public’s Year 6 student Luke Mangraviti (pictured below with Nigel Shepherd, managing director Ricoh Australia) was awarded the individual prize for his entry ‘Superheroes can’t stop global warming – but we can’.

    The 13-year-old boy has something of a green thumb it seems, having won the best individual prize for the past three years. Mangraviti says he’s always enjoyed drawing superheroes, but has a particular interest in the environment because there is a forest near his home. “I think it’s very important that people look after the environment,” he says.

    Developing an environmental conscience is pivotal to Ricoh’s strategy, according to managing director Nigel Shepherd. “We’re excited to see how the schools and the children have embraced the Ricoh slogan,” he said. “It’s an environmental theme that runs through everything we do here at Ricoh.”

    Ricoh has launched a number of environmental initiatives since 2000, including recycling ink cartridges, paper conservation, an end-of-life machine take-back program and reducing green house gas. Shepherd hopes that the Environmental Art Competition will motivate youth to take an interest in the environment.