Aspects of Modern Printing Plates - Mergers and Upgrades

In the debate over coating technology in recent years, some people think that printing plates are an exception to the underlying rules of the technology. Others believe that almost all solutions, including analog plates, are aluminum-based, so polyester plates are certainly an exception.

Earlier this year, printers informed consumers that the price of printing plates would increase due to rising raw material costs. It is said that the price of aluminum has increased by 40% in the past two years, and energy prices have been at a relatively high level. This is one of the reasons for the rise in the price of printing plates.

According to Jack Wiethoff, deputy manager of Kodak Polychrome Graphics, "The price of aluminum accounts for more than half of the cost of the lithographic plate, so the increase in production efficiency cannot compensate for the rise in aluminum prices."

John Orourke, CTP product manager at Presstek, said that Alcoa's decision on the existing flat aluminum market exacerbated the seriousness of the situation. The exit of Alcoa means that we must work harder to manage our supply chain.

ORourke compares this situation with the crude oil market. He said: "This is a universal product with global standard pricing."

Jim Crawford, Consumables Group Manager at Enovation Graphic Systems, believes that the supply of aluminum is closely related to increased capital expenditures for production and construction preparation time. The current outlook is more worth looking forward to, because the plate makers are long-term partners for aluminum suppliers, which will promote more stable markets.

Kothbone's Wiethoff is not optimistic about this short-term outlook. He said: "Unfortunately, since the price started to rise in January, the prices of aluminum and oil have continued to climb. Unless the cost of these two materials has dropped, there is a good chance that it will set off a second round of increase in the entire industry. Price wave."

The situation of the Heidelberg U.S. company seems a bit complicated because it is not a direct manufacturer of printing plates, but only responsible for the cooperative development and sales of plates. The company's supplies manager Rick Boggess pointed out: "The manufacturer told us that they signed a long-term aluminum Material supply contracts ensure adequate supply of raw materials."

Printing plate supply field

The increase in the use of CTP throughout the world has caused its supply shortage in some countries. In fact, the printing plate production capacity is not the main problem, not only that, the plate manufacturer's production capacity will exceed the market demand.

Colleen Molkenbur, product manager for printing consumables at Mitsubishi Imaging, pointed out: "In recent years, the economic and competitive pressures faced by CTP users are still relatively satisfactory. With the increase in product categories, the price of digital printing plates It is also falling."

Although the market for digital plates has grown rapidly, manufacturers of traditional analog plates have not given up on this technology and are still investing in it. In spite of this, they only saw the very limited potential of using digital plate technology, such as the exemption of traditional exposure plates.

At present, CTP production accounts for more than 50% of the market share in the United States and Europe, but the rest of the world is still in the initial stage of transition from traditional plate production to CTP. Koeth Polaroid’s Wiethoff said: “We will still retain a significant portion of our research and development budget to improve the production of our analog plates.”

Agfa also invested a lot of manpower and resources to develop analog plate production lines while developing digital plates. Susan Wittner, the company’s sales manager for North America, said: "Our goal is to bring revolutionary changes to people, to increase the level of customer productivity and the performance of the equipment in the pressroom."

Enovation's Crawford believes that if the plate manufacturer produces more CTP plates than conventional ones, the prospects for analog products are not optimistic. With the increase in sales of CTP plates and people’s increasing demand for technological improvements, R&D budgets are bound to tilt toward CTP products.

Consolidation is another major event in the printing plate field. This is at least the second or third wave of the development of the printing industry in decades.

The printing plate is only a small part of the recently announced cooperation program. Creo has already become part of the Kodak Graphic and Imaging Group together with other companies such as Kodak Polaroid. The full name of Kodak Polaroid has also been changed to Kodak.

Since the merger has not yet been officially completed, Wiethoff said that it is not easy for the company to comment on the issue of whether Corio turned to printing plate production. However, he believes that the two companies will continue to compete as competitors in the printing market. Of course, this is entirely speculation, but it is clear that obtaining Coriolis plate production capabilities and products is not Kodak's main purpose.

Agfa completed its acquisition of Lastra in the first half of 2004 and has since then integrated the plate manufacturer’s product line and productivity into its own production.

Witner of Agfa said: "From a product perspective, the addition of Lastra LT2 and NX enhances the strength of our existing product line. We are now working hard to include LY-8 and LV-2 plates. Lastra's visible light products have been converted into visible light digital plates such as Agfa's N91, N91V and Lithostar Violet plates."

As an observer who is very interested in this merger, Presstek's ORourke believes that the transformation of the business and the recognition of digital printing plates by customers will take some time (Pressek acquired ABDick, but it does not have a production stamp. Edition capabilities). At the same time, there are some other forms of consolidation in the industry. Earlier this year, Printing Developments (Print Developments) stated in a statement that its parent company, GenTek, decided to cease all its business. Immediately after Citiplate announced that it would produce separate plates for other companies.

Perhaps we have reason to expect stable prices and a decline in the merger wave, but this does not mean that the printing plate market is becoming increasingly unbearable. Almost all leading plate sellers believe that exemption technology can really bring about a change in the printing industry.

ORourke believes Presstek's Applause printing plate will continue to dominate the market with its true exempt technology. Other plate products require some imaging post-processing, such as: removing gum arabic or rinsing with water.

With the completion of the acquisition of ABDick by Presstek, the merged company still sells the Freedom printing plate as an ABDick branded product. ORourke thinks this printing plate is the evolution and application of Anthem technology on the short plate. This type of printing plate is mainly produced by a Vector TX plate making machine.

David Furman, Agfa’s senior sales manager for North America’s CTP system, believes that Agfa’s current focus is on Azura's chemical-free digital printing technology. It uses the patented ThermoFuse technology to fix the image on the plate without any chemical treatment. Furman said: “We now have more than 150 Azura users in the world. Many people were long-time users of thermal platesetters who wanted to find plates that did not require processing. We also saw the first purchase of CTP. Strong demand from users."

Kodak Polaroid is testing its new Thermal Direct disposable plate. Wiethoff said: "The performance of this plate in the trial market has made us happy. It will be fully listed later this year."

Kodak will continue to sell Sword Excel as a revolutionary thermal plate. At the same time, VioletNews printing plates for violet laser CTP equipment will be formally launched. The violet laser CTP is mainly used for newspaper printing and will be extended to the commercial printing field.

Creo demonstrated a Claris PL free-handling plate in a "technical demonstration" earlier. But the fate of that product is still a mystery. In Fujifilm (Fujifilm) plates, Enovation Graphic Systems began introducing Brillia LH-P thermal plates to the U.S. market this year. This thermal plate no longer requires prebaking.

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For the Fujifilm plate published on Drupa in 2004, Crawford said the company "is serious and serious about the pursuit of this technology, so commercialization is its only way. This product is aluminum Baseplate, with many of the operating characteristics of existing Fujifilm thermal plates."

The market's reaction to this change includes: people are concerned about the short version of live, Heidelberg is also looking for a free processing plate. Boggess said: “Two years ago, this was not our plan, but now we often encounter some low-to-mid-range sheet-fed printing customers who want to use exempt technology.”

Heidelberg also plans to introduce a traditional thermal plate, and will continue to offer Saphira silver halide violet laser plates. According to Mark Tonkovich, the company’s CTP product manager, the benefits of using silver halide technology include extending the life of the violet laser (which requires less energy for imaging) and enabling faster on-machine printing.

MPM's Molkenbur sees the long-term economic and environmental impact of process-free or chemical-free washing technology on plate manufacturers. However, she believes that vendors still need to overcome concerns about stability and the limitations of the platesetter.

Today, Mitsubishi Imaging (Mitsubishi) puts all its energy into the Silver DigiPlate polyester plate. With the increasing demand for short-run printing in the market, SDP polyester plates have become an ideal choice for many printers.

In addition, Konica Minolta also introduced a process-free system, which is equipped with a thermal plate (TF-200) that is ideal for on-line or off-line imaging systems.

Source: Bison

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