Time to Go Green With Your Plate Production?
Want to reduce your pollution footprint while speeding up plate production? Chemistry-free or processless plates can do just that.May 2008 By Bob Atkinson
Going green has been a big story in the print business for the past decade, and chemistry-free plates are the next wave.
“Non-process plate technology will improve to meet the increasing demand for sustainable solutions, and we’ll reach out to a broader range of printers, including larger printers and printers outside the commercial printing arena,” notes Rich Rindo, Kodak’s director of global product management for printing plates.
Over at Presstek, John O’Rourke, director of CTP products, agrees: “Chemistry-free plate technology will continue to be the fastest-growing product category for digital plates.”
These eco-friendly plates will reduce your pollution footprint right away and further speed up your production cycle. Most are not completely process-free, but they’re close to it; they often require only a water rinse or a clean-out/gumming step, while others “develop” on-press, with the fountain solution handling the clean-out step. None of these plates need conventional developing chemistry or a regular plate processor, and so avoid many of the environmental/waste issues. Eco-plates are available in sizes from two-up to eight-up. Some manufacturers offer polyester plates, but the majority of the product offerings are metal plates.
The Technologies Used
The vast majority of eco-friendly plates are thermally imaged, and there are a couple of variations on this technology. Thermal ablation, as used in Presstek’s Anthem Pro metal plates, requires a high-power thermal laser or laser diode array that literally blasts away non-image portions of the plate coating. This approach requires an internal vacuum system to remove the debris before it settles on the optics. The plates require a simple water wash to remove any residue.
The second thermal CTP technology is called thermal coalescence, and it’s used in Agfa’s :Azura and Heidelberg Saphira Chemfree metal plates. In this approach, the high-energy thermal laser fuses ink-receptive latex microbeads into the grain of the metal sheet to form the image. The non-image area is cleaned in a post-imaging gumming step.