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Polyester Plates: The Short-run Solution

While starting up a small book publishing business, this in-plant manager discovered polyester plates. His experiences using them can help others exploring this option.

September 2007 By Roger Dale Trexler
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FOR YEARS, I dreamed about becoming a publisher. I actually set out in 1989 on the path to becoming a printer just so I could be a publisher. If it hadn’t been for that desire, I probably would never have become a printer. You see, I am a fiction writer, and printing just naturally seemed to be the right path for me.

Recently, I made the move from pressroom foreman to assistant superintendent of printing at Southern Illinois University, in Carbondale, Ill. The daily grind of inking up plates and printing was replaced with scheduling, pricing and the assorted before-and-after stuff we all do to see print jobs to their fruition. I no longer had to print for a living.

To be honest, I started to miss the smell of roller wash in the morning. Printing is something I just can’t get out of my blood. I realized that, now that I didn’t have to print all day for a job, I could print for the fun of it.

But how?

I had purchased an old Multilith 1870 two-color press back around 1995 when I thought I’d try my hand at starting my own shop. I would have started publishing books then, but another detour found me hired here at SIUC. Plans kept getting pushed back or away as I married, bought a home with a nice shop attached to the garage, had two beautiful children, and generally worked my way up the ladder here at Printing and Duplicating. It’s amazing how quickly time will fly on you.

The move to the front office offered me a financial and spiritual rebirth, and the notion of finally starting up that small book publishing business returned to me.

It was time to make it a reality.

However, the last thing I wanted to do was mess with such archaic things as plate burners, developer and metal plate processors. A computer-to-plate (CTP) system seemed the logical way to go.

The CTP Scene

I looked into all the lower-end metal platemakers. Since all I had was a 15x18? press, there was a wide selection of metal platemakers to choose from—but I thought they were too expensive, considering I was only publishing three or four books a year.

I looked for other alternatives….and that was when I discovered polyester plates. They were cheap, supposedly held the image for 10,000 impressions (far more than I would ever need to print), and all I needed to create a plate was a page layout program and a large-format laser printer.
 

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