FOLLOWING on from a successful regional launch at Pacprint and a number of installations in Australia, Agfa's :Azura chemistry-free plate system is making its mark across the Tasman.
South Island-based commercial printer, PrintHouse Nelson is the first New Zealand company to use the new :Azura plates.
As part of its move to computer-to-plate, PrintHouse has packaged together an :Acento S platesetter, :Apogee X workflow, :Sherpa 24M proofer and :Sublima cross-modulation screening.
The new system has already saved the company time and money and has improved the quality of print significantly.
Removing the need for hazardous chemicals in the prepress room also benefits the local environment.
"With :Azura there are no chemicals required - and that was a real selling point to local council and us," said general manager at PrintHouse, Tony Woodall. "It has also brought our prices down. There are additional costs with chemicals and film and we've been able to eliminate those."
Although originally intending to keep the old imagesetter as a back-up, the new system has been so problem-free it was unnecessary. Mr Woodall said the new system has 'exceeded' all expectations.
The :Azura plates combine a standard electrochemically-grained and anodised aluminium base with a single coating of ink-accepting thermofusable (latext) particles.
When the negative-working plate is exposed to a standard thermal laser, the coating absorbs heat in the image areas, fuses the particles and bonds them to the plate.
Once imaged, the plate passes through the small :Azura C85 unit where a gumming solution removes the unexposed particles from the plate. There are no unsafe chemicals for disposal.
Established in 1994, PrintHouse services mostly local businesses and produces a range of materials - from adhesive labels and business cards to full-colour brochures and books. The company has a variety of A2 presses (from one-colour to four) and finishing equipment.
As a medium-volume user, the :Azura plate system is ideal for PrintHouse. The plates provide 2-98% screen tints at 200lpi and handle run lengths to 100,000. With fewer process variables, the system is also very stable.
Plates are imaged on an Agfa :Acento S 32-channel external drum thermal platesetter (PrintHouse uses a manual plate loading version).
The :Acento can produce up to 20 plates an hour (with plates sizes from 324mm x 370mm to 660mm x 830mm) and provides resolutions of 1200-200dpi and 2400-4000dpi. It has separate loading and unloading bays and automatic inline punching.
According to Mr Woodall, quick production speeds and the simple plate process are big advantages.
"Just load the plates and go - it's that simple," he said. "We are processing a plate every six to eight minutes. Where previously it took two hours to get from disk to the press, now it is just 40 minutes and with the plate register system, the time for make-readies is much quicker."
Removing the film step, together with using Agfa's :Sublima cross-modulation screening, has improved the quality of output, which Mr Woodall said is important to the many local design companies PrintHouse supports.
"They are extremely impressed with the quality we are getting now - it is no comparison to where we were before," he said.