Agfa’s groundbreaking chemistry-free plate processing technology is catching on - fast.
Agfa's new :Azura plate system, launched to the Oceania region at Pacprint, is already being used in over 100 printing sites across the world and two Australian companies have added their print operations to this growing list.
Melbourne’s McLaren Press has completed extensive trials and will begin full production shortly, while Lionheart Offset in Sydney has been running only :Azura plates since March this year.
The :Azura’s ground-breaking chemistry-free plate processing technology offers high quality thermal imaging (on standard 830nm thermal platesetters), quick make-readies and streamlined workflow, ecologically-sound working environment, and reduced waste (only 20L/300 m2).
Based on the thermofuse technology originally developed for its :Thermolite plates, the :Azura plate system uses a negative-working aluminium plate that combines a standard electrochemically-grained and anodised aluminium base with a single layer coating containing ink-accepting thermofusable (latex) particles.
During exposure, the coating absorbs heat in the image areas from a standard 830nm thermal laser, fusing those particles together and bonding the images to the plate.
After exposure, non-imaged areas are removed with a gum wash in the compact :Azura C85 cleaning unit, eliminating the hazardous chemicals associated with standard processing.
The gum also protects the hydrophilic aluminium substrate from oxidation.
The plate is press-ready once it exits the cleaning unit.
In conventional computer-to-plate, the latent image first formed must be processed chemically to become physically durable and stable.
The effect of the chemistry on the image therefore depends on the chemicals’ temperature and exhaustion, the plate’s speed through the processing unit, whether the plate is rinsed completely or treated effectively with gum, etc.
Some plate technologies also require a post-imaging pre-heat phase, and/or pre-wash.
The :Azura system eliminates plate processing altogether so it has fewer process variables to manage and the processing cannot affect the image in any way.
The image initially formed on the plate is exactly the image to be printed on press.
The particles in the thermofusable coating are small enough to produce sharp images.
Screen tints of 2-98% are possible at 200 lpi, depending on platesetter performance, and runs of up to 100,000 are achievable (depending on press conditions).
The plates (available in thicknesses of 0.15, 0.20 and 0.30mm) can be handled in daylight conditions and work with existing inks, founts and plate cleaners, and the aluminium base ensures fast ink roll-up and consistent ink/water balance.
All of this shortens make-ready times and minimises paper waste and downtime.