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At the forefront: eco-friendly plates come stateside.


AFTER YEARS OF BETA TESTING, THE CHEMICAL-free violet plate is now available in the United States.

At this year's Graph Expo, the annual printing industry trade event held in Chicago, Agfa Graphics showed new chemical-free violet plate, the :N92-VCF. An environmentally friendly alternative, the :N92-VCF combines fast, accurate, and wide-latitude plate exposure with chemistry-free processing, while ensuring predictable, consistent results on press.

The: N92-VCF requires absolutely no developer, yet offers the same high quality and sharp image as traditional violet plate solutions. It is compatible with any violet diode laser platesetter emitting a minimum of 30Mw of power or more.

Why VCF?

Aside from the cost savings due to the removal of chemicals from the process and the resulting environmental payoff, the chemical-free plates offer an additional benefit: a far more consistent plate. This is because all the processing variables of traditional platemaking are removed. According to Agfa, the :N92-VCF plates produce an exceptionally strong image contrast, and there's absolutely no on-press contamination.

"The chemical-free violet plate represents a dynamic step in the evolution of platesetting in the newspaper business," said Sheila Nysko, director of business development at Agfa Graphics. "Violet chem-free eliminates many of the processing variables and additionally offers the industry an economical and environmentally friendly solution."

Since there are no chemicals are used, users of the VCF plate also save money on the neutralizer required to treat the chemicals before they can be dumped into the local sewage system. Savings are also reflected in water consumption.

"Typical processing systems require both developer and water," Nysko said. "This system doesn't require either, offering additional savings. It also utilizes less energy, as there is no need to manage temperature control. System cleaning time is reduced significantly and disposing of exhausted developer is no longer required."

Users of the :N92-VCF have reported reduced paper costs, as Agfa's plate "has reduced their make ready times," Nysko said. "You get salable product much faster."

Gaining Ground

Newspapers large and small have been moving away from film and toward violet platesetters since their introduction in 2000. The added benefit the :N92-VCF offers to "first timers" might be a powerful enough incentive to bring them into the fold.

The Kankakee (IL) Daily Journal made the switch from film to violet chem-free platesetters about a year ago when it bought into the :N92-VCF.

"We were still using a film-to-plate process prior to this," said Kevin Norden, production director. "We still had to film images, burn the negatives to the plate, process the plate, take the plate and punch it for the press. It involved quite a chain of operations."


At the same time, the company was running an Agfa platesetter at night for a contractor. "We were happy with the Agfa produet and service so that was a plus," Norden said.

Norden steeped himself in research, listing the positive and negative aspects of every modern plate and processor system on the market. The result of his efforts was a transition to Agfa chem-free during both evenings and days.

"When I figured the savings of moving to the chemical-free plate, it was thousands of dollars a month," Norden said. "Plus, with chemical-free, you're green. You don't have the nasty chemicals around, and you don't have to neutralize them."

There was something else that convinced Norden violet chem-free was the way to go. With film, if a makeover is required, say on the last page during crunch time, it could take from six to ten minutes to fix. But with the violet plate, a makeover can be completed in less than a minute.

The Daily Journal looked at both Agfa's thermal and violet systems and decided to go with the violet because it is faster and there are less moving parts.

"There were no electronics spinning big drums; it took less electricity and made less heat. It had a simple, compact footprint," Norden said. "All those things came into play."

So far, there have been no issues with the switchover to Agfa's chemical-free plate. "It is running fine," he said.


Agfa anticipates the chem-free market will continue to grow. "It's a perfect plate for newspapers looking for green solutions that can simplify their production while reducing costs," Nysko said.

Agfa's development of the :N92-VCF actually makes a statement about the evolution of newspapers. What makes chemical-free violet plates, as well as standard violet plates, a more viable alternative than film and thermal is the fact that print runs for daily newspapers are simply not as large as they once were.

"Our chemical-free violet plates offer run lengths up to 150,000," Nysko said. "And as requirements change and run lengths are reduced, violet chem-free plates have become a perfect solution for a large number of today's newspapers."

At the same time, some newspapers may not be a candidate for chemical free--customers that want a plate to run longer than 200,000 or use UV inks, for example.

Globally, Agfa accounts for around 80 percent market share with more than 3,000 chemistry-free CtP installations worldwide and says this extension into chemistry-free violet plates is the next logical step. Agra currently is the main supplier of chemical-free violet plates in the U.S. Fuji offers what it calls a low-chemistry violet plate.
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Title Annotation:Agfa Graphics new chemical-free violet plate :N92-VCF for the printing industry
Comment:At the forefront: eco-friendly plates come stateside.(Agfa Graphics new chemical-free violet plate :N92-VCF for the printing industry)
Author:Lieber, Ed
Publication:Editor & Publisher
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 1, 2010
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