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Violet Photopolymer vs. Thermal
Apr 20, 2018

Violet Photopolymer vs. Thermal

Violet photopolymer vs. thermal

Let’s take a closer look at the two strongest competitors in the race to reign supreme in CTP: violet photopolymer and thermal technology.

With thermal technology, it is important to make a distinction between the different market regions. The United States boasts a number of suppliers who are engaged in a fierce price war and whose repeated price reductions are bringing the price close to that of conventional plates.

(In Europe, by contrast, there is only one plate: Kodak’s Thermal News. Other vendors’ thermal plates are too costly for newspapers.)

For this reason, thermal was the clear U.S. favorite in recent years. But the violet industry is competing strongly on the U.S. market with increasingly low-cost imagers, some of which can be bought for less than $100,000. The price for violet plates has also dropped dramatically.

Personally, I see quality as the main advantage of thermal. The plate/imager combination supplies more stable results, something that many experts and users unfortunately overlook. The repeatability and exposure precision should not be ignored. The cost of quality control is certainly less than with violet systems. FM screens or finer screens are less of a problem with thermal than with violet. The process is simply more stable.

Furthermore, chemical consumption is relatively small and cleaning the processor not very work-intensive.


Advantages of violet photopolymer

The main advantage is the violet laser itself. Commercial DVD technology is driving the development of laser performance; consequently, lasers will continue to improve.

Today’s systems mostly work with 60-mW lasers and thus reach plate throughputs of more than 250 per hour. The near future will bring with it the introduction of 100-mW and 200-mW lasers. What’s more, the violet laser is slightly lower priced and simpler than the relatively expensive thermal laser.

Now that speed and throughput have hit acceptable levels, the next horizon is chemistry-free processing. Fuji has already announced the introduction of chemistry-free violet plates, although initially they will only be available for the commercial market.

Agfa demonstrated the possibility of chemistry-free imaging on a newspaper imager at Ipex ‘06 and Nexpo ‘06 and hopes to introduce these plates to the market by early 2008. It remains to be seen whether these plates will offer the same stability at the same price as today’s chemical plates.

In the meantime, production managers still must carefully investigate what they need before picking a CTP system. There is no standard solution, despite the fact that the choice is easier than it was four years ago.