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Two Cross-Atlantic Perspectives on Ctp

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Two Cross-Atlantic Perspectives on Ctp

Article excerpt

Tales of platesetting in the U.K. Midlands and the U.S. Midwest

Representatives from two groups in two countries, each operating two computer-to-plate (CTP) sites, related their experiences with three platesetting systems at last month's International Newspaper Group conference in Dayton, Ohio.

The group's annual gathering featured two British veterans of the long effort to output plates directly from digital data. Both trace their involvement to what Paul Liggins described as "cumbersome, costly, and not very effective" work in the late 1970s and '80s at U.S. newspapers. In the earliest trial, pages were pasted up, scanned and output to plates.

Liggins, managing director of Midlands News Association's Precision Color Printing, said Agfa has CTP installations at "by far the most papers" (about 175, mostly Polaris, machines at midsize, technically advanced, and profitable dailies in northwestern European countries), followed by Krause Newspaper Systems Inc. (more than 90, many in the United Kingdom), and Autologic Information International (42 installations at sites similar to Agfa's). Agfa, he added, has had promising tests at papers in the United Kingdom, where U.S. metro daily leader Western Lithotech has placed its fast flatbed DiamondSetters at News International sites.

Midlands' Southampton site installed its first Krause internal-drum plate imager in 1996 to make plates for the first MAN Roland Geoman press installed in Britain. Two years later, it bought another Krause machine as part of an upgrade at its Shropshire Star, which also included Crabtree Crusader presses augmented with Goss Colorliner towers.

The job, said Liggins, called for literally cutting the building in half. The plant never missed an edition during the massive rebuilding, during which an entire day's work was performed without benefit of a roof.

The group's larger, 13-edition Wolverhampton Express & Star (the two tabloid Stars circulate a total of approximately 350,000 copies, and Midlands has numerous other titles and print products) thereafter opted for 200-plate-per-hour CTP from Western Litho during its own expansion project. Midlands uses Autologic's APScom software to provide the page- pairing output the tabloids require; its Harland Simon system transfers ink presetting data from prepress to the presses.

Clearly, CTP worked for Midlands -- except when it didn't. Last year, Liggins recalled, both big Krause machines had catastrophic failures within 15 minutes of each other, setting back production by at least three hours.

The moral of the story, according to Liggins: "Make sure your engineers are trained" -- because even the best supplier can't fix things fast enough for a newspaper.

Liggins' counterpart at Thomson Newspapers brought a similar message after experiencing less-dramatic difficulties. Now at his own OpsFusion Consulting and president of c-m-y-k University, near Harrisburg, Pa., Tom Shafer, in his last week as Thomson's production technologies director, warned colleagues not to end conventional platemaking operations until a film output and processing system is in place to back up direct platesetting. At one point, he said, the production site for a Thomson cluster of dailies had to return to paste-up of some pages when its platesetter was down and the film imagesetter was no longer on line to its processor. …

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