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Lego's Legacy

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Lego's Legacy

Article excerpt

ESKO EXITS INDUSTRY

Much-merged output-systems vendor supplies many CTP sites

Other vendors have bigger shares of the market, but perhaps none has left a bigger mark with its share. Esko-Graphics' copy dot scanners brought screened ad films into digital work flows. Two of its exposure systems landed the two biggest contracts in an industry that, after 20 years, was willing to believe computer-to-plate (CTP) output would work. Last month, however, the vendor said it will restructure around core markets that do not include newspapers. An executive indicated it is talking to at least one potential buyer of its newspaper business.

USA Today is Esko-Graphics' largest U.S. customer and only user of its CrescentNews, based on Gerber Systems' 3030 model. Belgium's Barco N.V. acquired Gerber in 1998 and developed that internal-drum machine largely for USA Today.

Needing high throughput more than high resolution, most U.S. CTP newspapers do not use drum imagers. Except for lower-volume USA Today sites, those that do use a DMX, from Purup-Eskofot AS, which also supplies some of them (and some film-to-plate sites) with EskoNet output-management software.

Developed by Eskofot AS and able to image at high resolution for commercial work, three DMX models also deliver high volumes (up to 270 broadsheet pages per hour) at a low resolution by quickly imaging a large surface area, from which an inline guillotine cuts two or three plates. The green-laser DMX's design permits fast field change to a violet laser, if needed.

In 1996, Eskofot merged with Purup Prepress AS, the graphic-arts unit of LMX AS, a part of Denmark's Lego Group, best known for its namesake plastic toy blocks and majority owner of the new company. Early last year, Purup-Eskofot merged with Barco, creating Esko-Graphics.

In 1999, the same year its future merger mate took an order for dozens of CrescentNews imagers, Purup-Eskofot sold 23 DMX systems to Investor's Business Daily (six more were sold after the merger to equip three more IBD print sites). Other U.S. sites include The Roanoke (Va.) Times, Florida Today in Melbourne, the Columbia (Mo.) Daily Tribune, and the Seattle Times Co.'s commercial-printing subsidiary.

"We were initially very concerned, but we've been assured that they will provide service -- I think they said for seven years," said Gerald H. Polk, IBD production chief. Still, the former Knight Ridder exec, who served as San Jose (Calif.) Mercury News operations vice president, said that, in the meantime, Esko-Graphics can be expected to raise service prices. …

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