Greg Shurman, general manager – printing, says, "We needed plates to be made at 300+ plates per hour in peak periods to allow us to at least achieve the throughput we get from the current analogue platemaking system. We also needed to allow for growth in platemaking volume without affecting press start deadlines.
"We decided to invest in four platemaking lines to ensure peak hourly requirements could be comfortably met whilst providing an appropriate level of operational redundancy. The company had already had extremely positive experience in the Kodak CtP environment at its commercial printing operation, although editorial-to-press deadlines are nothing like those which apply when printing a metropolitan daily newspaper with one of the largest distribution areas in the world."
The West Australian has a current circulation of 210,000 copies for the weekday editions and 385,000 for its Saturday edition, which averages around 500 pages and has more than one million readers.
While the company recognised it would benefit from CtP quality and platemaking speed potential, the cost per plate also had to be justified in comparison to the current film-to-plate environment. Research confirmed the Trendsetter News 200 throughput speed was clearly capable of making the plates required to meet deadlines, at a cost which could be easily justified.
Maximising operator efficiency was a further goal that could be successfully achieved with investment in a CtP programme for WAN’s upgraded production operation. "Once again, our investment in Kodak platemaking equipment at our commercial printing operation had shown us the very high level of efficiency achievable," Shurman says.
"With increasing market expectations of consistently high quality print reproduction, we believed we must invest in platemaking equipment which would allow us to take full advantage of computer-to-plate technology. The issue became a choice between violet light and thermal technologies.
"Our view was that whilst violet light offered some cost advantages and was capable of producing a consistently high quality dot on plate, the benefits to our company from a further investment in thermal technology were clearly evident in the sharpness of the printed images we were getting from our existing Trendsetters."
WAN will team the Kodak Trendsetter News platesetters with two products manufactured by Nela: Automatic plate preloaders that allow reliable unattended operation once they have been loaded with plates, which consequently reduces labour costs, and Vision punch/benders to increase production throughput while at the same time reducing plate handling.
"Whilst all of the manufacturers’ CtP systems we considered could achieve the essential platemaking requirements we’d set, Kodak’s system with its SQUAREspot technology offers greater potential for superior quality print reproduction to be achieved on newspaper presses than could ever have been envisaged in a film-to-plate environment," says Shurman.
The machine-to-machine accuracy of the SQUAREspot thermal imaging heads, combined with the binary nature of thermal newspaper plates, achieves consistent and repeatable halftone dot structures. Dot shape and size are maintained on plate, despite changes in the location of the exposure threshold caused by normal variations in plate coating, processing, or laser intensity.
The laser spot, like the thermal plate, is effectively digital. As there is no variable dot gain or loss, no special calibration strategies, maintenance, or on-press compensation are required. If tone reproduction curves are needed for specific press requirements, they can be applied reliably and consistently. Plates can be optimised for individual jobs and makeready is faster with less wastage.
The precision of the SQUAREspot thermal imaging technology combined with the unrivalled consistency and quality offered by Staccato screening software were significant factors in WAN’s choice. Staccato screening produces high-fidelity, artifact-free images that exhibit fine detail without halftone rosettes, screening moiré, gray-level limitations, or abrupt jumps in tone – with no impact on RIP’ing or rendering time. The pseudo-random nature of Staccato halftone patterns also means that image degradation from misregistration is minimised.
To allow the plate processing workload to be managed across the system, WAN has also ordered the TIFF Load Balancing module of Kodak’s NewsManager software. As this software is based on open standards, it is easy to integrate into existing systems. A load-balancing workflow is important to maximise resource usage and ensure maximum throughput. Jobs are automatically routed to machines with different plate sizes and work is automatically re-allocated if a device fails.
Greg Shurman sees the installation of the four Kodak Trendsetter News platesetters fitting well with WAN’s upcoming commissioning of the double-width KBA Colora press line and single-width semi-commercial Comet press. “It will equip the company with the resources required to meet the demands of the market for improved quality of presentation. CtP technology will also contribute to on-time delivery of the newspaper to our distribution system, which will mean home-delivery readers will receive their copy at a consistently early time.
“Additionally, advertising material will be reproduced to plate at a consistent high quality level of repeatability. This combined with the new presses will deliver the print reproduction expectations of advertisers to their target markets,” he says.
Once the installation is completed in the third quarter this year, WAN is expecting significant improvement in platemaking efficiency with the capacity increasing to 800 punched, bent thermal plates per hour. A safe operating environment for the company’s employees, as well as consistent quality of plates delivered to press, are also seen as major benefits. “Our printers can rely on using plates which will allow the printing process to be optimised from plate-up through to delivery of the printed product,” says Shurman.
Kodak Trendsetter News thermal CtP systems have been successfully used by newspaper printers of all sizes around the world since their introduction five years ago, originally under the Creo moniker prior to Kodak’s acquisition of the Canadian manufacturer last year. At the end of 2006 the 500th device was installed at The Augusta Chronicle. This milestone attests to Kodak’s commitment to the newspaper market through continuous R&D and dedicated sales and support.
“Kodak has demonstrated to WAN that its local and national service capability and effectiveness can ensure continuity of business operation to provide us with the technology and services we need to grow our business,” Shurman concludes. “This, plus our positive experience with Kodak products and service in our commercial operation convinced us of the high level of efficiency and quality of printed product that is achievable.”