Agfa’s award-winning ThermoFuse technology has been around for over five years and since its introduction in products like chemistry-free :Azura and its development-free brother :Amigo, the technology has already helped over 2500 printers worldwide to make their plate production less complex, more stable and, most important, less wastefulJust as computer-to-plate eliminated the variables that come with film imaging, processing and copying to plate, Agfa’s ThermoFuse technology has made it possible to do away with any remaining variables resulting from conventional computer-to-plate imaging and processing.
ThermoFuse, such as it is used in Agfa’s :Azura plate, is the next level of digital platemaking. There are no chemicals in the process. The laser and the laser only forms the printing image, and nothing affects it after exposure.
ThermoFuse enables digital platemaking without chemical processing and offers a growth path to truly processfree CtP.
Computer to Plate: How Digital?
Digital plate imaging such as it is used in current computer-to-plate systems forms a latent image on the plate using the heat or the light of a laser. This image is latent, which means it is not yet ready for printing. It may or may not be clearly visible on the plate. Chemical development transforms the latent image into a durable printing image such as it is needed for offset printing.
Although chemical plate development is an automated and tightly controlled process, it remains an essentially analogue step. The affect of the chemistry on the image varies depending on the temperature and exhaustion of the chemicals, the speed at which the plate travels through the processing unit, the thoroughness with which the plate is rinsed and treated with preservative gum and optionally, pre-heat or pre-wash steps. Chemical processing is analogue rather than truly digital. No matter how tightly you control it, it is only accurate within tolerances.
How does ThermoFuse work?
In conventional CtP systems, the heat or light from the laser hits the sensitised layers of the plate and forms a latent image. This may or may not be visible, but it is not physically durable. Next, the plate is developed. Plate development is the chemical process that is needed after imaging to make the latent image stable and durable.
ThermoFuse imaging, unlike conventional CtP, does not rely on adapted analogue processes. Using the high power of today’s lasers, ultrafine thermoplastic particles are melted and fused together to create a durable image on the aluminium plate substrate in one single, digital step.
This image does not need development. It is ready immediately after imaging. No subsequent steps can alter it in any way. The image that is formed on the plate is precisely the image that will be printed on press. In other words, ThermoFuse is 100 per cent binary.
The only thing left to do after imaging is to remove unused latex in the non-image areas in a cleanout step. ThermoFuse uses a single-layer coating, and immediately under the latex is the aluminium printing surface.
The benefits of ThermoFuse
A plate made with ThermoFuse imaging does not require chemical processing. Although this is not true processless CtP, the immediate benefits are plain to see. It eliminates variables and provides a non-ablative aluminium plate with excellent press behaviour.
ThermoFuse has been conceived with ecology in mind. The plates have very thin single-layer coatings of aqueous solutions. Their thermoplastic (latex) particles are chemically inert. The pH of :Azura cleaning gum, for instance, is close to that of tap water. Gum contains no alkaline or corrosive agents or solvents.
ThermoFuse is also non-ablative. As with all thermal CtP systems, some unwanted ablation occurs, but it is at such a low level that there is no risk to the operator or the environment.
ThermoFuse technology has been around since 2000, when Agfa first introduced the :Thermolite plate for on-press imaging. :Thermolite is in use on over 100 direct imaging presses and is well accepted by the market. :Azura was introduced at drupa 2004. It is imaged in a thermal platesetter at 830 nm with an online gumming step to clean out non-image areas.
Growth path to true processfree
ThermoFuse is a broad technology platform. Currently, two types of plate are available, but the technology has potential for many more that share the benefits of simplicity, predictability and environmental friendliness. Thermofuse is the most likely direction for a true processless CtP system in the future.
Spotlight: :Azura TS
Azura TS is a thermal, negative working plate for low/medium volume commercial printing where simplicity, robustness and reliability are important. It provides the high quality thermal imaging without chemical processing.
Elimination of chemistry removes all process variables and simplifies platemaking, giving clear, consistent results and users of :Azura TS benefit from one of the simplest, most reliable and predictable CtP technologies ever created.
The :Azura TS utilises ThermoFuse technology to physically bond images to the plate without any chemical processing. The result is highly stable and predictable thermal imaging, without any compromises on the press.
This built-in simplicity gives :Azura TS users an inherently wide working latitude with fewer variables and higher reliability than other forms of CtP. Agfa recommends :Azura TS technology for printers who require the ultimate in predictable, stress-free, CtP technology. Because it requires no chemical processing, it reduces waste and eliminates prepress steps, helping create a more streamlined workflow. :Azura TS is an excellent option for low/medium throughput thermal CtP users. It is available in sizes for 2-up, 4-up and 8-up printing applications. :Azura TS can hold up to 2-98 per cent screen tints at 200 LPI, and delivers runs of up to 100K, depending on press conditions.
Benefits of ThermoFuse
• 100 per cent binary
• Aluminium printing surface
• Non ablative
• Technology available today
• Real step towards processless CtP
• Easy to use
• Visible printing image
• Eliminates the variables of conventional CtP
• Cleaning/preservative gum but no developer
Agfa Graphics challenges Aussie printers to find the Golden Printing Plate
Agfa Graphics has launched a global hunt for 25 golden printing plates hidden in its plate deliveries, as part of a global campaign celebrating the fifth anniversary of its award-winning ThermoFuse technology. Commemorating the success of products like :Azura and :Amigo, Agfa is asking its customers to pay close attention when opening their plate deliveries as they might contain a very nice surprise.
There are 25 first prizes of a decoratively framed and personalised golden printing plate and 200 prizes of a convenient and modern water purification can. Prizes are not physically added to deliveries, but are represented by vouchers which are redeemable through Agfa representatives for actual prizes. “As the world’s leader in ecology-friendly CtP systems, we strongly believe in the importance of water,” says Koni Neuhofer, business manager Prepress at Agfa Graphics Oceania. “Actually we consider water to be as precious as gold. That’s why we have selected these prizes to celebrate ThermoFuse’s birthday.”
The Golden Plate campaign has begun and runs until all golden plates are found. Practical details about the campaign can be found on Agfa’s website at: www.agfa.com/graphics/goldenplate.