Emission-free, carbon footprints and clean technology are the most coined and discussed words these days in the printing industry. With the pace of technology travelling the express way, Computer to Plate is also obviously catching up on the trend and today fully automated and high speed CtP machines is what making waves in the market.
As credentials are rising for ‘green’ printing resources, printers are finding a huge rise in demand for chemistry-free/processless plates. Though ‘green norms’ are highly recommended by regulatory authorities and government bodies, cheer leaders of this technology are rather customers, who have now become very particular in reducing their carbon emissions or footprints.
But these days developed countries are rather termed saturated in terms of adapting to new technologies and trends though industry experts opine that the market is still alive and is waiting for a replacement phase, where existing machines and technologies will be replaced with newer and better ones.
According to specialists in this field, a major reason why printers are reluctant to switch back to advanced options is the cost factor. Existing CtP users are not interested in shelling out that extra amount for fully automated technologies, and rather would wait till the time for the next upgrade.
Chemistry free plates or processless plates are the in-things in CtP business. A major attraction of using chem- free plates is that they reduce the additional cost burden on printers. With recession casting its shadow on print business, print shop owners are looking for methods to reduce their cost of production. By using chemistry on plates, printers have to pay for the chemistry, its disposal costs, maintenance and further material costs.
Whereas, processless plates reduces chemical dependency and the plates done on it are relatively safer for the user and the environment. It also streamlines production and makes runs shorter. With the entrance of newer technologies, more and more commercial printers are now lured into processless and chemistry free CtP plates, which helps in saving cost, energy, water and the chemistry used.
ME Printer magazine roped in some high flyers in the region to know their opinion on the latest trends in the CtP market. Read on to know what the industry has to say about the developments in the CtP arena.
Marc Van Braekel, Regional Sales Manager/GS Sales Direct Export of AGFA Graphics, while talking about the happening trends in the print industry said, “The European and US CTP markets are often considered saturated but I don’t agree because technology and trends in these markets tend to change after each major industry announcement. More and more companies are now following the environmental guidelines set by government bodies and prefer to stick to eco- friendly solutions. Developing countries are also following the ‘green’ trend but they still have a long way to go.”
While Youssef Moguib, President of Ahmed Moguib Youssef & Co., suppliers of AGFA in Egypt opined, “The market in Egypt is developing, especially the printing field. The high literacy and population rates (around 85 million) have helped in driving the growth forward. Every day we see a new set of students going to schools and universities and this creates demand for printing. We expect further growth in the CTP market within the next few years.”
Charlie Seccombe, Commercial Manager at FFEI observed, “Print industry is growing in developing countries. Improved literacy rates and the fact that print still offers the best way for advertisers to reach their audience, continues to drive the demand for print and print related products.”
While according to Roger Nicodeme, General Manager, Sales, Heidelberg Gulf Establishment, “The CtP market is not becoming saturated. Technology and customer requirements are changing fast. Today CtP’s are becoming faster, they use more and more chemical free plates leaving behind smaller foot prints and have options to improve resolution and plate handling. Customers are now changing their old CtP’s and even buying new ones to improve their productivity.”
Explaining the latest trends in the CtP market, Marc Van Braekel said, “As a multinational, we are concentrating on the cornerstone of our business, which is consistency in the production of consumables. Secondly, we keep on upgrading and updating our commercial and NP software, which is our main entry ticket to new business arenas. When it comes to existing accounts, we provide guidance on the newer version and support it by giving local and international training sessions.” Meanwhile, Youssef Moguib noted, “Globally, CTP manufacturers are developing their systems. For example, in the newspaper industry we can see that companies like AGFA have developed violet CTP systems that can produce up to 350 plates per hour.” Youssef added, “In the commercial market, we are seeing developments in terms of speed and quality. One of the most important developments is the chem free CTP systems. AGFA offers chem. free plates for all types of CTPs, including chem. free photopolymer and chem. free Azura system.”
Charlie Seccombe of FFEI opined that a lot of developments will happen in the CTP workflow and software arena. “Most technological improvements are done for enhancing technology, reducing cost and improving speed. The associated workflow software that drives the CTP will continue to evolve at breakneck speed,” he added.
Challenges in CTP Market
The CtP market has witnessed many updates in terms of technology and trends. Competition and price factor have always led CtP manufacturers to offer their best in this market place. Commenting on the challenges, Marc Van Braekel said, “As AGFA is a major player in this field, we have always been attacked by other players in this segment. A major challenge that we face at the moment is price erosion. Despite the odds, we have been able to counter the continuous price erosion and sell our products at its marked value.”
Youssef Moguib added, “There are a lot of new CtP plate manufacturers coming from the Far East, who offer medium quality CtP plates at very low prices. We are also forced to compete with major CtP manufacturers, who offer their machines at very low prices just to increase their cash inflows, and of course the global recession also posed serious challenges.”
Charlie Seccombe also agreed that recession affected the market to a great extent, “The global economic downfall made its impact on the CtP market as well. In addition, the reluctance of banks to lend and finance new equipments was also a major hurdle.” Roger Nicodeme believes that CtP should be integrated with the press to ensure better efficiency. “Some customers ignore the importance of workflow and they still don’t connect the CtP operations with the press. Instead they compare prices and forget about the overall productivity and how much a proper solution would save them.”
Ecological Solutions and Trends
Marc van Braekel says that environmental solutions will dominate the market if the government takes a strong stand to promote green printing. “Chem free solutions are gaining popularity in this region as well. They are not only ‘green’ but offer printers a faster ROI, easier operation, less water consumption, less footprint etc.” He added, “Last drupa some new ideas were introduced in this field but it is still future music. So one has to concentrate on what we are doing today.”
Talking about the trends in the Egyptian market, Youssef Moguib said, “Customers in Egypt are becoming more interested on environmental friendly printing and eco-friendly products. However, not enough awareness is been created to make customers shift from the normal CtP plates to chem. free ones. Nevertheless, major customers in the public sector have started shifting to chem. free plates believing in the necessity of this step and because of the future impact it will have on their business.” He added, “I think that there is a need to develop short run CtP plates with an affordable price tag, in order to compete with the digital printing systems that are entering the market place.”
Charlie Seccombe thinks that environmental issues are very much dependent on the market one trades in, “There is an increasing popularity for Chem free plates across all markets. However, as far as environmental preferences are concerned, it all depends on the requirements and laws prevailing in the local market.”
Pointing out to the ease of handling chem. fee plates, Roger Nicodeme explained, “Customers prefer to have chemical free plates because disposing chemicals from a conventional plate is quite expensive. Not only that, chemistry free plates rank much higher in performance and are available at an affordable price.” Tracking the recent developments in this sector, Roger opined, “The biggest challenge in this sector is in improving the handling and increasing the print volume of the plates. Plate manufacturers are working hard to improve the performance of CtP’s and plates. Chemical free plates image faster and the images are now visible even before exposing the plate on the printing machine.”
In developing countries, customers still go by the Computer to Film technique and are now gradually turning to CtP systems. Marc Van Braekel explained the reason, “There are still many printers in this region, who use Computer to Film technology. During recent years, we have observed a drop in film sales but not as steep as before. Today there is a decrease in the amount of suppliers and even now film and conventional plates are preferred when it comes to reprints.” Marc added, “Service and training are the major stepping stones of our success, which we effectively apply in our partnerships as well. We have been here for a long time, since 1894, and we intend to be here for a long period to come.”
Youssef Moguib said that many printers in Egypt still prefer CtF, mainly because of the cost factor. “We have printers, who still use Computer to Film technology because they don’t have the capital to allocate for a CtP device. Most of the repro houses that give service to printing presses also find it difficult to store the CtP plates, while they find storing films more convenient.” Youssef opined that though CtP has to make inroads into the Egyptian market, his customers rate CtP as a beneficial tool, as it helps in reducing cost, labour, provides better quality, is environmental friendly and is easy to use.
Charlie Seccombe says that the number of CtFs has reduced steadily during the past years and there is more demand for CtP systems in the region. But Roger Nicodeme opines that a complete change is yet to happen in the Middle East region. “Most of our customers have already moved to CtP. Even then, some still use films to image the flexo plate. Now there are only very few suppliers who manufacture films.” He continued, “As far as customers are concerned, they are happy with the current CtP technology, but they are looking for much cheaper plate options. We are getting more and more request for chemical free plates, as customers today want to save as much as possible and chemistry free plates help them to gain on the cost factor.”