New York printer com­pletes tran­si­tion to vi­o­let CTP

Newspapers & Technology Magazine - - Front Page - ▶ BY TARA MCMEEKIN CON­TRIBUT­ING WRITER

Stel­lar Print­ing of Long Is­land City, New York, tran­si­tioned from ther­mal to vi­o­let plate pro­duc­tion this sum­mer, in­stalling two vi­o­let Ad­van­tage plate­set­ters from Agfa.

Stel­lar pri­mar­ily prints news­pa­pers with press runs rang­ing from 500 to 500,000 copies. It also prints some mag­a­zine-style and book­let-style publi­ca­tions. Stel­lar’s big­gest ac­counts in­clude New York’s largest Span­ish-lan­guage news­pa­per, El Diario, and the Daily Rac­ing Form.

The first of the two Ad­van­tage N-DL XXT CTP plate­set­ters came on­line in early sum­mer, with the sec­ond unit fol­low­ing a few months later, ac­cord­ing to Pro­duc­tion Direc­tor Ron Chi­avaro. The printer is us­ing Agfa’s N95 vi­o­let chem­istry-free (VCF) plates and also in­stalled two At­tiro clean-out units.

Be­cause Stel­lar had such a large in­ven­tory of ther­mal con­sum­ables — about 15,000 plates — re­main­ing at that time, Chi­avaro said it con­tin­ued to phase out its ex­ist­ing plate­set­ters un­til those con­sum­ables were used up.

“We pre­vi­ously had four Ko­dak CTP de­vices and in or­der to use up our ex­ist­ing in­ven­tory, we ini­tially in­stalled just one of the Agfa units,” he told News & Tech. “We started it up with lim­ited plate pro­duc­tion, but we quickly got com­fort­able with it and tran­si­tioned more work over to it al­most im­me­di­ately.”

Mix of presses

Stel­lar op­er­ates six presses. To meet its de­mands for mag­a­zine-style publi­ca­tions with glossy cov­ers and sec­tions, it runs a sin­glewide QuadS­tack unit with a Prime UV tower, which it added about seven years ago. The rest of the shop is com­posed of sin­glewide DGM and Goss Com­mu­nity cold­set units.

In to­tal, Stel­lar is print­ing some 3 mil­lion copies per week at its fa­cil­ity.

“To ac­com­mo­date all of the dif­fer­ent kinds and sizes of publi­ca­tions — from 8-page to 64-page tabloids — we can run all black and white, all color, or a mix of both,” Chi­avaro said. “We also have a large bindery op­er­a­tion to ac­com­mo­date all of those prod­ucts.”

Some jobs are trimmed and stitched and some are sim­ply in­serted to­gether with­out stitch­ing.

Speed and reg­is­tra­tion gains

Chi­avaro said ther­mal pro­duc­tion was yield­ing be­tween 35 to 50 plates per hour and that each vi­o­let unit is now pro­duc­ing up to 150 pph. That has al­lowed the printer to ac­cept jobs from cus­tomers later and still get the plates out on time for a daily edi­tion.

“Be­tween the two ma­chines, we can have a 64-page tab out in min­utes,” he said.

Be­sides the gain in speed, Chi­avaro says he’s seen an im­prove­ment in color reg­is­tra­tion.

“I know this isn’t some­thing that’s no­tice­able to ev­ery­one, but it’s def­i­nitely ap­par­ent to me,” he said. “I am a be­liever in flatbed tech­nol­ogy, and saw an im­prove­ment af­ter the first de­vice was in­stalled. We im­me­di­ately elim­i­nated the in­con­sis­ten­cies and de­bris ac­cu­mu­la­tion that can oc­cur with a drum-based sys­tem, and makeover is at vir­tu­ally zero plates now.”

Floor space was an ini­tial con­cern with the flatbed con­struc­tion of the vi­o­let units, but the di­rect-load and smaller clean-out units ac­tu­ally meant in­creased floor space for the printer.

All of the pro­duc­tion benefits aside, Chi­avaro said switch­ing to vi­o­let was ul­ti­mately about chang­ing the mind­set of how Stel­lar does busi­ness with plate ven­dors. With the ris­ing cost of con­sum­ables be­ing an ever-present con­cern, he said Agfa of­fered at­trac­tive plate pric­ing and that the ven­dor took a unique ap­proach. With a five-year plate con­tract with Agfa, the equipment, ser­vice, main­te­nance  and parts were in­cluded in the price.

“At the end of five years we own that equipment, but we also have peace of mind know­ing we don’t need to work with mul­ti­ple sup­pli­ers to keep our equipment run­ning,” Chi­avaro said. “And with two ma­chines, we al­ways have plenty of ca­pac­ity if one of them goes down.”

He said Agfa also fac­tored the com­mod­ity of alu­minum into its pric­ing struc­ture. In­stead of the printer hav­ing to sell its scrap alu­minum, Agfa ac­counts for that in the ini­tial price of the plate and ar­ranges for a re­cy­cler to come and pick it up.

“We don’t have to wait to get that money back when we sell the scrap be­cause Agfa ac­counts for that from the be­gin­ning,” he said. “This is a new and unique ap­proach.”

Stay­ing com­pet­i­tive

Ul­ti­mately, Chi­avaro said the new tech­nol­ogy is an­other step in al­low­ing the printer to re­main com­pet­i­tive in the fierce New York com­mer­cial print­ing mar­ket. While many news­pa­per pub­lish­ers them­selves have re­couped sig­nif­i­cant rev­enues by tran­si­tion­ing to com­mer­cial print­ing, that trend has taken its toll on tra­di­tional print­ers.

“We’re no longer com­pet­ing with other com­mer­cial print­ers but with news­pa­pers that have taken on that role,” he said. “It can be dif­fi­cult to com­pete with those news­pa­pers that al­ready have an in-house la­bor force that can fa­cil­i­tate the print­ing of out­side jobs dur­ing what used to be idle time.”

Chi­avaro said that while he’s seen many smaller com­mer­cial print­ers in the New York mar­ket close their doors, Stel­lar has been more for­tu­nate thanks to its size and ca­pac­ity.

“We’ve been able to hold our own,” he added. To fur­ther en­sure its com­pet­i­tive edge, Chi­avaro said Stel­lar is con­stantly eval­u­at­ing other up­grades. For the fore­see­able fu­ture, the printer will keep its eye on tech­nolo­gies re­lated specif­i­cally to press up­dates. Reg­is­tra­tion is an area where the printer has al­ready made im­prove­ments, and it will con­tinue to look at op­por­tu­ni­ties for ad­di­tional im­prove­ments, he said.

The printer will also eval­u­ate any ad­di­tional im­prove­ments that make sense, in­clud­ing soft­proof­ing and damp­en­ing sys­tem up­grades, Chi­avaro said.

Stel­lar prints news­pa­pers with press runs rang­ing from 500 to 500,000 copies, as well as mag­a­zinestyle and book­let-style publi­ca­tions.

The first of Stel­lar Print­ing's two Ad­van­tage N-DL XXT CTP plate­set­ters came on­line in early sum­mer, with the sec­ond unit fol­low­ing a few months later.

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