New York printer completes transition to violet CTP
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.”
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.