Switching to processless plates ought to be a no brainer, since they are far kinder to the environment than conventional plates. The decision should be not whether to do it, but whose plates to go for. Agfa, Fujifilm and Kodak are the top developers and manufacturers of this technology so the investment decision isn’t too complicated. But Kodak has just made it easier with the introduction of a plate savings estimator for its Sonora process free plates.
There are over 4,000 users of Sonora worldwide, estimated to be about a quarter of the total number of printing companies using processless plates. Kodak expects one in three of the plates the company sells to be processless by the end of 2019.
There are lots of reasons to switch from conventional plate processing, not least the additional cost in equipment, consumables and time required. To the costs of chemicals and the processing units, add energy, manpower and space. The chemical processing can also create variabilities, which could end up being very expensive if remakes are required. Doing away with all of these limitations, plus the maintenance and associated downtime hassles, can yield financial gains as well as process efficiencies. Getting plates on press faster also helps to improve press usage, which maximises returns on equipment investments.
The economic arguments for processless plates are clear for plants where average print runs are relatively short, but this technology keeps on improving and offerings from all three manufacturers are good for well over 100,000 impressions. The environmental impacts matter more for print’s sustainability credentials. Losing the chemicals and processing equipment can improve the working environment for operators, reducing risk as well. The wider environment obviously gains because energy usage is lower. Fewer hazardous wastes need to be disposed of, so there is the added benefit of reduced transport and associated processing emissions.
The Kodak calculator is very simple, and estimates can be in one of sixteen currencies. The calculations are based on the annual amount of plates used, based on square feet and whether the printing plant has high or low chemistry usage. What counts as high or low isn’t specified and it would be good to have an option to provide the usage information in square metres. Most of the world uses metres rather than feet and printers might be put off if they have to do the conversion on their own. Either way, check out the Kodak estimator online at: