The Sweet Lowdown
"If your press is 85 percent efficient and computer-to-plate (CTP) can give you another five percent boost," asks Marc Johnson, "Why wait?"
Johnson, the product line marketing manager for off-press imaging at Presstek (www.presstek.com), says CTP technology is the holy grail for printing. "We've gone through a shift," he acknowledges. "Film imagesetters are drying-up. In the largest-size shops, you almost reach saturation in the market."
Johnson attributes CTP's success to three simple improvements: better imaging, more affordable production costs and faster turnaround time.
"Once you've gone to a digital workflow," he says, "the big question is how do you proof digitally? And what do you do about dot proofing?" Ink-jet printers have supplemented film proofs. "The quality is a non-issue. We're seeing tools coming out that simulate dots, like Best Color (www.bestcolor.com), so you can see if a moray will happen," he notes.
"What a publisher wants—and can get—is a solution that, when given to the printer, makes it look how the final product will look."
He explains, "If USA Today wasn't printing directly to press, they wouldn't be able to work right up to deadline." This means that advertisers and editorial departments can make changes digitally, previously a prohibitively expensive proposition for film-based workflows.
In due time
Whereas CTP was once considered a costly transition, publishers such as McGraw-Hill (www.mcgraw-hill.com) are now reaping the benefits. Cheryl Horch, manager of new book production admits that during the first two years after converting to CTP, there was no real cost advantage. "But now," says Horch, "there's a huge savings this year."
She reports that registration is better and schedules have been improved. "Our printer is also more efficient with our files," explains Horch. "We have a set standard file format. We're in PDF workflow." In fact, McGraw-Hill's one- and two-color titles are now 100 percent CTP. And she says by the end of this year, four-color titles will also be produced digitally.