CTP: violet grabs 53% of market share

Friday, September 16, 2011

CTP sales are bullish, according to Samir Lukka and Ramu Ramanathan. And the total projection of new CTP platesetter sales in India by various vendors ranges from 900 to 1,200 units till 2015

With the installation of the Alinte 8 High Definition at Hi Tech Printing Services, Mumbai, TechNova crossed an impressive 250 installations of CTP units in the last two-year period. The total number of TechNova’s installations are more than 800 which includes 413 PoliJet CTPs (an entry-level inkjet CTP solution). The rest include FFEI, Agfa and Screen violet and thermal systems.

Combined, these three brands from the TechNova stable account for the largest installed base of CTP systems in India.

Last year, TechNova sold the highest number of FFEI CTP systems worldwide which got them the coveted outstanding contribution award from FFEI. In addition, the company added DotLine violet CTP systems for the newspaper segment.

The violet influx has seen Fujililm India, who had a late start in the Indian market, catching up in the race of CTP installations. It has installed more than 100 CTP systems with the recent Luxel V6 installation at AV process in Pune and FFEI Alinte 4 at Aalishan Scan Graphics at Jabalpur in Maharashtra.

According to an update from Malhotra Graphics who have been dealers for FFEI and Luxel V series models from Fujifilm for the western region, there have been six refurbished Fujifilm CTP systems sold too. Jayant Pardiwala, the erstwhile "Screen man" now has Cron under his portfolio for CtCP systems. Apart from Nippon, Crystal Digital Solutions which introduced Cron in India is also entering the UV CTP market offering basysPrint. Pardiwala also represents Kodak, Dotline and Luscher.

T P Jain’s Monotech which represents basysPrint (UV), Highwater (violet), Screen (thermal) Xante (violet) has completed around 250 installations of CTP platesetters from its complete protfolio. According to Monotech, basysPrint has notched up 180 installations and Highwater has around 32 installations, from which Monotech has installed 24. Out of this 24, 17 units were sold under distribution arrangements with TechNova and marketed as VioStar H series. Monotech also has 22 installations of Xante apart from three Screen CTP systems after its recent partnership.
Similarly Proteck who represented Screen thermal CTP systems, installed 385 systems in up to 2009 and were expected to sell 70 more in 2010. The total estimated base is estimated at 450 CTP installations till date. Interestingly enough, Proteck transferred it’s CTP sales and service business to TechNova in mid-2010. Mumbai’s Vijay Process became the first owner of a Screen 8600M, the new generation platesetter marketed by TechNova.
One of the big three, Agfa merged its graphics business in India with TechNova in 2009-10. Agfa’s Advantage range of solutions has been the most preferred and dependable choice in the newspaper segment.
Kodak is tight-lipped about its market projections. But it is quite clear that they are having a good run with support from Pardiwala’s Nippon Color and Insight Communications. As per our market report there are more than 250 Kodak CTP systems in the commercial market with eight of them installed in the western region in 2011. This is based on the number of Kodak Prinergy systems being installed.

Most of Kodak’s growth came during the channel transition of Screen. Kodak has been forging ahead with three CTP systems in commercial segment and one CTP platesetter in a newspaper unit in Punjab and Chandigarh. In Bengaluru, Kodak has installed nine CTP platesetters in the commercial segment.
Today, Kodak offers thermal. This is unlike TechNova or Fuji which maintains their technology neutral stance offering the entire spectrum of thermal, violet, inkjet chemfree plates.

It is interesting to note that Kodak India has opened a new offset plate finishing and packaging operation facility in Goa. According to Kodak officials, the offset plate finishing and packaging operation will cut and supply any size of offset plate that is required without having to order specific sizes from China or Europe. We suspect Kodak shall unveil bigger plans about this plant in 2012 – the Drupa year.
Heidelberg’s Suprasetter has 25 installations in the western region with three installed in 2011.

CTP is a mature market
Today, everyone understands the benefits of CTP, even if they don’t yet have a platesetter. Therefore the previous arguments, which compared it to film, of first generation dot and register accuracy are rapidly declining. Indian print industry is getting aware about the ease of use of a CTP and the fact that it can upgrade easily if someone starts with an entry-level device. With the increased rate of adoption for CTP, now the argument caters to which technology (thermal, violet, UV) should one prefer.

In 2002, the question among every printing company was whether to own a system or not. That mindset has changed. Now print CEOs are acutely aware of its immediate need. Rapid digitisation of content, simplicity of workflow, improved colour and overall quality and efficiency, vanishing imagesetter film, lower cost of ownership than conventional methods and choice of technology based on application needs has fuelled rapid adoption of CTP since 2008.

Readers will recollect that 2008 was Drupa year and Andrew Tribute stuck his neck out in favour of violet. In India, the violet advantage was accrued from TechNova’s plant in Taloja which is capable of 36 million sq/metres of plates. And so to a great extent, 2008 was the year in which violet’s commercial avatar shook the popular myths and beliefs and went on to become a popular technology across platforms. Choice of technology became solely dependent on applications and not merely quality parameters.

There is no doubt that diode developments are driving violet to marginalise thermal technology in the CTP space.  Although, it has taken a while for the formulations of visible light photopolymer plate coatings to catch up with thermal plates, now the earlier limitations of dot-gain and resolution have been overcome. For instance: introduction of high-definition violet platesetters from FFEI have made violet CTP results indistinguishable from thermal.

According to PrintWeek India, the purchase of new CTP machines saw violet grabbing 53% of the market share for FY10–FY11. In comparison, thermal was 34% and the rest with UV for the same financial year. However, due to the legacy installation of commercial segment which was mostly thermal as violet was in its infancy, the total base still shows higher volume of thermal. There was a staggering number of refurbished system entering the market in 2009-10, which is showing gradual signs of weakening as new systems get more affordable.  

The total projection of new platesetter sales in India by various vendors ranges from 900 to 1,200 units till FY 2015, which is rather impressive for a maturing technology like CTP.  
Improvement in quality
The main reasons of increasing violet CTP installations have been speed, improving diode technology and the cost. All of which are a necessity for a packaging printer. Another reason for the violet boom in the Indian print industry has been the TechNova factory in Taloja which has aggressively marketed and installed violet CTP solutions. When the violet plant was set-up in 2008, the managing director and chairman of TechNova, Pranav Parikh said: "TechNova is providing end-to-end solutions, which includes plates, inks, and platesetters. This has become a must for the Indian print industry, which is witnessing a very exciting growth period. Print firms have taken a quantum leap in terms of the quality of the print applications."

Contrary to popular belief the main reason for increasing violet CTP installations has been quality and robustness along with lowest cost of ownership. When we spoke to Noble Printing in Mumbai, Nebula in Goa, Antartica in Kolkata or TCPL in Haridwar their answer for choosing violet for their packaging application was the robustness of the plates on press and simplicity of the device.

Temple Packaging in Daman prefer top of the line Luscher Xpose. But high definition devices from FFEI are now making in-roads in high-end packaging applications due to in-built features. Another critical reason for the use of violet devices is, it is future ready to accept chemfree plates which eliminates the use of harmful developer and water. This entices new converts and green firms like Bhabani Offset & Imaging Systems in Guwahati.

When we spoke to Jayant Pardiwala, at the height of the thermal CTP boom, he seemed to suggest that there is a pattern of repetition about the thermal CTP’s adoption in India. Platesetters were installed at premium cost and the cost of plates and such were exorbitant. Thermal digital plates technology became the mainstream market choice in India, after the availability of plates were ensured.

We see similar trends in violet. With the quality debate being 50-50, print firms have started to veer towards specific applications. And the pet issue: lower cost of ownership.
PrintWeekIndia Awards 2010 (and now 2011) witnessed this quality shift. Jwalamukhi, a Bengaluru-based mid volume print firm which worked with conventional plates till 2009 upgraded to CTP. The CEO of the print firm feels, "CTP has made the print image sharper and crisper, the colour saturation is much more and the registration has improved substantially as compared to film. Above all, dot reproduction is excellent. Due to the first generation image being created on the plate, the screen is printed clean and the dots are sharper. And so, the print looks much cleaner. It’s much more affordable." This sums up the mood and sentiments of a CTP buyer.

Indian printing industry might be consuming approximately 25-30 million sq/metres of factory-made plates. India continues to witness huge consumption of PS plates and other categories which is potential for conversion. In fact when the PrintWeek India team visited Sivakasi, we found the print city consumes a staggering 40,000 square/metres of wipe on plates. A majority of Sivakasi’s 370 printers re-grain their plates at a flat rate of Rs 15 per plate!

Chandan Naik of Transtech Press Products adds: "The refurbished plates in India is viable for the lower-end printers." He states, the number of print companies using recycled plates for low-end black and white work is huge. He is very doubtful if these segments shall migrate to any of the CTP avatars, soon. We feel these segments (including conventional plates) will encounter declining growth rates.

Even world numbers are expected to take a beating with conventional plate usage falling from 227square/metres per million in 2008 to 173 square/metres million in 2013.

Conclusion: A CTP investment, a decision that has to be made
Sometimes we tend to under-value the significance of CTP in India. For example, the sales of platesetters internationally has declined by -4.1% in ’08. This was the first big dip for CTP since it was commercialised and launched. India showed the way. Of course this was due to the big investments by the Indian newspaper houses (Times of India, The Hindu, Dainik Jagran, Divya Bhaskar) which we haven’t discussed in this report. Today, with TechNova bundling third-party platesetters along with the plates, they have began to enjoy a 75% market-share in 2011.

If there’s any roadblock to CTP installations in the high-end segment, it is expected to come from digital presses. If digital presses can up the ante, and offer commercially viable 30 -inch devices (HP, MGI, Oce), it opens up the medium-run segment to inkjet production. Improved cost efficiency could pitch these systems into the offset realm soon.

We live in interesting times; and the future is always unknown.


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