Printmates has become the first UK printer to use the new Azura TS from Agfa Graphics, and is one of only five users worldwide to be involved in alpha trials of the chemistry-free plate.
The Redhill-based company was an early adopter of the original Azura plate after replacing its ageing visible light platesetter with a new Agfa Acento S thermal machine.
It decided on chemistry-free after reviewing waste care costs, while at the same time, noticing a trend towards CSR among its clients.
Managing director Neil Martin, who founded the business in 1984 with his father, said: "Living and working in Surrey, you become very aware of the environment and increasingly our customers, particularly travel companies, were looking at the green credentials of their suppliers.
"We had heard about processless and first tested a plate that required on-press coating removal, but it lacked a visible image and needed protection from daylight, whereas the Azura had good contrast and was ready for press like a normal plate."
He added: "We often proof read and make initial ink settings from the plate so visibility matters. We were pretty satisfied with the colour change on the original plate but Azura TS is deep blue, which gives an even more pronounced visible image.
"Like a lot of B2 printers we are seeing a greater use of colour and at the same time shorter runs so we often need a lot of plates in a short space of time, the extra productivity is welcome and will help take the pressure off the pre-press department."
Since commencing the Alpha trials, Agfa has subsequently moved into Beta testing, adding a further two UK test sites and others across Europe and the US.
Plate product manager Mike Loose said the launch of Azura TS would prove an important milestone in the progress of chemistry-free platemaking.
He said: "When we launched Azura at Drupa 2004, we were asking customers to put a toe in the water, however it is now mainstream technology and there are now more than 200 UK users.
"The bulk of new installs are chemistry-free and at the same time a lot of existing users now feel confident to convert from processed.
The successful trials at Printmates means we are on course for a Drupa release of Azura TS, which completes the circle for thermal users. With beta tests starting on Azura V, we will also have a chemistry-free plate for violet laser users."