Star product: Fujifilm Superia LH-S2

By Nessan Cleary, Monday 13 August 2018

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Fujifilm has developed this low-chemistry offset plate as a halfway step between processed and processless technologies.

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What does it do?

Fujifilm’s Superia LH-S2 is a thermal printing plate designed for use for general commercial applications on offset presses. It’s billed as a low-chemistry plate as once imaged it requires just a gum developed clean out, rather than traditional processing chemistry. Essentially it has the ease of use of working with a processless approach but with the robust plate handling of a processed plate. The LH-S2 is manufactured at Fuji’s Tilburg plate line in the Netherlands.

When was it launched and what market is it aimed at?

It became commercially available this April throughout the UK and Europe. There are two main target markets. The first is commercial printers that are looking to simplify their plate processing but are not yet ready to make the leap into processless working. Sean Lane, product group manager for offset solutions for Fujifilm Europe, says: “It’s a reaction to the feedback from the market where customers found the transition from processed to processless quite difficult so we are trying to make that journey a little easier.”

Of course, it could be argued that Afga has already done this with its Azura plates, so the second market is to persuade those printers already using the Azura plates to switch. The advantage of the Fujifilm LH-S2 plate is that it’s not susceptible to the ablation dust that is inevitably produced when the laser from the CTP device hits the surface of a plate. This ablated dust can contaminate the lens and filters on the platesetter. However, Fujifilm applies an overcoat layer, which was originally developed for its photopolymer violet plates, and which protects against this dust.

How does it work?

The Superia LH-S2 plate is a derivative of Fujifilm’s multi-layer processless photopolymer plate technology. It’s a negative working plate, imaged using a standard 830nm thermal platesetter, with the laser causing the coating in the image area to harden. Once imaged the plate is passed through a finishing unit, where a gum is applied rather than developer chemicals. The gum penetrates the softer non-imaged area, allowing it to be removed completely, leaving the imaged area behind, now coated with a protective layer. 

How does it differ from previous low-chemistry plates?

This is Fujifilm’s first low-chemistry plate – the rest of the portfolio are either traditionally processed or processless – so this plate fills a gap in the product line-up. 

How fast/productive is it? 

The LH-S2 plate requires 110-120mJ/cm². It can be imaged at 200lpi and can be used with 20μm FM screening for high-quality print applications. It can be used at higher drum speeds, improving overall productivity and allowing for faster plate remakes. 

What is the USP of the product?

Lane says that the LH-S2 has a fast emulsion allowing quick imaging speeds and that it prevents ablative dust during the imaging process from contaminating the imaging heads, and frequent cleaning or replacement of filters saving maintenance time and money. 

How easy is it to use?

The plate itself is extremely easy to use, having the same image contrast as any processed image once it’s been finished. The finishing unit is equally simple as there are no settings to change. The gum is loaded into the bottom of the unit, sprayed onto the surface of the plate and then allowed to fall back to the tray where it’s re-used. 

What training and support is on offer?

Fujifilm will offer basic training when it installs a new clean-out unit but Lane points out that there’s little training required since there are no controls. If a customer switches from the Agfa plates they can continue to use their Azura clean-out units with no further training.

How much does it cost?

As usual with plates, the price is heavily dependent on volume used. However, the prices should be roughly comparable with Fujifilm’s processless plates, taking into account the cost of the finishing unit, the gum and the energy used. 

In June, Fujifilm UK launched a new litho plate management business model enables printers to cost-effectively manage or outsource their plate production.

The Platesense programme is available to any printer, of any size, in the UK and Ireland. As well as delivering plates to customers when they need them, along with any associated CTP equipment and consumables, Fujifilm says it can also manage a printer’s waste and aluminium collection under the programme, helping to protect them from plate price increases by keeping them cost neutral to where they are today.

How many sites are currently using it worldwide and in the UK?

Lane says that demand is rising steadily each month since it was launched back in April, with a mixture of customers between those switching from processed plates and those coming from Agfa’s Azura plate. 


SPECIFICATIONS

Platesetter Thermal 830nm

Sensitivity 110-200mj/sqcm

Resolution 200lpi (1%-99%)

Latent image Up to 1 week

Run length Up to 100,000

Baked No

UV ink No

Gauges 0.15, 0.20, 0.24, 0.30mm

Price POA

Contact Fujifilm 01843 872062 www.superiaplates.com


ALTERNATIVES

Agfa Azura 

Agfa has pioneered the low-chemistry approach with its Azura range, which remains the only other option for anyone looking for a plate that’s halfway between a processed and processless solution. These use Agfa’s thermoFuse technology, and first hit the market back in 2004. Agfa makes its own Azura CX clean-out units. The full range also includes a violet plate but Agfa’s original plate was the Azura TS, which is still available.

Platesetter Thermal 830nm

Sensitivity 200mj/sqcm

Resolution 200lpi (2%-98%)/ Sublima 204lpi

Latent image 24 hours

Run length Up to 100,000

Baked No

UV ink No

Gauges 0.15, 0.20, 0.24, 0.30mm

Price POA

Contact Litho Supplies 0844 984 0415 www.litho.co.uk

Agfa Azura TU 

Agfa also makes the newer Azura TU version, which is suitable for high-volume long-run applications.

Platesetter Thermal 830nm

Sensitivity 160mj/sqcm

Resolution 280lpi (1%-99%)

Latent image 24 hours

Run length Up to 150,000

Baked No

UV ink Up to 10,000 run length

Gauges 0.15, 0.20, 0.24, 0.30, 0.40mm

Price POA

Contact Litho Supplies 0844 984 0415 www.litho.co.uk

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