Agfa unveils new products; consolidates plate ops

Darryl Danielli
Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Hot on the heels of announcing the closure of two of its European plate plants, Agfa has given a taster of some of the products that will be unveiled in the coming days in its ‘virtual Drupa’, including three new plates.

Agfa's new robot can feed two plate lines
Agfa's new robot can feed two plate lines

The manufacturer’s six-day virtual event, dubbed Studio 4D48 after Agfa’s Drupa stand, will feature 45-minute sessions, made up of pre-recorded segments and live Q&A and discussions. The sessions will cover five market segments – with key product announcements that had been scheduled for Drupa being the focal point for each.

According to Agfa head of marketing Guy Desmet, with the exception of the final day each Studio 4D48 session will be repeated in the morning and afternoon to accommodate viewers across multiple time zones.

Topics and products that will be covered are: 18 June, VLF commercial heatset; 19 June, Robot loading for VLF CTP; 23 June, commercial sheetfed; and 24 June, offset packaging. The event will be rounded off with two days on 25 and 26 June on newspaper print production, with the second day's single session focused on North American businesses.

To register for Studio 4D48, visit Agfa’s dedicated microsite.

The sessions will give an overview of a range of new products, including a taster of v12 of Agfa’s Apogee commercial workflow, which is set to become available in Q4 this year and v4 of its fully-automated newspaper pre-production workflow, Arkitex.

Physical automation will also figure highly in the sessions, including demos of a new plate loading robot for Agfa’s Avalon VLF platesetters N36 and upwards. Custom-made by an Agfa partner, it offers a 30% smaller footprint than conventional combo systems, features two sets of suction cups for interleaves and plates and can feed up to two plate lines.

The first 80 plate per robot, which can be integrated with Apogee workflow, is already in operation at a Danish printer.

Agfa will also unveil a new screening technology, Spiral, which, according to business development manager Alain Cormond, offers higher image quality and improved shadow details and skintone reproduction: “In a nutshell, we’ve replaced the traditional ink dot used on offset printing, with a more efficient shapes such as a spiral.”

Eric Peeters, market manager commercial, said the new dot shape also reduces ink coverage by “15-18%, but on average it’s 9%”.

In terms of plates, the firm will unveil details of three new commercial printing plates, including a new process free plate: Eclipse.

According to Iris Bogunovic, product manager plate and CTP systems: “Eclipse is the only process free plate that has stable image contrast… even after seven days of storage.

“We offer both options [chem free and process free], because we believe the choice depends on a printer's specific situation,” said Bogunovic.

To this end the firm is also launching a new chem free plate, Adamas, which, Bogunovic described as “the most durable chem free plate available” and is capable of running up to 75,000 impressions with UV inks, or 350,000 conventional.

The trio of new plates will be rounded off with Energy Verve, which can support heatset web run lengths of up to 1m and, according to Bogunovic is “the perfect middle ground between post-bake and non-baked.”

However, the new plate launches comes days after Agfa announced it had launched a consultation over the closure its printing plate factories in Leeds and Pont-à-Marcq, France, which produce Thermofuse printing plates such as Azura and Amigo.

Both sites paused production last month in response to falling demand as a result of the Covid-19 crisis. The proposed closures would impact 76 jobs in Leeds and 175 in France.

In a statement, the company said: "Both plants produce Agfa’s Thermofuse printing plates. The market demand for this product declines even more substantially than for most other Agfa printing plates."

"Closing two plants in different countries is a tough decision, but taking this step is absolutely necessary to maintain Agfa’s presence in the offset market."

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