Me & my: Agfa Azura TU plate

Richard Stuart-Turner
Monday, June 2, 2014

Making print and packaging dreams come true for some of the world’s leading brands might seem daunting. But it’s all in a day’s work for London-based firm Gavin Martin Colournet, which also found that it could improve its already high quality, and become more environmentally friendly, by switching to Agfa’s Azura TU plate.

The company, which was formed in 1968 and is currently run by directors Mark Cameron, Gary Bird and Simon Arnall, has 20 staff and a turnover of £4.2m. It specialises in high-end printed products for prestigious clients including Mulberry, The Savoy, the Dorchester Group, Apple and Jimmy Choo. 

“We’re fortunate enough to deal with the high-end sector of the market. These are the sort of customers that need to push the boundaries with their print as much as they do with their products or services. So they invest in some top-quality print and packaging, which we, thankfully, seem to have a good name for,” says Cameron.

“Sometimes the print element of a job is quite small because the finishing that’s required is so elaborate,” he adds. “We have just produced a fantastic project for the sale of a £105m house in Mayfair.”

The firm, which is based in Bow in east London, also does a lot of work for the London Legacy Development Corporation and has recently completed all the literature for the opening of the Queen Elizabeth II Olympic Park. 

Nine months ago the firm decided it needed to bolster its reputation for quality by upgrading the plates it was using and Agfa stepped in at the right time with an enticing proposition. 

“We were always a Kodak and Screen sort of company, but we had a fantastic visit from Agfa’s sales rep who put the Azura TU forward to us,” reports Cameron.

“The meeting with Agfa came at the right time as we’d been considering changing to something new,” he says. “The thermal CTP plate we were using at the time was pretty good, but the Azura TU plate definitely delivers a better quality.”

Environmentally friendliness and cost-effectiveness were also key factors. “What I really liked at the time is the fact that it was based on a processless plate so there were no problems with developing and it was just a water wash followed by a gumming solution to finish,” says Cameron.

He adds: “Ultimately it was also better for us environmentally because we’re not using developer or wasting loads of water. Printing in general has not been an environmentally friendly industry in past years so that was a big draw for us; you feel like you’re doing the right thing.”

Test site

The firm was also attracted by the opportunity to get ahead of the crowd as one of a small number of beta testers of the plate, which has since become commercially available. The company, which upgraded its workflow to Agfa’s Apogee 8.0 at the same time, has been using the plate on a Screen PlateRite 8600 device.

The quality and performance of the Azura TU plate has been as outstanding as promised, reports Cameron.

“It has definitely fulfilled everything we wanted it to do; it does everything that we were told it would,” he says. “It has improved our image quality, it has improved the environmental performance of the company and nothing has gone wrong with it at all. We were already a quality-driven company as our client base won’t accept anything else, but it’s added to it even further.”

For the plate to perform so well on the demanding jobs Gavin Martin Colournet process, is no mean feat, explains Cameron. Though run lengths are typically relatively short, some can be much longer – and pretty much all of them feature demanding stocks.

“You can run 100,000 sheets of an art paper on a normal set of plates and any manufacturers’ plate will last well. But if you’re dealing with the papers we print on, which can be weird and wonderful heavy uncoated papers, they tend to wear the plates out much quicker,” says Cameron.

“Our typical run length, if you’re looking at an eight-page A4 book, is really quite small at 5,000. But it can be higher; a recent job involved a run of 85,000 and I’ve got a brochure on at the moment that’s a 20,000 run of 14 sections,” he adds.

Most of all, the company has been impressed with Agfa’s service, from initial discussions, through installation and its after-sales service. 

“The first use of the new plates was very smooth and straightforward and we had a lot of support from Agfa,” says Cameron. “Agfa was on site on the day making sure the calibration was correct and generally looking out for us.

“We’ve had no problems at all since then and we’re confident that Agfa would be straight round if we did.” 

Being a beta tester meant Gavin Martin Colournet secured a bit of extra TLC, which was much appreciated.

“We’ve got a contract that gives us support from Agfa, but because it’s a new plate Agfa has also been very involved with us on a non-contractual basis,” says Cameron. “Agfa thought we were quite a good testbed for the plate because of all of the different papers we print onto here.” 

Planning ahead

The firm orders 2,000 plates each month, which are distributed from Agfa’s headquarters in Belgium. Cameron notes that it pays to be organised with this in mind. 

“It’s not like dealing with a merchant, where you can ring them up and get a set of plates in the afternoon,” he says. “That said, Agfa does always fulfill the order on the day and at the time they say they’re going to, and I’m sure they would help us out if we did need more plates urgently. We do sometimes over-order to cover ourselves. It does focus your mind a bit more because you do have to organise the distribution with a few days notice.”

Cameron is very pleased with the purchase overall, which he feels was a more than worthwhile change for the company. He is so pleased, he feels sure he’ll stick with Agfa in future. 

“My favourite thing about the plate is the quality of screen ruling, but it’s just a really good product overall,” he says. “I honestly can’t fault it and I would definitely buy the next upgrade from Agfa in the future. The whole package is great and we’re very happy with everything. It may be a big corporation, but it really does adopt a nice personal relationship.” 

He concludes: “Agfa is a very good company; from the initial contacts and the sales reps through to the support and the products themselves, it does a really nice job. I would happily recommend the Azura TU plate to anyone.” 


Plate type ThermoFuse technology negative-working, 830nm thermal spectral sensitivity, chemistry-free

Application Commercial sheetfed

Substrate High-quality grained and anodised aluminum

Gauges 0.15, 0.20, 0.24, 0.30mm

Baking Not possible

Resolution 1%-99% at 240lpi depending on device

FM capability 20-micron stochastic

Run length Up to 150,000 copies depending on printing conditions, up to 10,000 if printing UV

Daylight resistance Up to 48 hours in full daylight

Price Typically around £8/sqm but calculated individually for each customer depending on plate usage and whether the plates are part of a larger contract

Contact Agfa Graphics 020 8231 4983

Company profile 

East London-based Gavin Martin Colournet was established in 1968 and specialises in high-end printed products including books, brochures and cards. The firm is currently run by directors Mark Cameron, Gary Bird and Simon Arnall. Its customers include Apple, The Dorchester Group, Savoy, Mulberry and Jimmy Choo. The £4.2m turnover, 20-staff firm operates a seven-colour HP Indigo 5500 digital press and a five-colour Heidelberg XL 105 press with coater.

Why it was bought…

The firm was looking to boost the already high quality of its print by upgrading the plates it used. Agfa suggested the new Azura TU plate, which Gavin Martin Colournet found to deliver a better quality of print over its previous plate. “What I really liked was that it’s based on a processless plate so there were no development problems and it just needed to go through a gumming solution to finish. Ultimately it’s better for us environmentally and cost-effectively because we’re not using developer or wasting loads of water,” says Cameron.

How it has performed…

It has fulfilled everything that it was bought to do, says Cameron. The plate has enabled Gavin Martin Colournet to improve quality and reduce wastage. The firm has been impressed with Agfa’s professional service and overall support package. “It’s got a very good run length, fantastic definition on the actual image on the plate and it holds a very high resolution screen,” says Cameron. “It’s just a really good, top-quality product.” 


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