Me & My... Ultrachem Ultra Thermal CTP plate

Helen Morris
Thursday, June 2, 2011

Getting the right combination of platesetter and plate was the driver behind this company's most recent investment

Major decisions in life are never easy to make, especially when there are so many options. This was the dilemma that DSD Colour Printers director Shaun Simpson had last November when he was faced with a choice that he couldn’t put off any longer – which new platesetter to buy from the plethora available on the market.

In the event, the decision proved an easy one. Simpson knew that above all, what counts in this industry is reputation. With that in mind, he invested in a fully refurbished Screen PlateRite 4000 from used equipment supplier Repro Sales & Repairs.

But Simpson knew getting the right platesetter for his business was only half the challenge. Finding plates that would serve the B2-printer’s two Heidelberg presses was also critical to the business. Again, drawing on that key factor of reputation, he decided to plump for consumables supplier Ultrachem and its Ultra Thermal CTP plate.

DSD Colour Printers was set up in 1975 by Shaun’s father Dougie Simpson who, initially, kept things local by serving neighbouring towns only. The Norfolk firm has grown steadily over the years, moving from offset into digital, and more recently, graphic design.

This expansion and growth stepped up a gear six years ago, when Dougie retired and Shaun took over the business. With 14 staff, DSD now receives and delivers orders from all over the UK. Its chief markets in both print and design include stationery, leaflets, folders and brochures, produced on two-colour and five-colour Heidelberg Speedmasters, two Xerox DocuColor digital presses and an HP Designjet wide-format inkjet machine.

Additionally, the business purchased a Duplo System 5000 collator/bookletmaker for the bindery to keep up with increasing demand.

With all this modernisation going on in the press room and bindery, Simpson was acutely aware that the company’s pre-media capabilities needed to follow suit.

To serve all of its press requirements, DSD took on the Ultra Thermal CTP plates in three different sizes – 550x670mm, 550x650mm and 459x525mm – and since doing so it has managed to output 1,400 plates per month, roughly equivalent to 17 plates an hour during an average working week.

Initially, Simpson says there were a "few teething troubles" that slowed plate production down, but they were soon ironed out. Now, they are proving extremely reliable. "We very rarely have any press standing time any more, and it’s also been of great benefit to us that the platesetter and plates run unmanned," Simpson explains. "This saves considerably on wages."

Perfect register
The quality of images that the plate has been able to produce has also been of major benefit to the business. A "perfect register," as Simpson describes, means the printed image now has a sharper and finer dot.

According to Ultrachem, it’s the aluminium plate’s electrochemically grained and anodised composition that aids press performance. Resolution is 1%-99% at 200dpi, though like all plates, the exact level of detail is dependent on the platesetter. Being thermal, the plate can be processed in daylight or room light conditions.

Ultrachem director Tony Brinton Junior says there are two main selling points to the plate. "The main benefit of the plates is its run length," he says. "We have had some customers reporting 100,000 plus on run length." And that’s just on unbaked plates – on baked plates it’s possible to achieve more than 500,000 impressions.

The second advantage, Brinton adds, is that the plates are also renowned for their chemistry. "Unlike most plate companies and sub dealers, which buy in their chemicals, we are a chemical manufacturer, so we are able to offer our own-brand developer and replenisher. We are also able to do this at a very competitive rate."

While Ultrachem and Repro Sales & Repairs are two separate businesses, they have a close working relationship. Repro Sales & Repairs managing director Nick Field says the Ultra Thermal plates offer the same quality as the other thermal plate suppliers, but the difference is in the price.

"There was a need for a product that was of great quality, but available at a slightly lower price, which is also one of the main reasons why the product was launched in the first place," he explains.

Ultra Thermal was launched three years ago and trialled in Asia for 18 months before being introduced to Europe. The plate is targeted at medium-sized to large sheetfed litho printers, and Field says that this benefits the higher volume customer in particular as cost savings can be dramatic.

Field adds that Ultrachem is "determined" to keep customers happy, and that while sales targets are difficult to set, "orders are up every month and the plate is now talked about by many printers".

With his positive appraisal of the plates, Simpson, of course, is adding to that conversation. He is equally glowing about his new platesetter as well. "The PlateRite has proved to be a huge success," he says. "The installation was carried out without any problems and not too much downtime. It was a difficult install as it had to go up some stairs to a first floor, but all went okay and as per the timetable," he says.

Training was very thorough, Simpson explains, and exceeded expectations with extra help when it was needed. Support is "now only a phone call away".

Before buying the PlateRite, a HighWater platesetter was carefully considered. Reputation aside, Simpson says that they went for the PlateRite in the end because he knew spare parts would be easily accessible with a Screen product.

Top-end technology
The Trueflow 5.5 workflow software that came with the system has also proved to be very reliable and "has everything that you need". At the time of purchase, DSD had the most up-to-date Trueflow software in the whole of Norfolk, according to Field.

So, would Simpson recommend both the plates and platesetter to other printers? "Yes, without hesitation," he says. When the company needs a new one, he would look to buy another, but he hopes that won’t be for a long time. The PlateRite 4000 has proven to be "the right choice and value for money", he says, as it has improved DSD’s quality, saved the firm money and made it even more efficient.

As for the plates, Simpson says that reputation only counts for anything so long as cost and quality are right – and in both respects he claims Ultra Thermal has more than lived up to expectations. "If you compare the cost between these plates and other competing plates in the market, there is a considerable difference," he says. "However, we haven’t sacrificed quality with these plates. What we have got is a product that has improved the quality of our print while also being available at a less expensive price."

Plate type Positive working, no pre-heat thermal digital plate, with optional postbake for longer runs
Application Sheetfed or web offset
Substrate Electrochemically grained and anodized aluminium
Gauge 0.30mm
Max width 1,320mm
Resolution 1%-99%@200dpi
FM capability 20 micron stochastic
Run length 100,000 impressions unbaked, 500,000+ baked
Handling Daylight handling and safe handling under fluorescent lamps
Contact Ultrachem 0845 3051600

Based in King’s Lynn, Norfolk, DSD Colour Printers was established in 1975 by Dougie Simpson. Initially a team of three, the company started out by producing work for local customers, but over the years it has grown substantially and now has clients nationwide. With a 14-strong staff, DSD today prints and designs stationery, leaflets, folders, brochures, catalogues, hardback books, direct mail and flyers, either digitally or on one of its two Heidelberg presses. Over the past five years, the company has modernised extensively. To complement its print room, the DSD now also has a full service graphic design team that offers pre-press production. The company has also employed two graphic designers with more than 30 years’ experience between them, to cope with the ever-increasing demand for high quality artwork and corporate design.
Why it was bought…
After considerable investment in new presses, last year Simpson decided it was time to modernise the plate making department. The company bought a Screen PlateRite 4000 platesetter, and the Ultrachem Ultra Thermal CTP plates, which are able to tolerate up to 100,000 unbaked impressions, were considered to be a perfect fit.

How it has performed…
Simpson says on-press makeready times have been reduced because the plates give perfect image register. The quality of the printed image has also improved because of a sharper and finer dot on the plate, he adds. Plate output has increased as well – plates are produced all day long, at 17 plates per hour.


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