Star product: Cron UVP Platesetter

Simon Eccles
Tuesday, April 7, 2015

An “affordable, high-throughput package” from the Chinese manufacturer.

What does it do?

Cron is an established Chinese manufacturer of external drum platesetters, set up in 1992. Its current TP range of thermal platesetters was introduced in 2007 and have been joined by the UVP range, which share the main mechanical components but use an innovative UV laser diode array. 

This is keenly priced but gives respectable throughputs and sharp dots on ‘conventional’ UV-sensitive plates, which remain significantly cheaper than thermal laser plates, with long on-press lifetimes. 

There are four sizes, UVP 26, 36, 46, and 66/72, with the numbers designating the maximum plate width in inches. The number of laser diodes can be chosen to suit different requirements. 

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

Apex Digital Graphics announced it had taken on the UK distribution for Cron in January, and showed them during its open days in March. Joint managing director Bob Usher says he expects to sell mainly UV machines and that the best sellers will be the UVP 26 and UVP 36 models with plate sizes corresponding to the B3, B2 and SRA1 Ryobi presses that Apex also sells.

“This is the first lower-cost UV platesetter, using thermal-derived external drum technology,” says Derek Sizer, general manager of Cron Europe. “Purchasers may have an older platesetter already and want something faster, either as a replacement or as an additional machine. Cron also costs a lot less than the competition.”

How does it work? 

It’s an external drum platesetter with an exposure head that travels on a linear motor, with nothing to wear out. Sizer says that most mechanical elements are made in the Chinese factory, although motors are imported from Japan or Europe and the lasers and sensors are German. 

Users can choose between 16 and 96 laser diodes and can upgrade later. The more diodes, the larger the exposure swathe and so the faster the speed. The optics can expose dots from 1%-99%, which is unusually good for conventional plates, Sizer points out.

How does it differ from previous models?

Cron developed its first external drum platesetter for thermal laser diodes and these are now well proven. The UVP models use the same mechanisms with new UV laser diode array and optics. 

How productive is it? What are the options?

Throughput depends on laser count and plate size, eg UVP 26 with 16 lasers can output 23 B3 plates/hour or a UVP 36 with 24 lasers outputs 21 B2 plates/hour.

Apex will supply a three cassette autoloader as standard, with 50 plates per cassette. A single-cassette loader for 200 plates is optional. A five cassette autoloader will be introduced later this year. 

Apex also supplies a bridge and processor as standard. The bridge has integral punches with a choice of patterns. A four-way bridge can be fitted to link multiple imagers and/or processors. The processor is a Glunz & Jensen type with Cron’s auto replenishment.

Digital files are received through a TIFF catcher unit that can take ripped files from practically any pre-press workflow – Apex recommends FFEI, but Cron can also supply the Chinese made Founder ElecRoc. The TIFF catcher also serves as the main set-up controller for the platesetting line. 

What is the USP?

“It’s the value of the package,” Sizer says. The relatively low cost of the imagers coupled with conventional UV plates and near-standard chemistry represent an affordable high-throughput package, he reckons. 

How easy is it to use?

“It’s very simple, the machine sets itself up for different plate sizes so you load and go,” Sizer says. “There’s no regular maintenance needed to the platesetter apart from cleaning the lens, side guides and rollers occasionally.”

What training and service support is on offer?

Apex Digital Graphics handles all service and support in the UK. 

How much does it cost?

So far Apex has only finalised prices for the 26 and 36 models, which it expects to sell most of. A UVP 26 with three cassette autoloader, bridge and processor costs £58,370 with 16 laser diodes. A UVP 36 with the same spec is £68,370. 

How many are installed currently worldwide and in the UK?

About 2,000 UVP models have been installed worldwide since 2010. Apex has sold six in the UK so far. 


Min plate sizes UVP 26, UVP 36: 320x240mm; UVP 46: 450x370mm; UVP 66/72: 650x550mm

Max plate sizes UVP 26: 670x560mm; UVP 36: 925x675mm; UVP 46: 1,160x940mm; UVP 66: 1,670x1,290mm; UVP 72: 1,850x1,422mm

Resolutions 2,400, 2,540, 2,800dpi (option for 3,000 or 3,600dpi)

Repeat accuracy 0.01mm

UV laser wavelength 405Nm

Laser diodes UVP 26: 16 to 48; UVP 36, 46 and 66/72: 16 to 96 

Price UVP 26, 16 diodes: £58,370; UVP 36, 24 diodes: £68,370 (both with three-cassette autoload, bridge and processor) 

Contact Apex Digital Graphics 01442 235236


Heidelberg Suprasetter 106 UV

Heidelberg developed its own Suprasetter external drum range after its split with Creo. Most use thermal laser diodes and compatible plates, but the 106 UV is a B1-plus format model with a UV laser diode head that was developed jointly with the now defunct Lüscher.

Throughput Up to 36 plates/hour

Min plate size 370x323mm

Max plate size 930x1,050mm

Resolution 2,400 dpi, 2,540 dpi

Price From £100,000 depending on specification

Contact Heidelberg UK 020 8490 3500

BasysPrint UV-Setter 450

The Series 400/800 UV platesetters from BasysPrint are for B2 and B1 formats, and the VLF models are available in three sizes, with the largest taking plates up to 1,450x2,100mm.

ThroughputUp to 70 plates/hour

Min plate size323x450mm (autoload)

Max plate size680x830mm

Resolution1,500, 2,400dpi

PriceFrom €100,000 (£72,900) 
depending on specification

ContactXeikon 01904 520555

Thermal laser

Although there are some other UV platesetters available as listed here, thermal laser platesetters would be high on anyone’s list of alternatives.

Dainippon Screen’s PlateRite range of thermal platesetters dominate the market, as they are also rebadged and sold with different front ends by Agfa and Fujifilm. 

Heidelberg and Kodak also make their own thermal platesetters. 


“It’s working great and it does what it says. It’s very productive, very quick and good value for money” 4/5

Mike Greene Managing director, ABC Print


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