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Bringing clarity to the cloudy issue of plates

Today, more than ever, printers the world over are deliberating financial decisions and pondering potential investments as they strive to survive the credit crunch and work out how to create a prime position for their businesses once the downturn in the economy swings back the other way. At the same time, they are closely examining how they can win more business and reduce day-to-day running costs. With all this on their minds, the added pressure of being ‘environment-friendly’ is perhaps not as high up the agenda as it used to be. However, tackling environmental issues often goes hand-in-hand with reducing costs, and for the enlightened, there are definite business opportunities to be gained, so the issue should remain a priority for most. Printers are in the unenviable position of trying to tackle these business issues with confusing and ambiguous guidance. Despite the fact that many suppliers have introduced solutions which help printers reduce their environmental impact, confusion still remains about what constitutes environmental best practices. To help clarify this situation, therefore, it is important that suppliers only make claims which can be substantiated with concrete evidence and clear documentation Padmakar Ojale, country general manager, Fujifilm India Pvt Ltd briefs. Padmakar Ojale In the world of pre-press, and particularly plate production, suppliers are helping printers minimise their environmental impact by reducing and sometimes eliminating the need for raw materials like water, energy and chemistry, but here, in particular, the situation is not clear. If printers are to make informed and intelligent business decisions, it is vital that they get factual information to consider.

Terminologies – what’s in a name?

Processless, non-process, develop-on-press, chemistry-free, reduced chemistry, developer-free, processed. The list of terms used to describe different plate types is almost endless, with different manufacturers employing different terms across their product ranges. It’s actually been in the last four to five years that there have been such a variety of plate technologies and related naming conventions that sit alongside ‘conventionally processed’ plates. More commonly, we seem to settle upon processless (or non-process), chemistry-free and (conventionally) processed plates. But what does each of these terms actually mean? It’s time to clarify this once for all so that printers can make intelligent business decisions that add value to their own environmental claims.

The two most clear and unambiguous terms applied to the process of plate production are ‘conventionally processed’ and ‘processless’:

Conventionally processed: Once the plate has been imaged, regardless of by which imaging technology, it is processed using chemistry in a traditional processor.

Processless: Once the plate has been imaged, it is mounted directly on the press where the removal of the plate coating takes place, something which has been cleverly integrated into the start-up operation of the press. There is complete elimination of the processor, associated chemistry, energy required to power the processor, water and waste from plate production. Even with this term, it could be argued that ‘processing’ still takes place on the press. However, the complete removal of the traditional processing step justifies its ‘processless’ naming convention, and importantly the benefits are real and quantifiable. In between these two technological extremes of plate production, there are a variety of solutions with their own advantages and disadvantages, and it is here more than anywhere, where the confusion lies.

Chemistry-free: For most plates in this category, once the plate has been imaged, it is ‘processed’ or ‘finished’ using a ‘solution’ or ‘chemistry’ in a smaller, less complex ‘processor’ or ‘finishing unit’. For one or two plates in this category, the solution used to ‘fix’ the image is water and in these cases the term ‘chemistry-free’ is appropriate. However, for the rest, there is confusion surrounding what to call the solution used to process the plate. Some argue that the solution is a ‘gum’ rather than a traditional chemical developer. The implication from the ‘chemistry-free’ naming convention is that no chemistry is involved at all. However, in nearly all cases, the solution requires what is commonly known as an MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet) – a legal requirement for any substance that needs advice and guidance with regards to handling. The argument about what constitutes a ‘chemistry’ can be debated at length, but these arguments miss the point. To the layman, any solution having an MSDS sheet must by default contain something hazardous and therefore naturally fall into the category of chemistry. These factors suggest that the ‘chemistry-free’ naming convention could potentially be interpreted to be misleading for some plate solutions.

In addition, it must be remembered that environmental claims are not only the responsibility of the supplier community. Printers must also be aware that once they invest in any new technology, they then shoulder the responsibility to be able to support and justify any claims that they pass on to their customers. The positive facts surrounding so-called ‘chemistry-free’ plates is that they do help printers to reduce their environmental impact as the quantity of chemistry used is much lower. This is why a new, more factual industry-standard naming convention should be introduced. Rather than the potentially misleading ‘chemistry-free’ term, a more accurate phrase like ‘low-chemistry’ would be far more appropriate.

Supporting evidence

Some supporting evidence has recently been published by independent consultant J Zarwan Partners, highlighting that a number of plates which are described as ‘chemistry-free’ actually use more chemistry than some that are classified as ‘reduced-chemistry’ or ‘low-chemistry’ solutions. John Zarwan published his report in an attempt to help printers make a more informed choice when purchasing plates, and to bring some clarity to this often confusing issue. The report analyses four main areas where plates can have an environmental effect – chemistry, energy, water, and waste - comparing the relative environmental impact of different categories of plates, as well as comparing the resources used by different plates within individual categories. If you haven’t already seen it, it’s worth a read, and the explanatory graphs make it simple to see exactly where savings can be made ( The results may be surprising, both in terms of cost savings and reductions in chemistry.

John himself said, “While environmental consideration is only one factor in choosing a plate, it is important to be aware of the differences and the amount of chemistry and other waste involved. Even if the result is not a change in plates used, the printer can improve awareness of processes and make improvements. It is important to remember that virtually all plates work well in the correct application, and no single solution is appropriate for every printer. Plates have different characteristics on press, different run length capabilities, and may not be suitable for all applications.”

Surprising results

One surprising outcome from the report that supports the argument to re-categorise some of these plate solutions was that the combination of an ‘intelligent’ processor, which automates and carefully controls the correct delivery of chemistry and water, with the appropriate plate, actually uses less chemistry than a so-called ‘chemistry-free’ solution. Chemistry is still used, but at much lower levels, adding further support for the label ‘low-chemistry’ as a way of providing printers with clearer facts on which to base their decisions.

We all recognise that ‘non-process’ or ‘processless’ plates are the most effective plates to buy when considering the environment, as they completely eliminate the processor and chemistry (and the related manufacturing resources), and associated water, energy and waste. But, consideration needs to be given in clarifying the impact the other plate technologies have on the environment in order to complete the picture.

Where do we go from here?

Ideally, the next stage would be to perform a carbon footprint analysis of all the different plates and plate processing solutions from cradle to grave, and this is definitely the future. However, in the meantime, suppliers, printers and the industry in general have to be clear as to what is currently being claimed.

If all printing plate manufacturers were to adopt consistent and clear classifications with regards to their different plate solutions, printers would be able to make more informed decisions. At best, businesses (suppliers and printers) that adopt the term ‘chemistry-free’ are potentially misleading their customers. At worst, there is a risk they might be in contradiction of local trading laws in terms of misleading environmental claims.

We owe it to the credibility of our industry to market products in a clear, non-ambiguous way. We would therefore urge all suppliers to market their products in a more meaningful, factual way, making it absolutely clear what is involved in their use. Surely the time is right to drop the term ‘chemistry-free’ from mainstream use and we look forward to seeing the term ‘low-chemistry’ adopted in its place as the industry norm.

Manugraph marks feat in web press manufacturing

-presents SmartLine, a 4-plate wide single circumference tower press

SmartLine, coming from an Indian manufacturer on the world map of web offset presses, is undoubtedly going to create history on its own offering a new wave of double width presses. The brand new web press, starting and moving upward crossing the counter with 30K, 38K, 42K, 50K, 65K, and reaching at 70,000 cph, was loudly applauded by media professionals in addition to Manugraph team members at the recently held live demo of this 1,400 mm web width press in Kolhapur unit I of Manugraph. SK Khurana, editor-Print & Publishing, who shared the great moment, briefs. Manugraph marks feat in web press manufacturing It was a proud moment for everyone witnessing the live running of SmartLine 4-plate wide single circumference tower press from Manugraph, at the optimum speed of 70,000 cph with a cut off size of 546 mm to be shipped to Malayala Manorama, the largest growing vernacular newspaper from Kerala. This double width web press, in fact is a dream coming true, to be manufactured in India offering high speed production of newspapers in India as well as overseas who have been looking for an affordable equipment and at the same time meeting the requirements of their increased circulation figures.

Conceived and designed indigenously, configured to print eight broadsheet pages in colour, this press with shaftless technology has technotrans Delta spray dampening system and Megtec’s splicers. Manugraph’s ink remote systems with CIP3 capabilities under their trade mark ManuColor, is yet another offering, being offered with the machine. The press is designed fully enabling UV unit retrofitting at any point of time and there is a possibility to run the different web sizes of 1,050 mm, 700 mm and 350 mm, in addition to maximum width of 1,400 mm. As far as the folders are concerned SmartLine press offers 2:3:3 jaw folder – single or double delivery, which has been designed by DGM’s engineers in the US.

Running under the astute guidance of SM Shah, chairman, Manugraph ensures unquestionable quality – be it machine tooling, dynamic balancing, alignment, etc. In fact, prior to witnessing live working of SmartLine, a dedicated visit to the manufacturing process at unit I & II of their works in Kolhapur was an eye opener by itself. While visiting their fully equipped design section, one can have the feel at that very step as to what level of detailed planning is done for all new projects.

Sanjay Shah (third from right) with other departmental heads On asking about as to how much time it has taken from drawing board to the fully installed SmartLine press, RS Sawant, dy manager (R&D) came out with instant answer – as five years. The original idea was conceived in the year 2005. “Our strong R&D in fact has been the back bone of our total set up and that is why we have been able to retain this prestigious position of web press manufacturing. Now, we are awaiting this machine to be shipped, so that we can start the assembly of the second SmartLine press, for which we have a confirmed order from another leading newspaper group from South, and which has much higher configurations than the first one.”

Sanjay Shah – vice chairman and managing director of Manugraph also graced the occasion and enumerated the overall philosophy of Manugraph starting from its establishment in the year 1972. Enjoying over 75 percent market share in India, it is well known that three out of four newspapers of India are printed on Manugraph presses. All the top line newspaper establishments have one or more web presses from Manugraph. Internationally too, Manugraph’s presses are very popular with presence in several countries around the globe. Their popular range of web presses include: Cityline, Hiline, and Frontline.

In fact, Manugraph had made waves in the year 2006 when it took over DGM, a well known US manufacturers of web presses. Frontline range of web presses with 60,000 cph speed was developed in co-operation of DGM. Presently, spread over an area of 22 acres for unit I and 10 acres for unit II, Manugraph’s manufacturing facility employs more than 1,200 people, with a strong culture of keeping a passionate touch amongst them. Generally, once a person joins Manugraph, he/she leaves only after retirement.

Inauguration of SPE 2010-11 at Anna University

Department of Printing Technology, College of Engineering, Anna University (Chennai) recently conducted the inauguration of the Society of Printing Engineers (SPE) for the year 2010-11. The eminent industrialists, members from associations and ever supporting alumni graced the occasion. Various lectures had been arranged in areas like soft skills, colour management and psychology.

The function started off with the welcome address of Dr N Rajeswari, head of the Department of Printing Technology. Enumerating various achievements of the students and applauding their creative skills, M Sekar, the dean of CEG described the advances in the printing domain and the corresponding growth of the printing department. As a chief guest R Jayaraman, president, The Printing Technologists Forum, Chennai made a motivating speech about the career options in printing technology and invited the students for in-plant training in his company. R Kesavan, secretary, SPE presented a report on the SPE activities. Sharing interesting statistics about student life in campus, K Vipinendran, vice president of SPE, delivered the vote of thanks.

The Printing Department of CEG has always strived hard to produce well rounded engineers with a right mix of all talents. SPE provides a precious opportunity for students to interact with the industry leaders and mold themselves into tomorrow’s efficient engineers and leaders.

Contribution of BE’s in today’s technological era (Part II)

The journey continuous, immediately in news is technotrans India office in Chennai. Incharge of that is a BE (printing) from Anna University. How this country head Mathew ST Sunil travelled this far and another BE Venkatesan who has worked his way to become associate director of the well known e-publishing organization SPS, Chennai is unfolded by D Ramalingam.

Mathew ST Sunil & Staff Mathew ST Sunil was offered a seat in BE (Printing) at Anna University on inter-state quota from Kerala. Mathew grabbed the opportunity with both hands, acclimatized with local campus conditions, learnt tamil and improved his efficiency in English language. Encouraged by his ever caring HOD, joined The Times of India in Mumbai to evaluate his acquired knowledge in prepress. Came to know about a vacancy in Times Printers, Singapore, got selected and still on there, tried his hands with ‘technotrans’ as a travelling salesman for their products. For next six years from the year 2004, as a Singaporian, he travelled far and wide to sell the products in South East Asia, Middle East and Western Australia.

That brought him to his motherland and the city that cradled him to find his roots in his profession, Chennai to give sales and seminar presentations at the MPLA, IFRA and his alma mater Anna University. technotrans AG, a German based technology and services manufacturing firm whose dampening, blanket cleaning, recycling ink supply and temperature control systems are used in all leading sheet fed and web offset machines making newspaper presses requiring the service needs directly, resulted in opening a subsidiary in India. Well versed in their products for six years and being a local boy, Mathew proved to be the best choice to be a general manager (country head) of technotrans India Pvt Lt. His organizing abilities and thorough professionalism were quite evident in the fun-filled and serious inauguration functions at Chennai recently. His team consists of Parthasarathy, ICWA, well versed in accountancy, finance and administration and A Saravanan, BE (Mechanical), service engineer.

M Venkatesan, associate director, Scientific Publishing Surfaces (SPS), a Chennai based e-publishing company (1400 individuals strong organisation) had a long career in prepress. A diploma holder in printing from Chennai studied BE (printing) from Pune, taking a short break in between to finish his degree. Has had experience with The Hindu and Sanka Graphics before joining SPS.

In his 17+ years experience in prepress has spent last eight years with SPS. Risen from the ranks, has achieved positions of manager, general manager, senior general manager and presently associate director with SPS.

His main areas are business development of new customers. He has procured many overseas customer specialized in knowledge management and operations strategy, a perfect example of what a BE (Printing) could do given the opportunities without fear and how they could be utilized.

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