Today’s small businesses are looking for the most effective ways to reduce expenses and increase the bottom line. I’ve spent a lot of time talking to printing press-duplicators and small-to-medium-size printing press businesses, as they struggle to find a balance between cost and efficiency. Yet, the economy is also encouraging these shops to leave old solutions behind in favor of more efficient systems that bring added profits.
A cost-saving measure is to switch to an ink jet-based CTP (computer-to-plate) system that produces true aluminum plates at a lower total cost of ownership than current polyester solutions. As I watch the CTP market mature, I see many small businesses on a quest to find cost-effective, chemical-free CTP solutions that bring consistent and high-quality results, labor and maintenance cost savings, reduced spoilage and remakes, and new revenue sources.
Bullish on CTP
With the launch of the Epson Stylus® Pro 7900CTP, we at Epson are bullish on CTP and committed to helping change the way today’s small-to-medium size print shops make true aluminum lithographic printing press plates. So far, we’ve successfully taken the lead in other areas, such as redefining how contract-quality proofs are produced for commercial and flexographic prints, and we’ve now stepped up to CTP to help small businesses cut costs.
The key to our CTP solution is Epson DirectPlate Aluminum technology, a breakthrough in chemical engineering and plate coating. I was amazed when I first saw the possibilities of this new plate coating technology. We apply this unique coating to a standard lithographic press plate and then use our standard Epson UltraChrome® ink technology to image the plate. I knew this new approach would capture the attention of many small business owners and solve a lot of problems.
Curing Print Shop Headaches
When I first spoke to our beta users to develop a small business CTP solution, I uncovered deficiencies at small printing shops that were causing a lot of headaches. For starters, the existing or older CTP systems often required special inks or nasty developing chemicals. What’s more, shops had to settle for poor quality prints, high maintenance cost, poor reliability, and other trade offs. I personally felt that we had no business developing a system unless we could alleviate many of these issues.
With that goal in mind, we started our beta process. We tested our system and the plate technology with a wide range of customers who use many different workflows and types of presses. As a result, we found the Epson Stylus Pro 7900CTP system was an especially cost-effective solution for smaller duplicator print shops that do mostly 2-color and sometimes 4-color printing. Without the messy chemicals of other plate setting solutions, the water-based system passed the test with flying colors as a much simpler, less costly system, both in dollars and in its impact on the environment.
High Quality, Reliable, Economical
We faced the print quality issue head on. In our quality tests, we found the Epson CTP system produced amazing print quality up to 175 lpi resolution for press runs up to 20,000 impressions, all while reducing plate production costs. Image quality results showed better solids, cleaner halftones and sharper text than most polyester plates.
In tackling cost issues, Epson was able to build a system with a good value proposition, offering high quality and on-going efficiencies to help small businesses save on long-term costs. Without costly maintenance or service contracts or high electrical bills, the final cost per plate is less expensive than a comparable polyester platesetter. Since the system is chemical free and requires no other purchase than consumables like ink and plate, it scores high marks in reliability.
New Revenue Source for Small Business
As we develop new products, it’s always exciting to see customers come up with their own ideas. When I visited our beta testers, I found that many had started using the system for more than just CTP, since the print engine is based on the Epson Stylus Pro 7900, a leading printer in fine art, proofing and photography. They saw the opportunity and started using the system to sell additional products and services, including contract-quality proofs, signage, banners, fine art, photography or posters up to 24-inches wide. That’s a great source of added income for a small business.
By the time we finished beta testing the 7900 CTP, the product team, beta testers and management here at Epson felt that we had achieved what we set out to do more than a year earlier. We were able to bring a profitable, high quality CTP system to the small business owner.
Out of the Box
The next step was to complete the system and make sure that everything was ready to go, right out of the box. Our system includes an Epson Stylus Pro 7900 printer (24-inch wide format) with a plate curing unit (PCU), an EFI® Computer-to-Plate RIP software package, and plate guide attachment.
We at Epson believe that despite new innovative technology, print is still king. The industry will be making press plates and proofing on paper long into the future. By helping users find cost-effective solutions, Epson is known for reshaping how the printing industry does business and keeping printing customers profitable.
Our DirectPlate technology and the Epson Stylus Pro 7900 CTP are now redefining the future of CTP. The Epson CTP system can be used to produce printed output going beyond the final press quality that small printing businesses are used to, bringing on board a consistent, reliable and economical true aluminum press plate workflow. With our CTP breakthrough, I believe the Epson Stylus Pro 7900CTP system is a “game changer” and will transform the way many small printing companies do business.
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