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The Problems Behind Imagesetting

The Problems Behind Imagesetting

In response to recent emphasis on ecological concerns, Xerox Corp. decided to revamp its 30-year-old product, Dry Microfilm. The company renamed the film, now called Verde (Spanish for “green”), and packaged it as environmentally correct film for imagesetters.

Polaroid, 3M Corp. and Kodak also created dry-image films. The companies worked with hardware vendors such as AutoLogic Inc. and Linotype-Hell Co., whose imagesetters support “green” film.

Green techniques

Fortunately, the quality of imagesetting hasn’t suffered in the move to more ecologically sound consumables. For example, Polaroid’s Dry Tech imagesetting film, which works with an as-yet-unnamed device by Linotype-Hell, has a Dmin of 0.05 and a Dmax of 4, on par with better wet-process films.

During the dry process, selenium, carbon or other electrically charged particles rest between layers of plastic. When the imagesetter applies a pattern of light or heat to the sheets, the particles stick to the “sensitive” layer. What remains when a printer separates the layers is a piece of film to be set on the plate, as well as a throwaway layer of acetate or other plastic, which can serve as a proof of the image.

Kodak’s film, however, uses a thermal laser, which writes directly onto the film, leaving no peel-off layer as waste. Kodak’s film, which has yet to be named and is based on its Helios X-Ray film, will work with a Dainippon Screen Manufacturing Co. Ltd. imagesetter, the TE-R1070.

Cost matters

With an eye toward reducing toxics, LaserMaster created the PressMate, a chemical-free imagesetter, which sells for $29,955. Powell said his company found that many users are more attracted by PressMate’s price than by its green capabilities.

Yet at least one PressMate user was lured by the promise of reducing toxins in her workplace. Margie Smith, owner of Margie’s Typesetting of Lenexa, Kan., said: “The environmental aspect played a big part in my decision. I’ve worked with chemicals for 25 years and couldn’t breathe when I went home at night.”

With no connection for water in her office, Smith originally began looking to buy a dry-process imagesetter to avoid the cost of using one at a service bureau. Her service-bureau bill was typically about $2,500 per month; now it tops out at $300, she said. “I do brochures for corporations, and it’s important for me to see what my output is going to be. I just love the 2,400-dpi color. My presentation pieces look like they’ll look when they come off the press, if not better.”

In the race to embrace the environment, higher-end manufacturers are also taking a new look at the market. The newspaper USA Today, based in Arlington, Va., is now beta-testing Xerox’s Verde film, which can be used with “Verde-enabled” imagesetters from companies such as ECRM Inc., Scitex America Corp. and Ultre, a division of Linotype-Hell.

Ken Kirkhart, vice president of production at USA Today, said a newspaper will be less likely to invest in an environmentally friendly device if it has to go out and buy new equipment. “We serve more than one lord,” he said. “We use recycled newsprint and soy inks, but we’re still concerned about money. I couldn’t do one without the other.”

In the end, manufacturers wondering which direction the market will go might look to AutoLogic Inc. for an example of safe product development. The company’s APS-EnviroSafe Imaging System machines, which work with 3M’s 9800 Dry Image Film and 3M 2243 Dry Image Paper, are modified versions of its wet-process imagesetters.

The APS-7/108C EnviroSafe Imaging System, at $89,000, is seemingly more expensive than its wet-process counterpart, the APS-6/108 Laser Imager, which is $61,500. But when the cost of plumbing, chemicals and water usage are factored in, the company believes the two are directly comparable in price.


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