This is a recent article run in American Printer Magazine featuring Horton and Horton Printing and our new Kodak computer to plate (CtP) machine.
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Kodak Polychrome Graphics Helps Small Commercial Printer Make the Switch to CtP
When Horton and Horton Printing opened in 1965, its prepress operation included a light table with a carpenter's square for stripping negatives. A tomato can featuring a tiny hole covered with cheesecloth and a small vacuum frame to contact typesetting direct to the film served as a camera.
"Look how far we've come in 37 years. It's truly amazing," says Brad Horton, owner of the family-owned, commercial sheet fed printing shop with 20 employees. "If we can make the switch to CtP, any printer can."
Horton and Horton Printing stood at a crossroads in early 2000. Following the sale of the company's prepress subsidiary, Horton faced a major decision - stay with conventional or switch to computer to plate (CtP) printing. Realizing the implications of what he needed to do, he spent the next two years thoroughly researching every CtP option.
"Many peers and vendors told me I was crazy to even consider CtP because of the size of our operation and lack of computers or any other prep equipment," says Horton. "Even though we became convinced early on that CtP represented the way to move our business forward technologically, we initially found ourselves unsure if converting to CtP made practical sense."
Horton spent months researching CtP technologies. Because his company enjoys a long-standing partnership with Kodak Polychrome Graphics (KPG), the commitment that KPG made to thermal imaging was an important factor in his concluding that thermal imaging offered the most advantages. Horton credits KPG sales representative Richard Bean with guiding him through the information-gathering process and ultimately convincing him that CtP was the best solution for his business.
"Learning about the various technologies is the most confusing part of the buying process," says Horton. "We had issues with other technologies, such as the hazardous disposal of chemicals associated with visible light plates. What really convinced us, though, to go with thermal was the sharpness of the dots and resolution."
While concerned about costs and obsolescence, the biggest obstacle to committing to a CtP system centered on space limitations within Horton and Horton's facility. Horton discovered a solution at Print '01 - KPG's SWORD Thermal Printing Plates.
SWORD expands on the benefits of KPG's thermal plates, without the need for preheating or postbaking. SWORD thermal plates are processed in a specially-designed straight-path, negative type processor. The compact, 34-inch unit - combined with the elimination of preheat and postbake ovenssignificantly reduces space requirements and consumes less energy.
"SWORD literally made it possible for us to change over to CtP because we just didn't have room to add two ovens in our prepress area," says Horton. "Our other two concerns were also addressed. We knew we were getting in early on the latest evolution of thermal CtP technology, while features such as the little chemistry replenishment required by the processor and ability of the plates to handle long press runs keeps the costs of our peripherals in line with conventional plates."
Horton and Horton Printing has seen a 15 to 20 percent growth in new business since switching to SWORD. While he attributes part of that to the "buzz" created by having the newest technology, faster turnaround times represent the biggest reason. For example, the company recently met a tight deadline on a job for a local art gallery. Files came in late at night via Horton and Horton's ftp site and within 12 hours 30,000 invitations were produced in 4-color PMS plus violet.
The company also produces a tremendous number of books, booklets, brochures and other multi-page literature. Often, changes to text or images need to be made after initial printing has started.
"We can now easily make the changes with little disruption to our schedule," says Horton. "The productivity in our pressroom has increased by ten percent, due in large part to fewer remakes and highly accurate plate registration with SWORD. Taking everything we've learned and experienced into account, my advice to printers still on the fence about CtP is to make the leap. The payoffs will be immediate."