Bob Weber to Launch Private Label Processless Plates

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By Richard Romano, Industry Analyst

The trend in virtually every part of the printing industry–from prepress to finishing–is increasing efficiency and productivity. In prepress specifically, that trend is nothing new, and the advent of computer-to-plate (CTP) took film out of the equation, saving time and materials in getting from a digital file to the press. Even within CTP, new plate technologies have been streamlining platemaking by eliminating much of the processing. “Processless plates” have referred to a variety of plate technologies that eliminate, not always totally, but at the very least substantially, the need to chemically process plates after imaging. Processless and chemistry-free platemaking saves time and the cost of the chemicals, and is better for the environment as well as employee health and safety. Advances in processless plate technology continue to be made.

Bob Weber Inc. has already carved out a niche specializing in reconditioned CTP and other prepress equipment, as well as parts and supplies. In the next month or so, the 33-year-old company is rolling out three lines of its own new private-label processless plates. The new BWI Digital Plates will consist of two new thermal plates and one new violet-laser plate.

Meant to compete with Fuji’s Ecomaxx T and Kodak’s Sonora XP plates, BWI’s EcoDirect thermal plates are developed directly on press and can print up to 100,000 impressions, although users may be able to squeeze out up to 120,000.

For those users who are leery of developing plates on press–there are concerns about plate contamination–BWI is introducing HydroWash plates. These plates are developed using nothing more than tap water and powdered soap. “There’s nothing like it on the market,” said Joseph Velasquez, General Manager and head of the BWI Digital Plates Division. The HydroWash plates don’t require yellow-light conditions (they can withstand exposure to white light during developing), and don’t require preheating.

The third plate that BWI is introducing, is, said Velasquez, “different than any plate that’s out there.” HydroWash Violet is a violet-laser plate that also does not require yellow-light conditions, and can handle exposure to white light for up to two hours. Like the HydroWash thermals, HydroWash Violet plates are developed with soap and water, and don’t require a gumming solution or preheating. The plates will run up to 200,000 impressions but, said Velasquez, if the plates are preheated, run lengths can extend up to about 500,000 impressions.

The plates will run on all thermal or violet-laser systems, with no special handling or other considerations, although they will come with recommended laser power and drum speed settings. They also require no special handling on press, nor special fountain solutions or inks. Users can use the same plate cleaners they normally use.

BWI has been extensively testing the new plates, and customers were given a sneak peak of the new lines at Graph Expo last fall. Velasquez said that the new plates will compete favorably with plates from Fuji, Kodak, and Agfa.

“We think once customers try these plates, they’ll be very happy with the eco-friendliness and the run-lengths, and I think they’ll be very happy with the quality,” said Velasquez. “I think we compete very well with the big guys.”

Look for the new BWI Digital Plates to launch in January 2016.
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