Miracle-Plate technology brings ultrafast lasers into printing industry

In computer-to-plate lithographic printing (which still dominates ink-jet methods for high quality), an aluminum plate is coated with a chemical resist in which an image is lithographically applied.

Feb 1st, 2010

In computer-to-plate lithographic printing (which still dominates ink-jet methods for high quality), an aluminum plate is coated with a chemical resist in which an image is lithographically applied. Portions of that image selectively attract ink in the printing process, which typically requires four plates to mix the cyan, magenta, yellow, and black (CMYK) components for the final printed product. After this single use, the aluminum plates are recycled, but coating contaminants prevent them from being used in future lithography applications.

"Miracle-Plate" technology from J P Imaging (Birkenhead, England) eliminates the chemical coatings. Use of ultrafast femtosecond lasers changes the surface hydrophobicity of the aluminum oxide, causing ink to adhere or repel, effectively creating an "uncoated" lithographic plate that could be re-used, by some estimates, more than five times—drastically reducing the consumption of virgin aluminum in the print industry. The image can then be removed in a heating process and repeated over again. Although this technology is still in the development phase, J P Imaging is confident that ultrafast lasers will someday be integral to the lithographic printing industry. Contact John Adamson at john.adamson@miracle-plate.com.

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