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View Full Version : What is direct-to-plate?



Sid Hartha
03-13-2007, 07:09 AM
I am working on a self-published book. I'm shopping around for a printer for when the time comes, and I got a good (low) price quote from this printer:

A&A Printer - www.printshopcentral.com

They are in Tampa, FL. Has anybody here ever heard of them? Any good/bad experiences with them?

They say they can do it cheaper because they use a "direct-to-plate" system. Does anyone know anything about this? How is the quality?

Wordworm
03-13-2007, 08:57 AM
Sid, direct to plate (aka CTP, aka computer-to-plate) is pretty much the standard technology now used in offset printing. It simply means no film, just files going straight to plate.

In the case of this company, what they're selling in basic terms is 1200 dpi resolution printing (i.e. medium quality printing) using paper plates (i.e. not metal plates) to produce short run print jobs (i.e. 300-1000 impressions per plate). Their pricing may or may not be better than other comparable printers, but it isn't because they're using direct to plate. Paper plates wear out much faster than metal, but they're much less expensive, hence good for short runs although not suitable for high quality printing.

The specs they're quoting are the same quality that small printers used to offer going back to the 1970s and on, using the old Silver Master plate systems (which they make mention of) and single color (b/w) small offset presses like AB Dicks or AM Multis (usually 12 x18), which could also add a second color using add-ons like the T-51 heads sold by Townsend. Paper plates have been around for many years, so there's nothing especially new about that. And sending files direct to paper plates is nothing new either. The direct to plate press that really revolutionized offset printing was the Heidelberg GTO-DI (i.e. Direct Imaging), which was first introduced in 1991, and could print four color jobs (not just single color) direct to plate (which were right on the press).

As for pricing, understand that all printers like to quote one lump sum because it lets them hide a multitude of padding in the cost. But if you really want to get the best price, ask your printer to give you a quote broken down by item as follows: prepress and prep, proofs, plates (cost per plate), stock (per M sheets), makereadies, press run (per M), bindery (per M folding, trimming, stitching or perfect binding), and delivery. Many printers won't like doing that. Stick to the ones that are willing to break it down for you. Then compare carefully. Just by showing that you know what makes up a print job, you'll always do better.

And make sure you understand what kind of files they prefer. PDF is what you should be supplying, but if not, be sure you understand what they're doing to your files to prep them for press, or you could be in for some nasty surprises.

All other things being equal, printing costs will vary according to press size and press run (i.e. the larger the press, the more expensive per M; the longer the run, the less expensive per M).

Tsu Dho Nimh
03-13-2007, 09:07 PM
Sid -
Don't assume that because it's a big printer that they can't do small jobs.

I used to buy print (user manuals) and the two most competitive printers were also the biggest. They LOVED the little cheap jobs because it kept the staff busy between the big full-color runs.

And if it's an out-of-town printer make sure you factor freight into your pricing.

It's not cheap! I was chatting with a local printer and asked him if they had any worries about the overseas printers and he laughed. When he stopped laughing he explained that the overseas printers' customers could either wait for cargo container to fill up (4-12 weeks) OR they could pay for air freight ($$$$). And that only got them to the port of entry, where they had to pay for shipping ot get it out of the port or pay $$$ storage fees.

Sid Hartha
03-13-2007, 11:04 PM
Thanks for the informative replies...very helpful

ResearchGuy
03-14-2007, 01:09 AM
. . . I was chatting with a local printer and asked him if they had any worries about the overseas printers and he laughed. When he stopped laughing he explained that the overseas printers' customers could either wait for cargo container to fill up (4-12 weeks) OR they could pay for air freight ($$$$). And that only got them to the port of entry, where they had to pay for shipping ot get it out of the port or pay $$$ storage fees.
Ridiculous. I know folks who have, with great satisfaction and at great prices, used printers in China and South Korea, and I own copies of their books. Of course a domestic printer would say that sort of thing. It is false (or at best so incomplete as to be misleading). The only problematic experience was when a shipment was delayed at the Port of San Francisco (or maybe it was Oakland) on account of a dock workers strike.

Overseas printers have U.S. contacts to facilitate transactions.

Consider a 6 x 9" trade paperback, on heavy, glossy paper, color illustrations throughout (nearly every page); well printed, well bound, with color cover on good cover stock. About two bucks a copy in quantity 5,000. Shipping included, from China.

Or consider a 9 x 12" hardbound (with covers extending an additional quarter inch), 280+ pages, printed on slick, heavy paper, color throughout, gold leaf on edges, bookmarker ribbon, gold leaf printing on cover, AND in a full-color slipcase. Limited edition (500 copies, I think), printed in China, and, including delivery, priced for retail sale at $75 (printing and delivery of course being a fraction of that).

You folks can, with a few clicks or a bit of ingenuity, track down the organizational newsletter I edit. The latest issue includes contact information for two overseas printers with which a member (of the organization) has had good experience.

--Ken

Anthony Ravenscroft
03-14-2007, 07:48 AM
Wordworm -- that ought to be a FAQ.