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Industry Insight

Fujifilm Plays the Name Game A New Way

Has Fujifilm stirred up a semantic storm in prepress with a press release questioning the validity of the term “chemistry free” as it applies to printing plates?

By Patrick Henry
Published: June 10, 2009

Has Fujifilm stirred up a semantic storm in prepress with a press release questioning the validity of the term “chemistry free” as it applies to printing plates? Andy Tribute explores the implications in thorough detail in his eXpert Row commentary for premium subscribers to WhatTheyThink. What we found interesting—and unusual—was that in its zeal to debunk “chemistry free” in favor of “low chemistry,” a new category, Fujifilm was willing to challenge the chemistry-free bona fides of one of its own products. Fujifilm bases its push for the new category on its interpretation of John Zarwan's recent report, “The Environmental Impact of A Printing Plate.” The Fujifilm release stated: "The recent report by John Zarwan highlighted the issue as the analysis of chemistry usage showed that our Brillia HD LH-PJE plate and FLH-Z processor solution, previously unclassified, uses less chemistry than either of the solutions identified as ‘chemistry-free.’” There’s where the candor comes in, if by reading a bit between the lines. In the chart on page 8 of the report, the Brillia HD LH-PJ/PL with FLH-Z processor—now dubbed a “low chemistry” solution—is shown to use 39 liters of chemistry per month vs. 50 for the “chemistry free” Agfa :Azura and a Fujifilm plate, the Brillia HD PRO-V (EcoMaxx-V). Jim Crawford, Fujifilm's group manager for consumables, had this to say: “I understand why it appears that Fujifilm is undoing some of the ‘chemistry-free’ bona fides, but that previously misleading messaging is precisely the reason last week’s release was issued. It aims to clear up some confusing language that's being used in the industry and to differentiate between ‘chemistry free,’ which should be reserved for Fujifilm's Ecomaxx-T (a.k.a. PRO-T in other parts of the world) and ‘lo chem’ systems such as Ecomaxx-V/VN (a.k.a. PRO-V) and LH-PJ with FLH-Z processor with ZAC technology. “At Fujifilm, we believe being environmentally sustainable is about being efficient across a wide spectrum of key measurement indicators. This is why we believe so strongly in the work John Zarwan has done. For the first time, we have some real benchmarks to measure environmental sustainability of printing plates. It's about chemistry usage, water consumption, energy consumption and waste generated. “Fujifilm believes that there is no one perfect solution because the nature of printing processes requires adaptability and flexibility. At least now there are key metrics that, when balanced against one another, will allow a printer to make an informed decision that cuts through all of the marketing hype out there. We are taking the position, based on the research done in the Zarwan report, that Fujifilm can in fact claim to have a range of ‘lo chem’ product offerings that compliment our ‘processless’ Ecomaxx-T (PRO-T) product. We have both photopolymer and thermal plate solutions that cover a broad spectrum of the sheetfed printing marketplace. We don’t feel our competitors can substantiate their marketing positions when compared to metrics that John Zarwan has established.” Zarwan takes the position that “the only true chemistry free plates are the Presstek water wash (though chemists consider water a chemical) and (maybe) the on-press developed plates, as that doesn’t use any additional chemistry.” He allows that Agfa’s :Azura plates also could be seen to fit the definition because, although they use chemistry, their ThermoFuse imaging technology is not a chemical development process. Got all of that? We wonder what the responses from Fujifilm’s rival platemakers will do to clarify—or make even more controversial—the meaning of “chemistry free.”

Patrick Henry, Executive Editor for WhatTheyThink.com is also the director of Liberty or Death Communications, a consultancy specializing in research, education, promotional, and editorial support services for the printing and publishing industries.

Patrick Henry is available for speaking engagements and consulting projects. To get more information contact us here.

Please offer your feedback to Patrick. He can be reached at patrick.henry@whattheythink.com.



By Graham Leeson on Jun 11, 2009

Patrick, you are right in that Fujifilm is changing its naming strategy for our Ecomaxx-V/VN plate (PRO-V in Europe), previously described as "chemistry free", arguably to our own disadvantage. However, I can offer an explanation for the main reason to change. In your comment above, you start to explore the wonderful world of what is a "chemistry", and this can be debated at length, but these debates, in my view, miss the point. The real question is "Is a printer being mislead by the term chemistry free?". This is important because as a supplier, we have a responsibility to market our products in a clear and unambiguous way. Misleading marketing has obvious ethical implications and can also, depending on local trading laws, be challenged by independent bodies. Our view on this question is simple. Processing solutions/liquids that require special handling because of their composition legally require what's called in the UK an MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet). This sheet informs the user how the solution should be handled, and what precautions to take. In Fujfilm's view, we believe it is misleading to supply a processing solution that requires such an MSDS sheet, but then define it as "chemistry free". We are now using the term "low chemistry" as it clearly indicates that the solution is still a chemistry, but uses much less. Simple. We have also used this definition for our Brillia HD LH-PJ and FLH-Z processor combination as this also uses much less chemistry, as indicated in the Zarwan report. The fact that this latter combination can use slightly less chemistry than a "chemistry free" solution indicates just how ridiculous this situation has become. It is important that these issues are understood as it must be remembered that when a printer buys into a product, he then becomes responsible for substantiating the facts if he uses it in his marketing material. The days of unsupportable environmental claims for most suppliers are long gone.


By Barry Brown on Jun 11, 2009

Agfa's :Azura cannot be considered chemistry free, when it clearly uses something more than "basically just water" to process :Azura plates before printing. The fact that the chemistry is in with the gum is neither here nor there; if there's a chemistry safety sheet then there must be chemistry.


By Michael J on Jun 11, 2009

It's as welcome move to get some real metrics and standards to what is usually just marketing slogans. When real metrics appear for the total carbon footprint, I think it will make it a lot easier for buyers to evaluate the relative merits of print versus the internet. The common wisdom about "the dead tree environmental bad" media- Print- will be able take its place in a very complex world. To paraphrase, . . . there is no one perfect solution because the nature of communication processes requires adaptability and flexibility.


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