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.”