July 3, 2007 -- WAKE FOREST, N.C. -- Saving time and improving print quality are the two biggest benefits that have accrued to The Advocate-Messenger since the Danville, Ky.-based daily newspaper completed its transition to computer-to-plate (CtP). The Advocate-Messenger abandoned its old filmsetter, processors and all the associated conventional plate-making apparatus in favor of a sophisticated prepress solution leveraging the Southern Lithoplate CtP Alliance Solution.
The Advocate-Messenger's automated prepress solution consists of Southern Lithoplate's VIPER 830(R) lithoplates, Screen's PlateRite News 2000S thermal platesetter, Polkadots Software's Newsflo Lite PDF workflow management application and the Nela HAO semiautomatic plate bender.
"Going to CtP has cut down on production time in prepress and in the pressroom and removed a lot of the human error," said Stephen Fowler, prepress coordinator. "The improvements have been seen in both the commercial work and the newspapers we print here."
The Advocate-Messenger implemented its new workflow solution in May, becoming one of the first newspapers in the Schurz Communications, Inc. group to adopt CtP. Headquartered in South Bend, Ind., Schurz Communications has newspaper sites in Indiana, California, Kentucky, Michigan, Maryland, Pennsylvania and South Dakota.
The Advocate-Messenger prints 10,506 copies of the paper daily and 11,561 copies on Sunday. In addition, it prints The Interior Journal and The Jessamine Journal, two weeklies serving nearby communities. The community newspapers' respective circulations are 4,235 and 6,874 copies.
Between its newspaper and commercial printing jobs, The Advocate-Messenger images approximately 1,500 plates per month. The conversion to CtP has streamlined prepress production at every stage of the process.
"All of the steps that involved working with film and plate burning have been eliminated," Fowler said. "The workflow software is very easy to use. Newsflo has streamlined the proofing and plate-making process. Once we receive the approved PDF file, we can output plates on the PlateRite and be confident the printed version will always match the proof. We have virtually no reason to remake plates, which saves time."
Installation of the Nela HAO is slated for August, according to Fowler. Meanwhile, press operators are using an existing manual punch/bender that was modified to accommodate the new plates.
"The Nela device is fast and accurate," Fowler noted. "Plates are positioned with three register pins. The bender carries out several steps automatically. That will speed up production even further."
For The Advocate-Messenger, quality of the finished products was a major issue in the decision to go to thermal CtP.
"With the previous system, there were so many opportunities to degrade the printing quality," Fowler explained. "The sheets of film would move or air would get under the film, so the sheets would not lay flat. Dirt, paper dust and tape could land on the glass of the plate burner. Spots on the plate would cause a gritty appearance to the printing."
Fowler said the newspaper noticed the improvement with CtP right away.
"The combination of the VIPER plates and the PlateRite has been excellent," he said. "The press operators are able to get the press in register quicker. The pictures look much sharper on the page. The color is extremely crisp."