April 12, 2002 -- CAP Ventures and WhatTheyThink.com have released results of a survey aimed determining the number of plates printers produce per month and how they produce the plates. This survey was conducted with 153 U.S. printers in March. The sample is weighted towards medium and large commercial printers compared with the overall population of print providers.
Monthly Plate Volume
As might be expected there was a wide distribution that correlated with the size of company. The mean number of plate produced per month was 1,458. However, half of the respondents indicated they are producing less than 500 plates per month.
The real jump in monthly plate volume comes from companies with 20 to 99 employees. This size company is producing 1,464 plates per month. Companies of this size often have 4, 5 and 6 color presses (and several of them), are running two or three shifts for six or seven days per week. It is also interesting to note that this size company has a big jump in use of CTP systems (60.0%) compared with around 35% of companies with under 20 employees.
CAP Ventures believes the number of plates per month continues to rise for many companies because of the trend to shorter runs and more efficient offset printing. Direct digital printing or print on demand (DocuTech, Indigo, et al) is taking a growing share of overall print volume, but not enough to drive down the volume of offset printing and the accompanying plates.
Platemaking – Imagesetters vs. CTP
Although imagesetters and traditional off-line platemaking is still widespread, the research suggests that computer to plate has become a dominant process.
Within our sample, 76.6% of the respondents indicated they have an offset press. Of these companies, 69.3% have an imagesetter and off-line platemaking capabilities; 65.3% have a computer to plate system. We did not specify what type of CTP system in terms of size or types of plates.
An important observation is that smaller companies (under 20 employees) are more likely to have an imagesetter (about 80%) than a CTP system (about 35%). The larger the company, the more likely they are to have a CTP system. In fact, 89.6% of companies with 100+ employees indicated they have a CTP system.
CAP Ventures believes the long term potential for imagesetters and the associated supplies is marginal. It appears that imagesetters have become relegated primarily to lower volume print providers. As these low volume printers migrate to CTP systems, the imagesetter market will further erode. Imagesetters will be around for many years but they will sell at lower prices (and margins) with less recurring revenue.
Premium Access Members at WhatTheyThink.com can view the percentage of plates produced by the type of platemaking process. Also see complete results including charts, graphs, demographics, cross tabulation and more detailed analysis at www.whattheythink.com.
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About CAP Ventures
CAP Ventures is a strategic consulting firm for providers and users of business communication technologies and services. They deliver key research, analysis, forecasting, benchmarking, and strategy recommendations to make a competitive difference in our clients’ businesses. www.capv.com
WhatTheyThink is the global printing industry's leading independent media organization with both print and digital offerings, including WhatTheyThink.com, PrintingNews.com and WhatTheyThink magazine versioned with a Printing News and Wide-Format & Signage edition. Our mission is to provide cogent news and analysis about trends, technologies, operations, and events in all the markets that comprise today’s printing and sign industries including commercial, in-plant, mailing, finishing, sign, display, textile, industrial, finishing, labels, packaging, marketing technology, software and workflow.