CTP for Four-Color
According to Roberts, publishers should understand what happens to their files after they go to the printer, while printers need to understand what happens to the files before the files arrive. "A better workflow will come from better communication," he says, "not only from better technology."
Although CTP has matured significantly in the last five years, publishers and printers expect a variety of new technological developments in both hardware and software.
Notes Roberts, "The obvious answer is not the output itself but rather the front end. PDF, as everyone knows by now, is the big trend. It won't necessarily augment color quality, but it will expedite file transfer time and RIP time, and ease up file storage requirements. I believe in the very near future CTP and PDF will be attached at the hip like Siamese twins Chang and Eng Bunker of P.T. Barnum fame."
Dainton predicts a broadening of the supply-side of UV CTP platesetters, using new UV laser, laser-diode and mercury-vapor lamp technologies. "This will result in a rich variety of affordable systems that can meet the different page-volume and production needs of book printers large and small," he says.
In addition to CTP systems, Direct Imaging (DI) presses, digital presses and print-on-demand (POD) systems also bypass conventional platemaking. These technologies, although younger than CTP, are evolving rapidly.
For example, this past summer, the first four-color POD systems were being touted by printers such as Delta Direct Access, Valencia, Calif., and DeHart's. All of these technologies use different hardware, yet they're related. "Which process is better?" asks Don DeHart. "You be the judge. Conventional process, CTP and DI processes, web vs. sheetfed systems, and digital presses all have a place. I believe that rather than being competitive, they're complementary. These different systems … offer the end-user the chance to read a book that looks and feels the same, although it was printed on a different system."