Print Perspectives

Webstar eliminates costs and chemicals with SONORA Process Free Plates

October 14, 2020

Webstar commercial printer

A growing number of web offset printers around the world are now reaping the quality, cost and sustainability benefits of KODAK SONORA Process Free Plates, joining the ranks of thousands of sheetfed offset printers. Webstar, one of New Zealand’s leading commercial web printers, is also among them. As part of New Zealand’s largest print group, Blue Star New Zealand, Webstar operates one state-of-the-art print facility in Auckland and another in Masterton. The company specializes mainly in high-volume, high-quality magazines, catalogs, directories, flyers and promotions as well as direct mail.

Webstar is committed to reducing its carbon footprint and improving the environmental sustainability of its production processes. In early 2020, Webster replaced a conventional processed plate with the KODAK SONORA X Process Free Plate in Auckland, where production currently takes place on two Rotoman 16-page web offset presses – to be joined by a third in the near future.

The migration to the SONORA X Process Free Plate eliminated the consumption of water, energy and chemicals from processing and obviated the need to dispose of spent chemicals. It also enabled on-press waste from plate processing variability to be eliminated. All of this brought not only sustainability benefits but also tangible cost savings. “What’s more, we were able to get rid of two plate processors in the platemaking department, so that we additionally cut out the expense and the human resources that were required for care and maintenance of those machines,” says Steve Lonergan, Technical Innovations Manager at Webstar.

Sustainability and cost reduction without compromising on quality

Webstar’s goal was to deliver the same print quality and run lengths as the old plate without compromising press performance – such as production speed or the amount of waste. “The SONORA X Plate has demonstrated its ability to satisfy our every wish in day-to-day use. We’ve already printed runs of more than 400,000 impressions with the plate on the Rotoman presses. I would rate the SONORA X Plate very highly in that respect,” Lonergan reports. “It was incredible how smoothly we completed the transition from the wet processed plate to process free. Our printers experienced no problems, and they were quick to embrace the new plate. Even though somewhat more careful handling is called for with the SONORA X Plate, none of them would shed a tear for the processed plate we used to work with.”

CTP + process free plates from Kodak

By switching platemaking to process free, this has helped achieve a leaner workflow, allowing Webstar to get the plates to the presses faster. The KODAK MAGNUS Q800 Platesetter, on which the SONORA X Plates are imaged, has likewise opened the door to more platemaking speed and efficiency. It’s now just over two years since Webstar installed an X Speed MAGNUS Q800 Platesetter (45 plates/h) and equipped it with a KODAK Automatic Pallet Loader. A high capacity KODAK PRINERGY Workflow System located at the Auckland site controls and drives plate output on the MAGNUS Q800 as well as on two KODAK MAGNUS VLF Platesetters based at Webstar’s Masterton operations. By running plate output at both sites via just one PRINERGY Workflow installation, Webstar saves on IT infrastructure and labor costs.

“We have an average monthly consumption of around 6000 plates at our Auckland site. Our team had to reload plates several times a day by hand with the old CTP system.” Steve Lonergan explains, “The plates on one pallet last us several days, and changing pallets is a simple matter. The automated CTP solution from Kodak and the SONORA X Process Free Plate combine perfectly, supporting our efforts to offer a top-quality print service.”