Shorter Turnaround Time Drives Move to CTP

Founded in 1928, Steketee-Van Huis (SVH), Holland, MI, produces high-end folding cartons for customers across the US. Approximately 90% of its business comes from the pharmaceutical, software, food, specialty products, and game industries. From a product management standpoint, SVH must print, die-cut, and glue all products within a very short lead time in order to fulfill the just-in-time inventory requirements of its customers. A Heidelberg/Creo computer-to-plate (CTP) system is now part of that process.

Most of the print production at SVH is 4-, 5-, and 6-color work, although special pharmaceutical runs can require up to 16 colors per layout. Print production is done on Heidelberg six-color CD presses with aqueous towers. The electronics are processed through Mac systems and then downloaded into a Barco packaging system for full production layout.

Until the introduction of CTP to the plant, SVH would prepare film in 28x40-in. layouts for plating and press. A last-minute change to a press layout meant running a new set of production films, which incurred additional costs and created downtime on press.

Ted Etheridge, president and CEO of SVH, explains, "Our decision to go CTP was driven by the desire for quality and the need to shorten turnaround times. Our customers expect to see presswork that matches the proof, and they want the final product as quickly as possible."

SVH took delivery of a new Heidelberg/Creo Trendsetter Spectrum 3244 digital halftone proofing system and Trendsetter 3244 Autoloader (AL) in June 1999 (installation number 1,000 of a Heidelberg/Creo CTP system).

The company uses the AL as the primary platemaking machine and the Spectrum for proofing and for offloading the AL during peak periods. Both systems are driven by SVH's existing Barco workflow through the Creo Recorder Interface (CRI) software.

Etheridge continues, "The really exciting thing about Spectrum is the proofing solution, which is a huge advantage over other vendors. We run a lot of 15- or 16-color forms for packaging, and accurate proofing is always a challenge."

Most of SVH's new packaging work will be proofed using 8-up Imation Matchprint Laser Proofs imaged on the Trendsetter Spectrum, which is designed to support multiple spot colors.

Greg McNeice, packaging specialist at SVH, says, "Our new Heidelberg/Creo systems allow us to make changes-even minor ones-in a digital environment and go directly back to plate. We eliminate the time and costs involved with producing and restripping film, plus the variations introduced by the film exposure process. The bottom line is that we gain significantly in productivity, as do our customers.

"Adds McNeice. "When we produce a product today and the same product again in three months, we must guarantee our client that they will be identical on the shelf."

The precision and repeatability of thermal CTP imaging will complete SVH's state-of-the art production facility, which already houses the latest technology for color matching. For example, reports Etheridge, the Heidelberg CD presses record and archive densitometer readings so when jobs are rerun, the ink fountains automatically open to the settings from the previous run.

Etheridge believes that return on investment (ROI) calculations are different for every company that considers a move to CTP. "We're looking for the ROI in the pressroom. We want to increase the consistency of our output and our ability to respond to customers quickly. The precision of the plates from the Heidelberg/Creo system, combined with a shorter proofing cycle and quicker makereadies, will help meet this goal.


Supplier Information
Heidelberg Americas, Kennesaw, GA; 800/437-7388; heidelberg.com
Creo Products Inc., Burnaby, B.C., Canada; 604/451-2700; creo.com
Barco Graphics. Vandalia, OH; 937/454-1721; esko-graphics.com



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