Epson Announces Release of Low-Cost InkJet Technology Plate Maker

Epson has announced the release of their new Epson 7990 CTP system plate maker. At around $10,000, this plate maker has been suggested to be a serious competitor to the Glunz and Jensen line of PlateWriters. After extensive testing of the 2 systems, it is obvious the Epson 7990 CTP system cannot match the Glunz and Jensen PlateWriter line because it lacks many of the features and ease of operation that the Glunz and Jensen provides as a commercial production plate maker.

However, while the Epson 7990 CTP system could not be used as a primary plate maker due to the lack of high or even good quality output, it is an excellent wide-format printer which may be used as a redundant / backup plate maker.

We have been in discussions with Epson in regards to carrying the 7990 product. It appears that we may indeed carry the product but that will be finalized in the coming days depending upon demand for the product. We have seen the Epson 7990 CTP system in operation and see both an upside and a downside to this product depending upon the use. As a wide-format printer, the product works flawlessly – something the Glunz and Jensen line does not do. However, as a plate maker, the product has certain quirks that must be taken into account. These quirks prevent it from being a high quality primary plate maker, but these would be trivial when an emergency occurs and you are using the system as a backup plate maker.

As a plate maker, the Epson 7990 CTP system can be difficult at first to run on press. The plate requires a lot of water in order for it to work at start up. The plates will also ink up when stopped. This means that at lunchtime, when the press is stopped, when the pressman comes back from lunch, they will have to clean the plate, get it wet again and then put it back on the press before they can continue running. This is a 20 – 30 minute process. When cleaning the plates, it was found that some cleaners were detrimental to the plates, so a recommended cleaner must be used. We gave 2 customers sample plates from the Epson 7990 CTP to test for us; one of our customers had issues with the solids and one had issues with screens.

The manufacturer claims the product will create plates that can run 20,000 impressions. We have not actually seen the product run 20,000 impressions and believe the actual numbers are half of that.

The Epson 7990 CTP system also has no registration system like the Glunz and Jensen PlateWriters do. This brings your skills as a pressman into play. Decent 2 color “non-critical” work is easy to produce, but close register work is a challenge. Although 4 color work is not recommended by Epson, 4 color may actually be easier to produce because of the ability to hide registration errors somewhat – still high quality work cannot be achieved with the Epson 7990.

When you compare these negatives – Needing to overly wet the plate to start, inability to stop without the plate inking up, short press runs, and no registration capabilities – to any Glunz and Jensen PlateWriter, you will quickly see that the Glunz and Jensen stands head and shoulders above the Epson. This is because the Glunz and Jensen PlateWriter’s do not have any of these issues: plates are easy to run, have long run lengths, produce much higher quality screens and solids, and all of the units are built with a precision registration system.

Additionally, the plate costs of the Epson 7990 CTP system have been rumored to be expensive. They are somewhat, but in truth, the plate costs are actually only around $2.00 per square foot – about $0.75 per square foot more than Glunz and Jensen plates. Even though a Glunz and Jensen PlateWriter is more expensive than the Epson 7990 CTP system, if you output between 200 – 300 plates per month, the plate cost difference will pay for the difference between the Epson 7990 CTP system and the Glunz and Jensen in as little as two years.

The Upside is that the Epson 7990 CTP system is inexpensive and it’s multi-functional. It can not only be used as a proofer, or a backup piece of equipment, because of the use of inkjet technology, it can also be used as a wide format printer. This makes the machine handy. While it’s a multi-functional unit and cannot produce plates like a specialized plate setter can, it can save the day when a plate maker needs service or goes down in the middle of a group of projects.

This means that if you understand that the machine is a wide-format printer first, and a plate maker second, you will be pleased with it and see its sweet spot in your company. If you are looking for a trouble-free primary plate maker that will be used often, then the Glunz and Jensen PlateWriters are what you are looking for.

It is true that when being used as a plate maker, the Epson 7990 CTP system has a short run length, no registration capabilities and the need to keep the plates wet and clean them if they dry. But it can bail you out of a tight situation if the need arises. This means that the Epson 7990 CTP system has its place in a print shop. It can be a dedicated wide-format printer that is also your backup / redundant plate maker if you ever had an emergency. As such, we believe it to be a useful piece of equipment for many print shops.

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