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Computer to plate (CtP) systems produce Flexography and Lithography plates. Ctp replaces an older technology that utilizes film to make plates.
There are different varieties of CtP systems that use many types of plate material and chemical systems. A typical lithography CtP system is composed of 3 basic parts:
3. Processing line
1. The digital file used to create the plate gets started at the RIP or Raster Image Processor. The RIP is usually networked so that files may be easily moved to and from it, so it is sometimes referred to as a server, in reality it is both.
Once the file is converted by the RIP (raster image processor) it is then ready to image the plate material in the platesetter.
2. The platesetter for lithographic plates is an imaging device that uses the digital file to create dots on the plate, forming the image that will then be ink-receptive once mounted on the printing press. Platesetters today mainly fall into two categories, based upon their imaging technology: violet (which use a violet colored laser to image the plate material) and thermal (which use thermal energy, not visible light, to create the image).
3. Once imaged, depending on the plate type, some type of processing will be necessary to complete the process. As the technology evolves, this step is becoming less and less dependent on chemical processing and more and more on simpler water wash-off systems. Soon it is expected completely process free plates will be available in the market.