‘Typewriter ribbon’ looks set to revolutionise printing

Laser and tape imaging plan could do away with awkward plate changes.

Printing will no longer involve plate changes, with the time and cost involved, if a new laser imaging system for printing cylinders is adopted, a German firm has announced.

Using digital technology, DICOweb, developed by MAN Roland’s head of research Dr Josef Schneider and his team, applies a synthetic material from a ribbon on to a printer’s form cylinder using diode lasers. Such lasers’ advantages include high efficiency, compactness and easy handling. They are used in CD players, optical fibre networks and laser printers.

In the new process a ribbon, about the width of a videotape and contained in a cartridge, runs lengthways over the printing cylinder rather like a typewriter ribbon. The ribbon is made of a polymer substrate and a transfer layer. Instead of typewriter keys, some 200 beams of diode laser light are used to transfer material, pixel by pixel, from the transfer layer to the cylinder from the ribbon.

The material transferred to the cylinder forms the ink accepting areas on the printing surface. Once the print run is finished the ink and thermotransfer material can be wiped away with a cleaning fleece and remover liquid. Changeover between prints can take just 10 minutes.

The quality is good enough for professional print systems.At 3,200dpi it has a resolution five times higher than conventional laser printers. The process makes any applied image durable for more than 30,000 eight page issues ensuring cost effective print runs.

Schneider won the German Berthold Leibinger Innovationspreis for applied laser physics for the printing system. The prize is one of the most valuable international sponsorship prizes in applied laser technology.