Thermal Plate Technology vs Violet Plate Technology - CTP Trends

How Do Computer-to-Plate (CTP) Thermal & Violet Platesetters Differ

As the prepress printing production industry has matured, businesses face a variety of plate imaging options which complicate the decision-making process. To help you discover what imagining option works best for your business we have outlined the difference between thermal and violet platesetters.

As Computer-to-Plate (CTP) technologies have evolved over the last 25 years, choosing a system has also become much more complicated because of the many subtle differences of brands, processes and intricacies required to  install and configure the equipment.

Today, thermal and violet lasers are the major players in the plate imaging industry. Thermal platesetters are the most popular choice among printers, but of course, each technology has its pros and cons to consider when making a buying decision.

Here’s a look at those differences.

Thermal Plate Technology


  • Highest quality  screening  output, exceeding 300 lines-per-inch (LPI)
  • Operates in daylight conditions and is not light sensitive
  • Longest run lengths of 200,000 – 400,000 impressions, with the capacity to output over 1 million impressions
  • Relies on silver-free plates
  • The only technology offering process less plate options, which eliminate the need for any chemicals and provide
  • Has the least environmental impact
  • Some platesetters are flexible and easy to repair
  • Ease of use to operate



  • More expensive
  • Slower production
  • Maintenance is more costly
  • Some systems use multi-diode lasers enclosed in a single head and can’t be replaced individually
  • Some machines are more complicated and more expensive
  • Equipment requires plate clamps, eventually incurring the expense for repair or replacement
  • Slower output


The Takeaway

It is important to note that manufacturers are working on reducing production time as they introduce new technologies. However, thermal is still faster than previous and older processes. While most thermal platesetters rely on silver-free plates, many thermal plates still require chemical processing.

Violet Photopolymer Plate Technology


  • Less expensive to own and operate
  • Maximum screening output of 300 LPI
  • Requires only 1 laser diode
  • Longer lifespan
  • Faster plate production
  • Overall less costly to repair and replace parts, as well as maintain
  • Consumes less energy
  • Faster output



  • Light Sensitive – requiring a safelight environment and special handling
  • Lower run length at just over 100,000 impressions
  • Doesn’t offer as many plate choices
  • Chemical costs are higher because plates are coated and get dirtier
  • Processors are more expensive to maintain
  • Requires chemical processing, which costs more and harms the environment


The Takeaway

Lasers can be baked to withstand longer run lengths, but still will not have the same longevity as thermal plates. Purchasers must choose between higher quality silver plates, which have a significant environmental impact, or photopolymer plates that do not contain silver, but  require a special preheating processor. Photopolymer violet plates don’t have the same hazardous issues as  silver- based violet, but still requires chemicals. While violet platesetters are light sensitive, risks of accidental light exposure can be minimized with the addition of autoloaders. Ultraviolet lasers are also emerging on the prepress printing scene as another option but receiving a much slower adoption in the market.

Making the Choice

True in any industry, it usually pays to hire an expert for advice and equipment warranties. is a globally-renowned CTP technology specialty firm with trained experts who offer complimentary consultations to guide you through your purchasing decision, as well as highly-skilled prepress printing technicians who provide equipment repair, preventive maintenance, laser head repair, system upgrades, service contracts and relocation services, including international shipments.

Laser diodes are one of the most important parts of your CTP platesetter. Unfortunately, there is not a standard lifespan ad some can potentially run forever with regular maintenance and proper upkeep. Learn more from our blog: “CTP Laser Diodes –  Ways to Extend the Life Expectancy and Performance.”

For additional information about thermal lasers, read our blog: “Remote & On-site Thermal Laser Head Repair,” contact us or give us a call, 888-380-7483, to speak to a consultant about your specific business needs.

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