Ledger & Times employee R.J. Swift monitors the finished page layouts that will be burned onto plates by the newspaper's new CRON plate imager.

MURRAY – With an eye looking toward the future of printing technology, the Murray Ledger & Times recently replaced a piece of the printing process that had been the standard for more than 50 years.

The Ledger & Times recently purchased a machine that completely changes the process of making plates, which are the aluminum sheets used to create the type and images that appear on each page of a newspaper. It is a CRON plate imager, and Ledger & Times Publisher Mike Davis said it is a game-changer for the paper.

“For more than half a century, since newspapers went away from using letterpress, they’ve had this technology where plates had to be developed, and then a protective ‘gum’ was put over it to protect it until it prints,” Davis said. “To do that, it has to run through a plate processor. This processor heats and bakes the plates and rinses it and then develops it.

“We’ve just entered into a new technology where the plate doesn’t have to be developed anymore. This technology is an innovation in printing, replacing technology that has been in place for probably 60 or 70 years. By using this new technology, the plate is exposed and put directly on the press. There’s no developing, so it saves energy – because there’s no processor for it to go through – it saves chemistry and it saves time. We’ve gone from doing 29 plates per hour to 41 plates per hour with this new technology.”

Ledger & Times Press Foreman David Stom said the new machine saves his crew a great deal of time and also preserves resources.

“It’s twice as fast as the old method, so it cuts down production time,” Stom said. “It’s cleaner and better for the environment because it doesn’t use any chemicals. As long as newspapers have been using metal plates, you’ve always had to develop the plates with chemicals. The types of chemicals that were used changed as times progressed. Some of it was an additive, and then it got to where it was subtractive, which means it ate some of the metal away to make the image. But this has no chemicals because the water that you’re using makes the plate. It’s also faster and quieter than the old way.”

Davis added that the CRON is another piece of technology the Ledger has implemented to give its readers the best product possible. 

“All these innovations that we do – like the new press we installed five years ago for new color and now this new plate processor – are just building ourselves up for the future to make sure that we are on the cutting edge of technology to be able to better serve our advertisers and readers of the Murray Ledger & Times for decades to come,” Davis said.