A company set up by two former Agfa and Kodak R&D directors has applied for patent protection for what it is calling “the most important technology breakthrough since the introduction of thermal CTP”.

The company, JP Imaging (JPI), claims to have developed a method of laser exposure on uncoated standard grained and anodised aluminium that will switch it from its normal (oxidised) hydrophobic state to a hydrophilic state.

JPI founders Dr Rod Potts and Dr Peter Bennett, former R&D directors for lithographic printing plates at Agfa and Kodak respectively, have developed the technology in collaboration with Liverpool University with partial funding from the UK government.

The breakthrough centres around the use of an ultra-fast laser, which pulses once every 10-14 seconds, (100 trillion times a second) to switch the ink receptivity of uncoated grained and anodised aluminium. The laser causes the aluminium surface to temporarily hydrophilise, meaning the plate will perform in the same manner on press as any other digitally exposed plate, with the imaged areas taking fount and the non-imaged areas taking ink.

Former DuPont plate manufacturing manager John Adamson, who co-founded JPI with Potts and Bennett, claimed that the new technology had “massive environmental implications” for the printing industry.

JPI’s so called “miracle plate” could offer massive environmental savings on coating chemicals, coating solvents and energy consumption during plate manufacture and subsequent use.

Adamson said: “This is the biggest breakthrough in CTP since thermal.”

JPI said it hoped to bring the technology to market “within two years”.