GERMANY • In order to further differentiate between the current and future status of flexo printing formes, whether it be plates or sleeve systems, Flexo & Gravure Global’s editors have asked several suppliers of printing formes and prepress service companies for their opinions. Below are the responses of Jan Scharfenberg, DuPont’s European, Middle Eastern and African technical manager.
- Is there any further optimisation potential for flexo plate-making (plates, sleeves) processes?
Since DuPont introduced photopolymer printing plates more than 40 years ago, the plate-making process has experienced continuous improvements. In this context, the elimination of repro films through the introduction of digital imaging using LAMS layers and the solvent-free thermal processing of flat and round printing formes certainly represent the most profound changes.
Among the most significant trends in package printing in terms of lower print-runs, frequent design changes and increasing demands on efficiency, cost reduction and environmental compatibility, particularly the thermal plate-making process grows in importance. This process offers fast access times and high print quality contributing to increase the market adoption of flexo printing. At the same time, certain concepts are easier to implement which are intended to locate the plate-making process nearer to the printing press. This results in further benefits in terms of flexibility.
- Does fixed colour palette printing contribute to a further increase the performance in flexo printing?
Particularly with regard to the above-mentioned general trends, the concept of “Fixed Colour Palette” (FCP) offers significant potential to increase the efficiency of the printing press. An important prerequisite to adopt FCP is the availability of an extremely consistent plate to reproduce a considerably wider tonal range. In this respect, the Cyrel Easy plate technology is particularly well suited – which is verified by many practical examples and also by the impressive REVO project undertaken in cooperation with Esko and other partners.
In case of particularly high requirements in the field of register accuracy, photopolymer rotary printing formes offer a further opportunity to implement and even improve the FCP concept. In any case, this approach requires close cooperation among all partners involved in the fields of digital prepress, plate-making, print-shop and also a high degree of standardisation for all processes.
- The aim of Industry 4.0 or Print 4.0 respectively is the comprehensive networking and automation of the whole production chain. During drupa 2016, suppliers like Esko, Vianord and AV Flexologic introduced solutions for the further automation of the flexo plate-making processes. Do you consider this as indicative of a trend towards a sustainable change of the whole flexo industry?
The automation of the plate-making processes is and remains a key issue in flexo printing as it has to catch up with gravure and offset printing. In close cooperation with our partners, DuPont develops solutions which not only represent the most appealing technical concepts but also make economic sense.
A particular challenge is the variety of plates in terms of types and thickness for the many different flexo applications and their handling during the single process steps. However, it will take some time until complete automation is achieved and we are capable of producing most types of plates “overnight” seemingly without any manual intervention. But the first steps in this direction have certainly been made and the required technical concepts are already available.
Please note, we welcome and encourage any interested readers to send in their own answers to the above questions to email@example.com