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 Eva Freudenthaler, the Flint Group’s vice president marketing and technology, flexographic products.
- Is there any further optimisation potential for flexo plate-making (plates, sleeves) processes?
Amongst many other factors, key value drivers for pre-press operations and flexo printers are achievable print quality, durability of printing formes, reduced cleaning cycles, printing speed, plate processing efficiency and simplicity. While a lot has been achieved over the last few years along almost all of these dimensions, we think there is still a lot of room for improvement.
The print quality in flexo printing has reached a level where further improvements might be more of an evolution than a revolution but to achieve the highest flexo print qualities reliably and with less effort is certainly a goal still worth looking into. At Flint Group we believe that there is still plenty of improvement opportunities that make it worth to invest substantial resources in R&D to identify and develop respective solutions.
- 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?
At Flint Group we strongly believe that fixed colour printing has its place within the flexo print market and can provide great value to printers who have a suitable portfolio of print jobs. But as long as print quality demands, for example, to differentiate brand value and higher priced luxury products remain as they are today or even further increase fixed palette printing will not be a universal solution for all flexo printers.
Using a fixed colour palette can significantly increase the efficiency of a print operation since it allows printers to reduce the number of inks resulting in less waste as inks don’t have to be changed from job to job, higher press utilization and lower ink inventories. But it will not be able to always match print qualities that can be achieved with variable colour printing and thus cannot be used efficiently by all printers.
The success of implementing a fixed colour palette is strongly dependent on the range and characteristics of the print jobs that must be covered, on the available know-how and technology in the organisation and the discipline during implementation. Flint Group supports fixed colour palette flexo printers with optimised products, services and technologies both from the ink and the printing plate side. In order to obtain the widest possible colour space and minimize process tolerances, the use of highly concentrated, mono-pigmented inks are required.
With FlexiPrint MV and Flexistar MV Flint Group offers two premium series for the highest print quality. From the printing plates’ perspective the colour gamut is pushed forward by optimising ink laydown and ink density using the new Flat Top Dot technology and the possibility for surface screening. With nyloflex Next, a high-intensity LED exposure technology or with the inherently flat top plates like nyloflex FTF we offer products that allow repro houses and printers to manufacture flat top plates efficiently.
- Does fixed colour palette printing contribute to a further increase the performance in flexo printing?
Flint Group believes that automation is a sustainable trend in the flexo industry. We are therefore also proactively driving developments that allow for a higher degree of automation in plate processing. When competing for print jobs, especially from major brand owners and retailers, cost control and consistent print quality are key features. Automation is one way to impact significantly on achieving these targets.
Automation is a big step forward in terms of reproducibility and thus consistent quality, as it enables repro houses and printers to minimise process tolerances. Further it shortens processing times, increases plate processing throughput and can reduce the labour cost in the prepress department. Together with its partners Flint Group Flexographic Products has been focusing for years on developing flexo plate processing equipment with a higher degree of automation.
The new modular, fully automated nyloflex Plate Inliner V-BP (washout-dryer-light finisher-stacker combination ) launched in 2017 has a total capacity of more than 120 plates per day and already offers the interface to integrate upstream processing steps like exposure and digital plate imaging as we demonstrated during drupa 2016. With the acquisition of Xeikon and the implementation of the ThermoFlexX imager series, Flint Group has developed to a full solution provider.
As the integration of flexo plate processing equipment into the production planning and prepress workflow will play an increasingly important role to optimize the efficiency for flexo forme processing, Flint Group is already currently looking into suitable solutions.
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