Technological advances in machinery and software systems are ensuring that flexo continues to challenge the capabilities of other print processes. Mike Taylor reports.
Mondi sees the future in high definition
Mondi Coatings & Consumer Packaging has implemented high definition (HD) flexo printing technology at its Lindlar, Germany, and Wheatley, UK, sites.
The HD technology is said to bring extraordinary printing results with sharp definition of contours and consistent print on the surface of the substrate. The special surface of the plate used allows a higher ink transfer to be measured. This enables the printer to run solid areas with a high density and less print pressure – both on a laminate and paper.
The new technology also approximately doubles resolution - from the conventional average 42 lines/cm² up to 70 lines. Even difficult screen widths of the print colour white could be doubled from 20 to 42 lines/cm², states Mondi.
“Brand owners like to take advantage of the high flexibility of flexo printing as it enables them to implement their design ideas quickly and cost efficiently,” explains Stefan Gutheil, Managing Director, Consumer Bags. “The compromise in quality was accepted. Now, we are able to offer our customers both – high quality print results and the advantages of flexo print technology.”
Mondi has also invested in a 7-colour Ovation high quality post-printer (HQPP) from Göpfert for installation at its Bad Rappenau corrugated packaging site in Germany.
Thomas Ott, CEO Mondi Corrugated, comments: “We’ve invested in HQPP in response to changing market conditions in the packaging sector. Customers’ expectations regarding print quality have increased and the intervals between new product launches are getting shorter and shorter. Key benefits to customers include outstanding print quality; seven colours in a print run; partial or full surface varnish application; flexibility in order planning; and shorter intervals for new product launches.”
The new HQPP is a high board line machine with an integrated ink management system. It allows set-up while running and prints ‘with absolute precision’ on 1,600-2,400mm formats.
Chamber is a cure for doctoring problem
Absolute Engineering has launched a special chamber for use with water-based inks. The UK-based company has completed the installation of six woven carbon fibre chambers for a major European tissue converter.
The customer has fully refurbished its 1,700mm wide Cobden Chadwick flexo press, and is integrating it into a new high performance tissue conversion line.
The chamber is one of a new generation of units developed by Absolute to prevent an issue known as ‘back doctoring’.
Absolute’s Antony Whiteside explains: “We see a lot of traditional chambers installed on water-based ink systems where the supplier clearly has not understood the relationship between anilox rollers and chambered doctor blades when applying water-based ink. Absolute has significant experience in this area, and we have invested considerable resources in the project, alongside our partners in the tissue conversion and corrugated post-printer sectors.
“Together we have produced a carbon fibre profile that provides a great solution,” he says.
Improved screening gives vibrant colour results
Flexo plate making with HD Flexo version 2.0 is now available on the EskoArtwork Cyrel Digital Imager (CDI) with advanced screening technologies to produce sharper and more accurate imaging. The new version 2.0 promises improved screening that provides higher solid ink density for more vibrant colours on packaging. This can be achieved while printing with standard flexo inks and anilox rollers, it is claimed.
HD Flexo is said to offer ‘near-offset’ quality across all flexo print applications in an easy to use product. Version 2.0 further improves quality of the standard printing equipment and plates already in use by its customers. It remains an open industry standard system that operates with existing CDI equipment, plates and working methods, completed with specifically tuned dots and without tying the customer to specific plates or other consumables.
“HD Flexo has been a tremendous success, adopted and applauded by leading flexo printers worldwide,” affirms Jürgen Andresen, EskoArtwork Vice President, Flexo Business. “Now we have strengthened its position as the ‘open’ industry standard for high quality flexo, available for all flexo applications — labels, flexible packaging and corrugated — and supported by major plate manufacturers.
“These new capabilities further enable conversion of gravure and offset work to flexo. The enhanced process colour gamut makes it possible to replace spot colours with process colours, reducing the number of print stations and making co-printing of designs possible.”
While HD Flexo 1.0 focused on delivering on higher rulings and excellent highlights, HD Flexo 2.0 is said to deliver exceptional printing throughout the entire tonal range. It is now possible to produce designs in corrugated post-print, which previously required a more expensive pre-print process, states EskoArtwork.
X stands for press excellence
Flexotecnica says the search for technical and technological excellence, and ‘utmost pursuit’ of environmentally friendly solutions are characterised in the engineering of its XG and XD series sleeved gearless flexo presses, launched at the K show in Düsseldorf, last year.
Two versions of the XG are available with maximum printing repeats of 1,000 and 1,200mm, both capable of more than 650m/min. The XD differs only in that it incorporates manual print and anilox housing release for job changeover; has a maximum printing speed of 400m/min; and a repeat of 850mm (1,040mm optional).
Both models are designed to withstand the most critical production conditions, featuring a dampening effect on vibrations to assure ‘unrivalled printing results’ at maximum printing speeds and on any substrate. The machine layout shows a ‘universal’ configuration to enable the application of any print technology – using either solvent-based, water-based, UV or even EB curable inks.
Flexotecnica’s in-house developed auto-impression setting system is among the novel solutions aimed at drastic reduction of waste both at print set-up and during production.
The first order for one of the new presses was from Wipak UK, which has opted for a 10-colour XG with an additional in-line flexo unit for registered printing and coating applications. Due for installation this August at Wipak’s expanding Welshpool plant, it includes: pneumatic ejectors for print and anilox sleeves; the Speedy Clean auto wash-up system; ‘pipeless’ doctor chambers; wireless press control with ‘wi-fI’ keypads; and the patented SSC (Sleeve Safe Change) system, which enables five colours to be set up safely while another five are printing - giving a much reduced changeover time for short run jobs.
Flexotecnica offers all of its customers remote technical assistance for notification, diagnostics and identification of a machine problem or malfunction through a quick communication channel which provides service support 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Press proves a Paragon
Paragon Flexibles, in Gainsborough, UK, has ordered its third Miraflex CM flexo press from Windmöller & Hölscher.
“Print quality, performance and a customer service model of excellence are what define our business. The decision to buy our third Miraflex CM was made with these criteria in mind,” avows Mark Lapping, MD of the Paragon Print & Packaging Group.
A leading supplier of filmic packaging to the fresh and chilled food market sector, Paragon Flexibles needed a machine combining rapid changeover ability with superb print quality.
“The Miraflex CM completely meets our requirements of reducing set-up time to a minimum and can deliver our industry leading ParagonHD print quality expectation”, says Mr Lapping.
Sixty and going strong
Mark Andy has sold its 60th Performance Series press since launching the machine at Labelexpo Europe 2009. Jeff Feltz, Director of Product Management, comments: “Converters are searching for ways to improve their productivity, reduce waste and streamline their workflow. The Performance allows them to realise these goals.”
He says a sign of this productivity and profitability is the number of converters who have replaced multiple machines with a single Performance Series press, while five global players have purchased multiple machines, with more planned.
The Performance Series consists of three models ranging in capability and cost. The P3 is the introductory model. Fitted with a direct drive train, it is targeted at conventional label production. Two machines have been sold since it was introduced at Labelexpo India in December 2010.
The P5 is a servo-driven machine, providing further machine control and productivity and ‘a strong argument against digital’ for short run label production; while the P7 is the most advanced model, with dual servo controls and a fully automated registration system.
Improving efficiency and saving time
Uteco has been dedicating its R&D resources to reducing the changeover times and increasing the eco-compatibility of its presses. Innovations already introduced to reduce changeover times include the Kiss&Go and SmartMatch (for the colour matching).
Developed in co-operation with Grafikontrol, the Kiss&Go system automatically sets the printing pressures at the start of every new job. It works by reading the printed colour on the substrate, using any type of printing sleeve and anilox sleeve, without the need of printed marks. A high level of accuracy is promised, so that material waste is considerably reduced.
SmartMatch reduces time for on-press colour correction and setting by the use of an automatic dosing of colours, using the SmartKitch portable kitchen.
Maximising flexo quality
UK-based reprographics and platemaking company, PPP Digital Imaging has supplied flexo repro and plates to the packaging industry since 1961.
Although the bulk of the its business is still flat CTP photopolymer plates, the company has seen a large amount of growth in its In the Round (ITR) technology. Now under its own brand, PPP-ITR, up to 70 sleeves can be processed and supplied by the company each day.
The ITR technology aims to maximise the quality offered by flexo printers to the packaging industry, by eliminating joins that limit its choice as a viable process.
Other advantages are improved consistency, better register and excellent ink transfer with tape and mounting costs eliminated, presses running faster with less makeready time, less plate lift, and butt joins eliminated.
“We now offer ITR Multi Sleeves,” says Sales Director Steve Rogers. “The advantage of this system is that it allows the sleeves to be supplied as individual coils and not full length sleeves which will give complete flexibility to mix and match the coils as needed – ideal for composite print.”
Further new developments for the company include the new Itrac online management information system, and an ugrade to HD imaging for both ITR sleeves and flat plates with the facility for a ‘flat top dot’.”
Sleeves supplied to suit
In the UK, YRG Sleeves has been appointed to supply Interflex Dalkeith with a wide range of photopolymer sleeves to be used exclusively for packaging on the leading meat brands Walls and Mattesons.
The continuous sleeve designs have enabled Interflex Dalkeith to avoid butt joining plates, providing Walls and Mattesons with excellent print quality.
YRG Operations Director James Tinker says: “Sleeves can be successfully mixed and matched with conventional flat plates to provide clients with versatility and choice when considering how to achieve the highest quality print and the most economical system. We are able to provide clients like Interflex Dalkeith with a wide range of sleeve and flat plate technologies to suit the press and print application.”