New Technology for Three Printing Elements
by Anderson & Vreeland
The flexo industry has experienced a recent profusion of technological innovation, affecting every step of the flexographic printing process. Jessica Harkins, technologies manager at Anderson & Vreeland, shared how three key printing elements – prepress, press room and platemaking – have been revolutionized by new technologies in the past few years.
Then: Analog was king and proofs were made using products like Kodak Approval and Duponts Digital Chromaline. Inkjet had yet to come into play across the board, being used mostly for content proofing.
Now: We have seen the future and it is inkjet. With developments in inkjet technology, coupled with measuring instruments, consistent and exact color predictions are easier than ever. “Proofing types have changed in equipment, in quality and in ability to match color,” Harkins said.
Ditch the FPO servers – computer hardware and software has developed in leaps and bounds. Systems now have the ability to handle full design files. New software has simplified complex projects and helped increase automation and speed. Of course, designs have become more complex, thereby increasing file size.
Then: Densitometers were around but not yet ubiquitous in the press room. J.I.T. was new but not yet common. There also were fewer CPCs and fewer methods of waste measuring.
Now: Tracking, minimizing waste and maximizing environmental accountability – the press room has changed to accommodate cost controls and environmental sustainability. The new eco-awareness has been driven, in part, by consumer product companies expecting accountability from flexo suppliers. They are measuring cost, performance and eco-awareness.
Quality control devices are better than ever, and press room operators now can track pretty much everything, although theres definitely been a learning curve, Harkins said. “Not everyone has jumped on board, but once educated, most see the value in taking the time to measure, track and analyze.”
Then: Digital platemaking was new technology and expensive, pretty much reserved for larger outfits that could afford the outlay.
Now: Digital is now the norm and means the capacity to print a larger tonal range. A new option thats just made it to North America, Harkins noted, is inkjetting specialty inks directly onto plate materials laminated with a primer sheet – the ink solidifies and creates a negative.
Environmental sensitivity has made it to platemaking as well. Eco-friendly solvents and photopolymers that are washable with water and produce a low odor are used instead of the “old-school” harsh and environmentally damaging chemical solvents.
As package designs and substrates become more complex and brand owners demand originality to distinguish and protect their products, look for even more technological innovations that will take flexo printing further into the digital age.