Home' FLEXO Magazine : October 2014 Contents DOT SHAPE DOES MATTER
In a market where high priced substrates, such as self adhesive labels,
shrink wrap and wrap around labels are used with each ever shorten-
ing pressrun, minimizing startup waste is crucial. And as the industry
consolidates, a printer/converter that can’t maintain a high standard of
quality for high end consumer brands that pervade the tag and label
industry won’t last long.
Flat top dot tech-
nology is an ideal
solution for tag
and label printers/
cused on quality
Flat top dots like
the best of both
of the analog dot
shape, with the
and fine imaging
capability of the digital plate.
In the traditional digital plate making process, dot formation is
inhibited by the introduction of oxygen, thus creating bullet shaped
dots of varying heights, with mid tone dots more elevated from the
floor of the plate than finer highlight dots. As a result, press operators
often have to adjust and re adjust the press in order to find optimal
impression. This typically leads to several hundred feet of waste, both
from the substrate and the ink.
But by prevent-
ing oxygen from
entering into the
process, all dots
come up to “type
they are the same
height across the
plate. Now the
press operator can
get up to color
having to guess at
the right impres-
sion. Perhaps more importantly, printers see an immediate savings in
substrate and ink waste.
THERMAL PROCESSING: SAVE TIME & PLANET
As is often the case at a fast paced label printer/converter, time is at a
premium. Plate making can become a bottleneck as printers seek to
satisfy CPC demands for shorter printruns and reduced packaging
inventory. Additionally, plate making is often outsourced because
there simply isn’t room to house all the equipment necessary to pro-
cess them in house, which can compound the bottleneck issue even
Enter thermal plate processing, ideally suited to the tag and label mar-
ket, as a solution. Products like the MacDermid LAVA Plate Process-
ing System can improve productivity and workflow, generating press
ready plates in less than an hour.
And the thermal plate making process is also more environmentally
friendly than traditional solvent means. A recent Life Cycle Assess-
ment (LCA) performed by MacDermid found that energy consump-
tion is reduced by 30 percent when using thermal vs. solvent and
greenhouse gas production decreases by 15 percent. Additionally,
thermal plate makers see a significant reduction in volatile organic
As flexography becomes the print process of choice for label printers,
one challenge has been the compatibility issues between label friendly
ultraviolet (UV) inks and photopolymer printing plates. Printing
plates are made of certain catalyst chemicals, just as inks are, and
sometimes the combination of the two can produce a negative result.
A typical negative reaction might be excessive dot gain and text filling
in on the print. Ultraviolet inks are more frequently the cause of these
issues than solvent or water based inks, since the ink is cured via a
chemical reaction rather than dried through evaporation.
While packaging is the fastest growing sector in the printing industry,
and the tag and label sector has the highest historical growth rates
within packaging, tag and label printers do need to keep their heads
up. They need to position themselves to take advantage of the label ap-
plications and print applications growing increasingly more complex.
And they need to be aware that while flexo continues to grow in the
tag and label sector, digital printing technologies, such as inkjet and
electrophotography, are also becoming more competitive. n
About the Author: Heather Barrett is director of marketing for Mac-
Dermid Printing Solutions. She has worked in the packaging industry
for more than 10 years. Heather received her B.A . in communications
from Berry College and her M.B.A. from Georgia State University. She
can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
In 2010, LUX flat top dot technology (pictured) was
introduced as a step in the plate making process.
Plate makers would process a standard digital plate
as usual, then put the ablated plate prior to exposure
through a simple three to five minute lamination step.
This lamination step prevents oxygen from interacting
with the surface of the uncured plate, thus inhibiting
the curing process.
MacDermid’s UVR plate swells less than other
standard digital plates, resulting in less dot gain.
Ideally suited to the narrow web market, UVR offers
printers/converters the opportunity to combine UV
inks and flexo printing plates for optimal effect.
82 FLEXO | OCTOBER 2014
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