Home' FLEXO Magazine : March 2016 Contents 40 FLEXO | MARCH 2016
system to accept imagable ITR sleeves, or blanks. This innovation
was followed by developments in the area of screening and exposure
technology to enable HD flexo on sleeves. The demand for ITR was
growing and other companies, such as Schawk and 360 Imaging,
began to manufacture their own ITR sleeves.
During this same period of time, industry participants were designing
approaches to create a consistent commercial supply of sleeves. Flint
Group entered the market supporting ITR technology in 2001, when
DuPont de Nemours and Rotec announced a strategic alliance to offer
the packaging industry a new alternative in the field of round printing
form technology. This new set of products applied sleeve and base man-
drel compression technology to produce a disposable, imaged sleeve. At
that time, Rotec belonged to the U.S. group Day International.
As laser imaging devices gained in popularity and accessibility, OEC
began to provide a laser ready, imagable Seamex sleeve to be distrib-
uted directly to printers and prepress companies that had invested in
their own equipment. In 2003, OEC introduced this product, called
Seamex Blanks. The blank sleeve was produced based on a converter's
specific print repeat, bare cylinder diameter, cushion and press pitch.
It proved to be a very niche product that is still manufactured today.
Soon after, DuPont offered the first Cyrel Round Thin and Classic
Sleeves in commercial quantities in 2004. These sleeves were man-
ufactured in partnership with Rotec in North Carolina. Since then,
DuPont has been the leading supplier of polymer sleeves with the
highest installed base of ITR units in the world. A consistent supply
of photopolymer sleeves at a scale to support its growing demand was
just what the industry needed at that time.
For OEC Graphics, the following years were a time of continued
product improvement and building Seamex awareness. Seamex was
marketed as seamless and customizable, with its own integrated
compressibility, and variable photopolymer and sleeve thicknesses.
This customization allowed for the less standardized North Amer-
ican market to take advantage of ITR, without making any changes
to their sleeve enabled press. ITR technology was now producing a
product that could rival offset and rotogravure printing. This was the
beginning of the shift in
thinking that flexo was no
longer inferior to other
At drupa 2004, another
predecessor company of
Flint Group, BASF Print-
ing Systems, presented the
nyloflex infinity technol-
ogy to a larger audience.
It was also there that OEC
Graphics first observed
this new technology. In the summer of 2005, OEC became the first
U.S. beta installation along with several other beta installations world-
wide. Following in 2006, OEC introduced the Seamex 2 ITR sleeve,
which was based on the nyloflex infinity technology. This innovation
not only allowed for standard 0.085-in. undercuts with cushion, but it
eliminated the grinding of polymer, resulting in finer dot production
in sleeve manufacturing.
In 2008, right on time for another drupa, Flint Group introduced
its own endless photopolymer blank sleeves: nyloflex ITR. Just one
year earlier, the company had acquired Day International. Because
of the combined expertise of these two companies on the polymer
and sleeves sides, this new product line was developed in only a few
While these changes were instrumental in the advancement of ITR
technology, options were being made in flexo plate making to move
away from solvent processing. A significant step in bringing thermal
processing to photopolymer sleeves was introduced by DuPont at
drupa 2008, where the company presented the first Cyrel FAST round
processor. This thermal ITR system enhanced productivity with a
very small footprint.
Nathan Rank (left) and Jack Schloesser of OEC Graphics adjacent to the
company's current high resolution imaging device.
Seamex2 became the first ITR sleeve to be
produced without need for grinding.
Like video games, cellphones and
other technologies, there have been
many significant improvements
to continuous ITR photopolymer
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