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FLEXO Magazine : November 2008
also the Thin, which is a .085in. undercut with a .013in. base and .072in. amount of polymer. The Flint and DuPont products use the same undercut for their respective products and are thus, interchangeable. The Thin products run on a compressible bridge mandrel. We are taking the cush- ion out from underneath the polymer and applying it to the bridge mandrel. This takes part of the consumable stickyback tape out of the plate mounting equation, (and the variances) and puts it on the bridge. “ITR has been around for more than 15+ years. OEC Graphics and 360 Imaging are the two primary graphics houses that produce their own ITR sleeves in North America. Both companies offer a full line of ITR sleeves, including the capability of doing thin undercut, build-up repeat sleeves and ITR blanks. We see ITR blanks/ seamless printing as the next big leap in flexographic technology. The hurdles we have to overcome are more sleeve manu- facturing related than customer/market acceptance. “We currently have nyloflex trials and testing going on in the next couple of months, and I will be able to provide more feedback then. There are a lot of advan- tages to ITR blanks, but it has not lived up to expectations for a number of reasons. One is speed of delivery, and the other is price. That’s why I leapt at the opportunity to come and talk to you all about this. I am really open to hearing what you have to say from the printers’ perspective. We have a few customers that are very serious about moving their prepress business to ITR. “People are greatly concerned about the rising price of cushion stickyback, and want better plate life and registra- tion. Our goal is to produce the nyloflex products in the U.S. sometime in 2009. Its usage is growing in Europe, with the Flint/ Rotec business in Germany producing 2,000 sleeves a month of both the DuPont and Flint product. We are looking to do the same thing here in North America. I believe the product has to get to a point where it is manufactured on demand and lead time is not an issue. This is a general overview which I hope will generate some comments.” Gary Hilliard, Hood Packaging, Arden Hills, MN, a WWLC council member (and FFTA chairman of the board), in regards to the bridge mandrel, asked, “How would the cushion effect get all the way through the sleeve and plate and be effective for process print?” Bower responded: “The way the sleeve is manufactured, it is a regular standard composite sleeve that has .25in. to 3/8in. of compressible urethane foam as the out- er layer. The compressible foam is differ- ent from regular hard urethane. It is rotary cast onto the sleeve and precision ground, then a coating is put on to protect the surface and aid in mounting the sleeve. It uses compressed air like a traditional sleeve system. The air comes in through the bridge mandrel and inflates the thin sleeve so it can then slide on to the bridge. Once the air is turned off, the sleeve stays in place. There is still a hard structure that gives the integrity that you need, with the foam layer on top of that. The foam itself never goes through an expansion or contraction.” He then added, “The compressible bridge is used for the Thin product only. The base fiberglass sleeve of the Thin product is only .013in. in wall thickness, and does not present much of a barrier to the foam surface on the compressible bridge mandrel. The foam itself is avail- able in different durometers to accommo- date the printer and desired results. “There is a difference between where a Classic will work and the Thin product is required, but not a ‘defined’ line of dif- ference. In general, the Classic product is used primarily for line/solid work with some light screens. Combination and process work are almost definitely for the Thin products. “In the U.S., we tend to run a thicker plate (.067in.) that is softer than what is run in Europe. We are testing some nyloflex product from Europe right now and looking at each situation to see if the formulation of the product needs to change—either the cushion/compressibil- ity of the bridge, or the plate durometer,