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FLEXO Magazine : April 2009
TECHNOLOGIES & TECHNIQUES FIGURE 2. Text (4pt.) generated by 4,000dpi (left) and 2,540dpi optics. In extreme highlights, the very small dots do not actually print. They build up the plate around the remaining larger dots, so that these print in a stable way. The only way both large and small dots could be created in the highlight areas was to extend the tonal range to a much smaller percentage value than was previously pos- sible with digital fl exo. This could only be achieved by a combina- tion of fi ner resolution optics, and smart screening dot generation. EXCEPTIONAL PLATES, OUTSTANDING PRINT With the new technology, low tone values are light, but print smoothly. The extreme highlight is sparse, but with an even ap- pearance. Highlight tints printed as a CMY build, instead of pure black, are usually diffi cult to print; but with the new technology, they look very clean. The patterns change seamlessly, and merge smoothly into the standard AM screen, used towards the mid- tones. Shadows and details are excellent. In fact, the tone curve of the new technology is close to linear, compared to other print technologies (see Figure 3). One of this technology’s strengths is that printers can attempt things that would not normally be sensible, and they still work very well. The converter will notice many signifi cant advantages. The sharp detail in plates will produce high quality text and line art. With an exceptional dot structure and extraordinary screen- ing, tints are smoother and easier to print. Meanwhile, there is a smooth vignette transition throughout the highlights to zero and a high contrast in highlights and shadows without visible, hard edges. And, the high quality plates allow a printer to comfortably invest in a fl exo press that is one-third the capital cost of an off set press, and produces one-third of the material waste. EASIER FOR PREPRESS Because the fl exo tonal range is traditionally smaller than that of off set, continuous tone (contone) images must be bumped to deal with the problems they cause. Given that the tonal range of the new technology is now wider, there is no longer the need to edit or adjust contone images to extend the tonal range for fl exo. Thus, companies that are relatively inexperienced can take prepress work in-house, rather than outsourcing. Printers and converters that have limited traditional prepress skill will fi nd it accessible. And, work can be moved from off set to fl exo without loss of quality. With the new technology, printers can reproduce the same, full tonal range of off set, while maintaining an easy set-up and implementation. The plates that are produced deliver consistent print quality compared to conventional plates and can be used in longer press runs, resulting in better press uptime. It is likely that label converters and fl exible packaging trade shops and converters—who require more detailed, quality art-