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FLEXO Magazine : May 2009
TECHNICAL INNOVATION TECHNOLOGIES & TECHNIQUES A recent promotional packet for the FLEXCEL NX system compared print results on label, carton and fl exible packaging stock (left) with three-dimensional proofs (right). Kodak Wins 2009 Technical Innovation Award FLEXCELerate Flexography system: FLEXCEL NX Digital Flexographic System. The exceptional print quality achievable with this cutting-edge new way of imaging fl exo plates is part of the reason it has received the 2009 FTA/Flexo Market News Technical Innovation Award. But this article is not going to focus on these aspects. You can decide for yourself if the claims are true by examining the print samples, or you can count the growing number of awards for pieces printed with the new system. Instead, what follows will cover what really matters these days to converters and trade shops—the bottom line. High-quality print can help grow the top line through new business opportunities, but in today’s economic climate, many businesses are focused on how they can do more with less. Because of all the talk about quality with Kodak’s system, offi cially called the Kodak FLEXCEL NX Digital Flexographic System, you may not even realize that it provides bottom line benefi ts as well. H PREDICTABILITY IS A GOOD THING If you’re writing a novel, you want to avoid the predictable. If you’re trying to score at basketball, you want to avoid the predictable. If you’re in the printing business, however, predictability is a good thing. The more things stay the same, the less you will have to change later. Predictability is an important factor in improving productivity and reducing costs. Having predictability in prepress can enable you to success- fully automate your process for added effi ciency and productivity, and it helps eliminate unnecessary plate remakes. On press, predictability can help printers signifi cantly reduce the time and 26 FLEXO MAY 2009 igher resolution. Gravure quality. Outstanding print reproduction. These are some of the terms you may have seen describing Kodak’s new digital fl exographic plate material spent on makeready. In addition, repeat runs are easier to set up when you know that the prints will look the same as those from previous runs. Flexography is not innately predictable, and it takes quite a bit of skill to match the fi nal result to the proof while keeping the printrun consistent. Kodak’s new digital fl exo system addresses and eliminates a lot of the sources of variation that prevent predictability in fl exo plate making and printing, and in simple terms takes some of the ”art” out of the process. A QUICK OVERVIEW First, it is important to understand how the FLEXCEL NX System works, because it’s diff erent than other digital fl exo platemaking systems. There are fi ve basic steps: 1. Image the thermal imaging layer. 2. Laminate the thermal imaging layer to the fl exographic plate. 3. Expose the front and back of the plate. 4. Simply delaminate the plate from the thermal imaging layer. 5. Process the plate using standard washout chemistry. You can see that there are diff erences between Kodak’s tech- nology and that of traditional digital plates that make use of a black mask layer on the surface of the photopolymer, often referred to as laser ablative mask system, or LAMS. The imaging step and the laminating step are the most important contributors to enhancing predictability, and the features that give you that predictability are 1:1 image reproduction from fi le to plate and stable fl at top dots. A detailed account of how this technology works was originally published in FLEXO Nov. 2007 pages 28-30. www. f le xography. org