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FLEXO Magazine : June 2009
TECHNOLOGIES & TECHNIQUES A tissue/towel plate cleaning device. Photo courtesy Tresu A/S. Photo courtesy Fabio Perini North America. Extending the Challenge Of Consumer Products Paper Towel Printing By David M. Root he paper towel and tissue market stands alone among many other segments of fl exographic printing and converting. Aside from being an actual consumer product—rather than a package, container or label, etc.— tissues/towels utilize substrates that few other segment do, and as a result, printers/converters incur challenges that few specializing in other business segments have to contend with. The evolution tissue/towel printing has been almost entirely independent of other segments. However, as it continues to expand and advance, it has, and will, continue to more closely resemble its packaging brethren. T The initial usage of simple, one- and two-color line printing produced on older vintage, geared, in-line press confi gurations advanced swiftly and aggressively as a result of continually improving press capabilities, thus allowing for three- and four-color process printing. While still utilizing geared press technologies, these improvements, during the late 1990s and early 21st century allowed consumer products companies (CPCs) to comfortably trend into more elaborate designs utilizing CMY and CMYK process print reproduction. This was being accomplished with even fewer limitations for 20 FLEXO JUNE press speeds and with reduced downtime and changeover times. In a relatively short period, speeds were reaching 2,500 to 3,282fpm with dedicated off-line presses—running at higher speeds and capacities than ever even imagined, let alone achieved in a production environment. Product with less variability, increased reliability and improved graphic reproduction became available unilaterally into the consumer marketplace. This transformation was supported with new technologies utilizing a host of additional bells and whistles. Several examples are: automatic traversing plate cleaning systems on each individual press deck while the press was operating; cantilevered sleeve systems for easy-on/ easy-off sleeve/plate changes; in-line video detection and defect detection systems improving quality and overall consistency; and improved tension controls supporting improved and critically necessary print registration. Along with press improvements and supporting this transformation for a new higher level of print reproduction (and degree of diffi culty) came a closer look at prepress and design. In the prepress arena, a better understanding of the capabilities and limitations and use of improved color separation techniques 2009 www. f le xography. org allowed for line screen counts (historically at 35 - 45lpi) to advance up into the 55 and 65lpi range as the norm. Plate and imaging systems also advanced handsomely through this time period. Photopolymer printing plates have offered and continue to offer improved plate consistency, but have limiting factors of plate lifts at the seams and are diffi cult to manage at the higher press speeds. On the positive side, polymer offers a solid solution for private label designs, small and medium sized pressruns. In addition, it is used widely in initial testing/trial based qualifi cation pressruns and also for seasonal and promotional launches. Recently, very positive results have been witnessed with laser-engraved in-the-round (ITR) sleeves. This process, which uses either a variety of rubber compounds and varied durometers and/or elastomer compounds offers benefi ts unique to the tissue/towel market segment. Electronic registration supports the enhanced graphic complexity; seamless plates ultimately eliminate the lift issues experienced with traditional mounted polymer plates. It also allows for the greater speeds with ease and has near perfect TIR (total indicated runout) and taper tolerances. TISSUE/TOWEL
Sustainable Spring 2009