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FLEXO Magazine : July 2009
TECHNOLOGIES & TECHNIQUES When Opportunity Knocks: Will You Be Ready? The Case for Process Optimization By Bill Pope and Michelle Beuscher Art courtesy EskoArtwork. Authors’ Note: This is the fi rst in a series of three articles covering an updated methodology for printing as detailed in the Print Section of FIRST (Flexographic Image Reproduction Specifi cations and Tolerances) 4.0. This CGATS (Committees for Graphic Arts Technology Standards)endorsed approach is intended to help the printer become more successful through optimization, fi ngerprinting, characterization, process control, and process improvement. I magine you are a printing department manager and one of your sales representatives just landed a trial order from a much sought after customer. It is a special promotional item with very complex graphics. If your company can produce the job successfully and cost effectively, you will land the account and become one of the CPC’s (consumer product company) primary suppliers, dramatically increasing sales. WHERE DO YOU BEGIN? Process optimization, as described in section 19.1 of FIRST 4.0, offers an approach to determine how to run a diffi cult job effi ciently and cost effectively. The goal of optimization is to identify the best combination of print variables to achieve the design requirements. The “best combination of print variables” strikes a balance between print quality, print stability (ability to maintain throughout the run and across runs), and effi ciency of operations (minimizing downtime and waste while maximizing speed). should be considered when planning how to print this job. SUPPLIERS = ASSETS It is your responsibility to print the job “right” the fi rst time…no pressure! The trial order includes a specialty ink application that your plant has not run before (maybe a fl uorescent, metallic or pearlescent ink) and utilizes an expanded color gamut ink system (something you have read about, but not actually worked with before). It is a tight register job utilizing all of the decks on your press, contains reverse print and, of course, includes a UPC bar code. The specifi ed substrate is new to the market. You will be working with the CPC’s preferred prepress provider, who is not familiar with your operation. It is your responsibility to print the job “right” the fi rst time…no pressure! 18 FLEXO JULY 2009 THE FIRST STEP The fi rst step of optimization is to evaluate the graphics and identify the job-specifi c print variables. These are the materials and variables associated with the specifi c job, including substrate, ink formulation, plate type, mounting tape, anilox rolls, and others. The goal is to identify the best combination of variables that achieve the desired print result in the most costeffi cient manner. Upon evaluation of the job, conclude the anilox roll, ink formulation, mounting tape, plate type, and substrate are the key job-specifi c print variables that www. f le xography. org Once you have a list of print variables that you believe should be considered, contact the applicable suppliers and invite them to an “optimization planning meeting.” Ideally, it is best if you can have all of the relevant suppliers sitting around the table together with your production team to evaluate the job. Together, you can discuss the variables under consideration. The suppliers, as experts, can make suggestions to narrow the fi eld of possibilities. The objective of this meeting is to determine exactly which variables need to be tested and in what combination. By working together, you can better evaluate the relationship between the variables instead of simply considering each variable in isolation. This is the real benefi t of forming a supplier team. For your new customer trial job, the team identifi es several variables that need to be evaluated. These include: Specialty Ink Deck: Identify the optimum ink formulation, anilox roll confi guration (line screen/volume/ angle) and plate type combination to enable drying on press while achieving the desired special effect on the specifi ed substrate. Is a doublebump required or can the necessary coating weight be achieved using only one deck? Given the necessary coating weight, can the graphics that utilize the specialty ink be reproduced appropriately (solids, line art, screen tints,, type, etc.)?
Sustainable Spring 2009