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FLEXO Magazine : September 2009
www.flexography.org SEPTEMBER 2009 FLEXO MAKE THE CUSTOMER HAPPY There are lots of stories of how digital printing has either saved a job or made it easier to produce, although it seems digi- tal can resolve a lot of issues that pharmaceutical labels bring. "We had a job with very small white text---perhaps as small as 5pt.---throughout the entire label. On flexo, the small white text disappeared on an amber bottle," said Fillmore. On a digital press we were able to do a double white hit. The regis- tration was 'bang on.' We were able to support 5pt. white type on 20,000 labels. That was one we could not do in flexo." "We have some jobs with sequential printing. The alternate method we used---a numbering inkjet printer---was not as effec- tive, and cost more," said Rankin. "We can do it easily on our digi- tal press. Now, we're equipped for ePedigree pharmaceuticals." "Nutriceuticals in particular, often have complex designs on special substrates and it's not easy to visualize finished print. Proofing on the digital press lets the client see the special effects prior to production," explained Hebert. "There can be many items with varying quantities. We can get direct approv- als from the proofs, and with the digital press we don't have to deal with 15, 20, or 30 plate changes." THE BOTTOM LINE The business advantages of digital are both an expansion of work, as well as less costs. Customers want to talk about digital, and by expanding a customer base with this work, it appears that printers also find it easy to move them to their flexo presses for other work. What is ultimately offered is a complete, full-service location that is right for each customer and each job. There is no question that the printers have been able to get more business based upon its digital capabilities. And, it comes from both new customers and existing customers. "Shorter runs are much more economical," explained Ash- worth. "We are now able to offer runs from 500 to 5,000, and lots more prototyping---films and bar wraps. Then, we're able to transition customers from small to larger print runs if the products are successful." The costs involve different, but often less, labor. The setup in flexo is less cost effective. The very sensitive color matches and approvals save them a press proof. They can send an exact press sample with no subjectivity. What they get is an exact print job even with the same adhesive, so they can see how it will work with the product. Of course, they are not creating plates or using plate mounters. And, in most cases, there is not as much time needed to prep files (for example, trapping). The bottom line is that digital is not going away. Dion Label already has two presses, and the others expect to invest in them when the time is right. "Digital makes us more flexible," said Ashworth. "We're open to more and different opportuni- ties than ever before." "Everything we hoped from digital proved to be true. We ran two full shifts, and purchased another one a year later. Now, we're running both with two full shifts. The big thing in digital printing is that presses have shorter life spans. New, faster ma- chines are being offered all the time. The capabilities are great, but press speed is the most important differentiator," explained Hebert. "However, in our opinion, it is not the answer. Our MPS servo press with modified ink sets and screening technology closely resembles the digital presses in terms of color and accu- racy. In addition to faster print speeds, it also handles construc- tions that are impossible or extremely inefficient in digital with offline diecutting. Try cold foil or two-sided work. And, there is always the question of judging resolution. There is room for both to serve the customer and to be profitable." ABOUT THE AUTHOR Ian Hole, with more than 25 years' experience in packaging, began his career in England at Lawson Mardon. He subsequently joined Scitex Corp.---first in Belgium and then in Israel---with roles in product develop- ment and marketing. In 1989, Hole joined BARCO Graphics at its Belgium head- quarters as product manager. He came to North America in 1999 as vice president for market development with direct responsibility for the future growth and market penetration of Esko products. Hole has degrees in graphics and printing science from the London College of Print, in England. Additionally, Hole holds a Boston Business degree from the University of Brussels, in Belgium. Now based in Chicago, IL, Hole speaks frequently at industry seminars on topics ranging from technology, markets and business issues in the printing and prepress industry. He is a member of the board of the FPPA the FTA Latin America, and the FIRST technical committee. He is holder of the 2006 FTA President's award. "Our digital press is pretty good, but we find that color is not as accurate as flexo. There are a va- riety of factors with flexo that can be done using conventional techniques, such as extending inks and using different aniloxes. However, some digital matches are easy and some are hard." ---Bruce Rankin, president, Tursso Companies