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FLEXO Magazine : June2010
In January of 2009, Laura Wright, president of CSW Inc., decided to purchase a digital platesetter. It was the com- pany ’s first digital imaging device, which is a milestone to say the least. But for CSW, it was much more than that—it was the beginning of a journey. Wright had decided to challenge her production team by moving CSW’s entire workflow to a completely digital state by eliminating silver-based film from its production process. “I know that’s quite a leap, going from zero to 100 percent, but we needed to respond to requests from existing customers and new prospects. Also, a 100 percent digital implementation would increase our efficiency through a streamlined workflow and lower inventory levels,” recalled Wright. She also cited bet- ter waste control and the elimination of film’s heavy metals as a way to meet the company ’s sustainability goals. In order to make such a radical change, CSW faced several technical obstacles, such as finding a replacement for imagesetter film in liquid photopolymer production, ensuring flat-tipped dots for corrugated customers, and the ability to preserve the use of thousands of legacy produc- tion files archived at CSW. Having the flexibility to produce round-tipped dots was also very important, since CSW was already providing some web customers with 1-bit tiff files and wanted to expand its offerings for this segment to include digital plates. At that point, CSW’s business mix was about 50 percent corrugated, 45 percent wide and narrow web, and 5 percent other. With the purchase of the digital plate system, they would initially be able to satisfy only about 20 percent of their existing customer base. Among its customers, CSW was well known for quality analog plates, rendered at very high resolutions (up to 212lpi) and able to hold strong dots at screen percentages far below published press specs. “ We did not want to lose these fea- tures by going digital,” said Marek Skrzynski, CSW’s director of graphics, R&D. “Maintaining equivalent print quality was critical to our customers, especially for reorders.” Therefore, the preservation of a linear output and an invisible transition from analog to digital plates for most of CSW’s customers was added to the initial project goals. In February 2009, CSW installed an inkjet film plotter. According to Mark Buchanan, CSW’s printing plate produc- tion manager, “This solved our first challenge. Finally, liquid plates could be made without any need for an imagesetter. We always envisioned this system having a maximum of 65lpi output, but today ’s inkjet technology surpassed that.” Next, CSW’s R&D team evaluated several digital plate making systems that were able to produce flat-tipped dots. Most were rejected due to limitations such as size, consum- ables cost, production time, or restrictive contracts. The team ultimately chose an Esko platesetter. After delivery and instal- lation in April 2009, CSW’s R&D team began testing exposure methods to assure that its previous plate quality would be achievable with the digital system. “ We tried every technique known to us, but came up short of accomplishing our goals,” said Buchanan. “Results from one of our point light exposure units were initially very promising, but, in the end, did not yield consistent results.” Technologies & Techniques Going 100% Digital CsW Works with MacDermid to enhance Workflow By Marek skrzynski and Karen leet new generation digital platemaking technology (left) creates sharper 50 percent dots. All art courtesy CsW inc. and MacDermid Printing solutions. 40 FLeXO june 2010 www.flexography.org Tips for Going All Digital • Collaborate with vendors and customers on R&D. • Carefully research and test all options before invest- ing. • Look beyond the immediate implications of making one change in your workflow, to how it can create a domino effect of innovation. FLX_June2010_mech.indd 40 6/10/10 9:39 AM