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FLEXO Magazine : September 2010
Technologies & Techniques A Refreshing Change new, High-quality, solvent-Free, Plate Technology By David Chinnis During economic recessions, many companies take a closer look at their operating costs to help sustain their business. Times like these can be an opportunity to select more cost-effective flexographic printing over offset and gravure, as the quality gap continues to close. Suppliers in the product value chain have been working close together with brand owners to achieve this goal. Meanwhile, the envi- ronmental impact of the product itself is gaining importance. After all, a low product carbon footprint is not only beneficial for a positive environmental company image — it also helps to reduce energy use and, hence, overall operating costs. The challenge is to be able to create more environmentally friendly products without losing benefits and advantages of current ones, i.e. , quality or efficiency. To meet that challenge, an innovative technology has been introduced for the produc- tion of flexographic printing plates. This recent introduction is a step change in photopolymer technology. It is more than just a leading-edge photopolymer plate material, but a new environmental philosophy for plate processing. Hold youR HigHligHts Traditionally, water-washable flexo plates, when compared to solvent plates, have been considered—rightly or wrongly— of poor printing quality and product performance. The new polymer that has been developed does more than match traditional solvent photopolymer plates. Its behavior arguably outperforms the best digital flexo plates currently available for the printing industry. For the first time, a water-washable digi- tal photopolymer plate can hold extremely small stable dots— smaller than those held by most solvent processed plates. They print mostly superior to their solvent counter parts, as their dots are much more stable during impression. In flexographic printing, highlights usually generate two potential problems. The first is the well-known highlight break- Benefits of New Water-Wash Plates • NO VOC emissions and a smaller carbon footprint compared to other solvent and thermal technologies. • A reduction of natural resources by re-using the wash water during plate processing. • Use of basic resources, such as water and electricity in the most efficient way. • Production quality and consistency are assured by an automated process. Control systems can be added for QC. At no time does the temperature of the process exceed 45 degrees C (113 degrees F). Thus, registration issues seen in high temperature process- ing are eliminated. • Promises to outperform solvent and thermal digital plates. • Has excellent ink transfer, resulting in outstanding ink coverage. • Has a wider tonal range. • Superbly balances reproduction of large tonal areas, fine text and halftone elements. • Compatible—and very durable—with UV, solvent- based and water-based inks. • Extremely flexible, so it easily fits on small-diameter cylinders. FiguRe 1. First printing dots with new water-washable plates (left) and with traditional solvent plates (right) 70 FLeXO sePTemBer 2010 www.flexography.org FLX_Sept2010_mech.indd 70 8/31/10 5:42 PM