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FLEXO Magazine : October 2010
Technologies & Techniques ity can be applied when transferring the image from mask to plate. Through proven technology that involves lamination of the mask to plate, thereby providing intimate contact between the two and eliminating oxygen depletion in the plate expo- sure step, 1:1:1 image fidelity is obtained. The combined im- aging, mask and lamination technologies also provide highly defined flat-top dots that insure full tonal range reproduction, combined with a wider printing impression latitude-resulting directly in longer press runs and increased plate life. One converter printing UV flexo cartons printed just under 1 million impressions with a set of LAMS plates. With 1:1:1 plates under the same print conditions, 5 .2 million impres- sions were attained. A Latin American wide web film con- verter reports seven times the plate life with this technology versus LAMS. Full tonal range reproduction from file to plate provides a much wider color reproduction gamut as compared to results from more conventional digital flexo plate imaging technolo- gies. This capability provides not only an added advantage in quality, but also contributes directly to reductions in operating costs. A key factor related to cost benefits realized through the application of 1:1:1 technology is the stability and repeat- ability demonstrated on printing plates produced day in and day out. As Julian Moncada, plant manager at Medel- lin, Colombia-based Contiflex puts it, “With these plates, we always know what to expect on press.” Do More With Four Extended color gamut reproduction is another technical icon that has garnered much attention in the flexo industry over recent years. While certainly not diminishing the benefits that have been realized in certain situations through the application of this technology, it remains a fact that successful implementa- tion of extended color gamut (ECG) reproduction requires total buy-in from the entire chain-from end user to prepress provider to printer. The real benefit provided by ECG in flexo is enhanc- ing tonal range reproduction through the use of additional colors beyond traditional CMYK. And, while the application of ECG technology can, in certain situations, contribute to reducing both fixed and variable costs when applied in its ideal fashion, it requires a great deal of commitment for these ideal cost savings to be realized throughout the chain. With the application of 1:1:1 imaging technology and flat-top dots, combined with surface patterning effects that in- crease printed ink densities and expand overall gamut repro- duction, it has been proven to be possible to provide desired color reproduction results in flexo with four color process. “ We recently installed a SomaFlex Imperia 10-colour press,” says John Fisher, production director of Ultimate Packaging, UK. “ With the help of this new imaging and plate technology, we are looking at utilizing only five stations for most jobs, meaning that we can either be preparing the next job on the press while running the current one, or running surface to reverse print with little makeready time. This is possible because of the improved color reproduction that we get when using these plates, and it’s making our facility much more productive” “ Where the job was six colors, we have been getting it down to four process,” says David Jarvis, owner of UK-based Print Quest. “ We did a six-color job in three colors. On wide web applications, this plate transfers the ink so much more efficiently.” Gilpa’s Orduz concurs, “With higher densities, longer plate life and less inks, we are printing gravure quality, some jobs were reduced from eight to four or five colors, and we’ve also increased press speed.” Measuring the Value On the press side, significant cost savings have been real- ized. A rather simple exercise can be used to demonstrate the variable cost reduction achievable in any size print operation. A $20 million annual revenue flexo printer/converter might use approx 1.5 million sq. in. of flexo plates at a cost of ap- prox $200,000 per year just for the plate material. Even if the converter were paying a slightly higher square inch price for raw plate material with “enhanced” technology, the savings realized by 20 to 40 percent reduction in overall plate usage are also factored into the equation. This $20 million converter would also spend approximately $6 million per year on sub- strate and $400,000 per year on ink. Makeready material spoilage might be 5 to 10 percent of all substrate and ink, and run spoilage might be 3 to 5 percent. Press run time for this printer would typically be approximate- ly 25,000 press hours per year across all presses, and this time is worth more than $6 million per year at the billed hourly rate. For this $20 million converter, these major costs and con- servative savings, based on 25 percent estimated reduction in waste, would be: w/LAMS w/”Enhanced” plate costs $200,000 $180,000 makeready material spoilage $500,000 $375,000 run spoilage $250,000 $200,000 press utility hrs 25,000 23,000 Plate, substrate, and ink costs would easily drop from $950,000 per year to $755,000 per year. The savings of $195,000 per year would grow to $350,000 per year if the value of the press time gained were included. These are conser- vative savings. The impact of higher quality printing is not factored in. an enVironMental Footnote These combined imaging and plate technologies have proven to provide users with greatly enhanced print quality and more repeatable, consistent results. The real value of the investment, however, lies in the operational efficiencies and savings gained from reduced variable costs: reduced start-up, reduced run waste and reduced plates; all of which, by the way, make significant contributions to the achievement of an operation’s sustainability goals. n ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Paul Lancelle is employed as a flexo technical applications specialist, covering North and South America, with Eastman Kodak. He is a 35 year veteran of the printing industry, including 20 years experience in flexo prepress and plate applications. Lancelle is very active in FTA, having served as 2003 Forum Chair, former FTA board member and Chairman of the FFTA Board of Trustees. He has served on several association committees and is a frequent contributor to FLEXO Magazine. He is also a 2009 FTA Presi- dent’s Award recipient. 18 FLeXO october 2010 www.flexography.org www.flexography.org | www.ftastore.com 2011 FTA ExcEllEncE in FlExogrAphy AwArds FLX_Oct10_mech.indd 18 10/15/10 12:31 AM
Sustainable Fall 2010