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FLEXO Magazine : January 2011
TECHNOLOGIES & TECHNIQUES to mix colors, whereas with digital printing, this is part of the pre-printing process. Quality standard is more easily achieved. Work is transferred away from machinery to prepress process. Riley: Digital stands alone from a workflow perspec- tive. You can pull files from the network, but it’s meant to be run offline. Technically, you can automate some functions, but most customers don’t do that. Q: What advantages can digital technology bring to a flexo printer when it comes to simplifying present day challenges and assisting in meeting customer expec- tations/demands? Gilbert: Less expensive custom labels with faster turnaround. Frost: Digital reduces the number of process steps and increases response time tremendously. All activities associated with plates (preparation, fabrication, order- ing, storing, cleaning etc.) are eliminated. Proofing can be done on the press itself, so all activities in relation to variations between the proofing device and the press itself can be eliminated. Turnaround time and repeat- ability are very important competitive parameters and the advantage is strongly on the digital technologies. Another benefit of digital is the ability to produce exactly the number of labels required by the customer—no more and no less. Overage may be source of profit for the label printer, but it is a nuisance to the customer. When you order 100,000 labels, that is what you want delivered and what you want to pay for. Digital can do that and eventually orders will go to the printers that guarantee to deliver exactly what is ordered. Q: Can you outline, in detail, what you believe to be the best, step-by-step approach to introducing a digital press and digital technology to a flexo operation? Riley: At this point, the question is not about what is digital, but rather when should we move to it. There are a lot of changes. With CMYK, we can make 40 to 45 percent of Pantone colors. When we talk about la- bel houses, our conversations are about color match- ing and cost per label. When you start talking about no plates and no cleanup, you can determine the cost based on a proof print, this is music to their ears. Frost: There is not a universal approach which would work for everyone—but if the flexo operation is consid- ering making its first investment in digital technology I think they might find it beneficial to try and answer some of the following questions: 1. What kind of new business opportunities might be available to us if we were able to cost effectively fulfill smaller orders than we do today? 2. What kind of cost improvement would we see if we took our current jobs of less than 100,000 labels and produced them on a digital press? 3. How would our business improve if we are able to dramatically reduce the time from order to delivery? Gilbert: You have to understand the business case, technology and the benefits. Build up a certain know how at the operator level. If someone intends to inte- grate a digital press, perhaps they should reconsider their complete workflow in order to optimize setup times and time to market. Q: What considerations are entailed in the installation process, as compared to a traditional flexo press? Is it simply “plug and play”? Gilbert: If the preparation work is well done, then it is just a plug-and-play process, but only if the operator fully understands how to use a digital press. Riley: Again, you are talking about something that is very user friendly. Most manufacturers offer training. Our cus- tomers tend to get the product, set it up and attempt to run jobs before doing training. It’s pretty straightforward. Some solutions ship exactly as you see them. There are finishing solutions that roll out of the crate looking like they do in a brochure. There is a learning curve, particu- larly on the finishing side, but we’ve had people who are ready to go within hours of delivery. Frost: Digital reduces the number of process steps and increases response time tremendously. All activities Photo courtesy Durst Canada. 46 FLEXO JANUARY 2011 www.flexography.org
Sustainable Winter 2011