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FLEXO Magazine : July 2007
Designs of just 15 years ago integrated technical advance- ments as they were developed. product trend report 1 4 F L e X o J U LY 2 0 0 7 w w w . f l e x o g r a p h y . o r g C onsumer product companies increas- ingly target regional and demographic groups to grow their market share and profits. They have determined that bold graphic designs and innovative structures for labels and packaging effectively differ- entiate their products and get them noticed in the store where the purchase decision is often made. The sophistication of labels and packaging will be evolving faster as a result. Label and packaging printers and converters who focus on the needs for smaller quantities, respond to ever-changing demands in style and design, and lead with innovative solu- tions will position themselves to exploit this opportunity. Innovative in-line flexo printing machines have the newest technology that delivers high levels of flexibility and print quality, low operating cost, and short cycle times that are needed for the future growth of the industry. These machines can produce the packaging graphics for more products displayed on store shelves in a single pass than any other printing and converting process available in the world today. A LittLe History In-line flexo printing machines were introduced several de- cades ago primarily intended to print and convert pressure sensi- tive roll labels. The process produced solid graphics and was easy to learn. Small size, light-weight plate cylinders and die cutting tooling were inexpensive and easily changed, making it economi- cal to print an almost infinite array of small-size formats. In-line die cutting and waste matrix stripping resulted in short produc- tion cycle times. Narrow web widths and modular construction made for convenient operator ergonomics and the flexibility to have the exact number of stations needed. Changing colors was faster than with offset and letterpress. In these earlier times, the machine, plate, anilox and ink technology were not able to reproduce the more complex and sophisticated process color graphics. As a result, letterpress, offset, and rotogravure processes dominated very large portions of the label and package printing market. Converting was done with at least one secondary step. Wide-web central-impression (CI) flexo and rotogravure tra- ditionally are used for longer run lengths of extensible film label and packaging materials. Increasingly, printers and converters are finding the older processes don’t perform profitably or quickly when used for the short run, quick turnaround market or help them innovate in packaging design and construction. Huge technology advancements have been made over the last 15 years. Areas of improvement include large photopolymer plates, inks, plate processing, laser-engraved aniloxes, viscos- ity controls, doctor blades, and more. Technology of the in-line printing machine has stepped up too. Automated/precision ten- sion control, fast and intelligent registration controls, and chill drums for web temperature control make narrow-web printing of unsupported film with very demanding print graphics pretty common. Modern Presses = Profit Centers New Technologies = Opportunities For In-line Flexo By Mike Lawrence Today’s in-line flexo machines are sophisticated, highly pro-
Golden Anniversary Commemorative Journal