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FLEXO Magazine : July 2011
We printers may not want to admit it, but consumer product companies (CPCs) have been some of the unsung heroes in the flexo- graphic segment of the printing indus- try. Many recent advances are easily attributed to demands from CPCs and the designs generated by their design- ers. Printers and suppliers rose to the challenge. As a result, we’re producing packaging at a level that rivals the qual- ity of gravure. Printers know that not all designs can be reproduced equally. There are limits to flexographic printing. Barriers are being overcome through new processes and technologies—plates capable of consistently holding smaller dot sizes, enhanced dot-screening techniques, and the widespread acceptance of expanded gamut printing. Still, some of the most creative and artistic designs may not lend themselves to quality reproductions. With printers and prepress providers having a more extensive knowledge of flexography, the onus is on them to pass this information on to designers and CPCs and to guide them through the production process. Think of it as a set of design considerations rather than a how-to manual. Atul Gawande wrote a fascinating and prudent defense of the basic check- list in his 2009 book The Checklist Mani- festo. In it, he argues that, “We need a different strategy for overcoming failure, one that builds on experience and takes advantage of the knowledge people have, but somehow also makes up for our inevitable human inadequacies.” (p. 13). His solution: a checklist. What follows in this article is less of a data-driven research study and more of a checklist for printers and prepress providers to use when preparing and working with designers and CPCs. It’s a common sense approach that has been put together using first- and second- hand experience from printers and prepress providers in the industry. FLEXO 101 In a printer’s perfect world, designers would have a complete understanding of separations and a full knowledge of the disadvantages and drawbacks of flexo- graphic printing. They don’t . The first step to ensuring quality reproductions is to understand this and educate design- ers on various aspects of flexography that we may take for granted. On the list: dot gain, the need for minimum dots in screens and process, the ways in which different types of anilox rolls transfer dif- ferent amounts of ink, etc. CPCs should particularly be aware of this as they are the facilitators of collaboration in the work process. Section 2.2 of FIRST (Flexographic Image Reproduction Specifications & Tolerances) describes the various responsibilities of the CPC, the produc- tion designer, the prepress provider and the printer when preparing flexographic designs for print. While it tasks the CPC with facilitating communication between the other three groups, a responsible printer and prepress provider should not rely on this leadership for collabo- ration. Using FIRST as a guideline, the printer and prepress provider should partner and develop common design guidelines that fit the capabilities of the specific printing process being used. A good rule of thumb for printers and prepress providers is to have some sort of basic presentation material available on some elementary rules of flexog- raphy, to provide new clients before beginning work. With client acquisition being markedly more expensive and difficult than client retention, printers and prepress providers know that ensuring quality reproductions with new business can be critical. CPCs can then distribute this presentation to the design firms that they are working with. Good communication on the front end of a process increases the likeli- hood that designs can be effectively executed in production. It could also potentially reduce the time that it takes to complete a job. Optimally, CPCs should engage both the printer and prepress provider during conceptual design. At a minimum, printers and prepress providers should engage one another in a printing assessment after a design has been submitted for produc- tion. Put simply, printing assessments are a cooperative meeting of the minds www.flexography.org July 2011 FLEXO 29 Harper Anilox Roll Engineered for performance. Built to last. Guaranteed performance. From four locations across the globe. At Harper Corporation we do more than sell anilox rolls. We deliver confidence that comes with a 100% performance guarantee, backed by a team of graphic experts, and supported by a full compliment of products and accessories. With anilox roll manufacturing and restoration facilities in Charlotte, NC; Green Bay, WI; Herford Germany and Bangkok, Thailand; Harper Corporation delivers dependable consistency no matter where you print. To learn more, call 704.588.3371 or Toll Free at 800.438 .3111 Or visit our website. Anilox Roll Division HARPERi MAGE.Co M Americas • Europe • Asia ©2011