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FLEXO Magazine : July 2011
64 FLEXO july 2011 www.flexography.org 1984—Apple Computer manufactures first affordable graphics capable personal computer. 1990s—Power MacIntosh unveiled and widely adopted in flexo prepress community. 1995—First CDI introduced at drupa. Thermally pro- cessed plates hit market. 2000—A significant number of large narrow web print- ers bring select prepress processes in-house. 2010—Digitally imaged, thermally processed plate, now the norm in most flexo printing segments. machines, etc. This equipment you would usually only find in a flexo trade shop circa 1988. Then, like today, the ever-changing variables of analog and digital proofing methods created havoc when matching proof to press. At drupa 1995, a joint venture between Barco (EskoArt- work), Baasel Scheel and DuPont brought forth the world’s first digital imager for flexo polymer plates. Known, as a CDI (Cyrel Digital Imager); this was a game changer in the industry. In the same year, the very first thermally processed flexo plate came to the market, although at its inception it was an analog-produced plate. Production without the need for harsh solvents became a reality. Still, in excess of 75 percent of flexo printers relied heavily on the trade shops for all their prepress and platemaking requirements. By the year 2000, many larger printers, particularly in the narrow web tag and label market, decided to bring some ele- ment of prepress in house. Some opted for artwork only, some platemaking only, and others introduced the whole gamut. Jump forward a few years. The industry had progressed through software development and other makeshift tech- niques to greatly improve quality and output. Then came the digitally imaged thermally processed plate, which is what most trade shops and in-plant prepress now consider the norm in most flexo printing segments. SHOP Or SOLO? A flexo printer with little knowledge of prepress may be persuaded by a supplier to purchase a prepress system, by paying for the system with an up-charge on the materials. Some say this is a complete misrepresentation of how money should be spent. The method is widely used, but the printer employing it is then tied up for several years with having to use that manufacturer’s products. This is very dangerous. New, improved, presumably enhanced and better equipment and materials are constantly being brought to market. Tech- nological advancements could strip the printer of what was once a competitive advantage very quickly. Flexo trade-shops, however, are more likely to abandon relatively new technology for an upgrade. It is very important to do this, so as to serve the varying needs of many flexo print- ers, in the best interest of quality improvement. Of all the reasons for going in-house with prepress, the volume of plates used is the most important. Photo: EskoArtwork.