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FLEXO Magazine : May 2012
substrates, colors would simply be out of gamut. While the brand owner may have specified a particular brand color, it was not represented precisely the way it looked like printed by flexo on a different flexible substrate or, for that matter, on the brown kraft paper of a shipping container. The key to enlarging color gamut and print quality of flexography lies with flexo plate making technology. Before high-definition flexo, it was nearly impossible for a converter to hold anything from a zero to a 10-12 percent dot. Unfortu- nately, this deprived flexo from printing a large expanse of the color gamut. The lack of decent highlights eliminates some subtleties to colors. The same is true for solids. Ink begins to clog up with a lack of a screening in shadow dots. This results in an insufficient solid ink density, which prevents the repro- duction of the entire color gamut. High-definition flexo is the answer to the challenge. Dedicated screening and optical technology produces flexo-printing plates that will hold fine detail and improved solid ink density in print. The quality of flexo print is strongly influenced by the print- ing dot structure on the flexo plate. Converters have always been required to choose between round top or flat top dots. Round top dots are good for highlights and smooth degrada- tions, but have not been optimal for solids. Flat top print sur- faces provide a nicer solid ink density with saturated colors in the solids, but the highlights print too heavy. So far, flexo printers have had to choose between round top dots or flat top on a plate. Just announced is a technol- ogy preview that makes that choice no longer necessary. The new technology uses digitally controlled UV diodes for the main exposure which allows full control over the printing dot structures and the print surface of the dot on the plate, which avoids making a decision as to which is better. You can choose the dot structures that fit the job. Both the Brand Color DNA in the cloud and the flexo plate- making technologies are essential ingredients for print process standardization. If flexo converters standardize their entire process to always reproduce the same ink density, use the same plate technology, and the same anilox rollers, they can be con- sistent enough to reliably predict and control their print process- es to match previous runs as well as other print processes. All these developments in flexo platemaking drive the qual- ity of flexo print upward to be on par with gravure and offset. As this happens, color management needs to be factored in for sustained quality improvement. The combined solution ensures first-time-every-time color integrity throughout the entire supply chain. It allows the user to see the proof—and colors—before the converter makes a hard copy proof. It is the color engine, a central color database that man- ages color and device profiles, that provides the enabling technology to support color management across the prepress packaging workflow. The combination of the spot color pro- files and a spectral ink model offers absolute accuracy and predictability for spot color simulation. All supply chain stakeholders can access the color engine from within their preferred applications: • Brand owners can use the spot color portal to manage digital brand color standards • For designers, plug-ins are available from inside their design tools, Adobe® Illustrator® and Adobe® Photoshop® • For prepress professionals, the applications they use all connect to the same color data for editing, previewing and proofing purposes • A proofing system can create accurate and achievable hardcopy inkjet proofs, either locally or remotely, based on the spot color profiles • Printers and converters are able to access the exact same color references to use in their ink formulation software Such a system requires centralized color management to deliver consistent color across the packaging and print supply chain. In combination with the spot color database, it helps to create and maintain critical brand colors. It main- tains consistency throughout the production environment by assuring that every application and operator works with the same color critical data. For all this to work, easy cloud access to all the colors and profiles, as well as access to a color engine that can work well with the spectral readings, are key requirements. The cloud part can communicate brand colors throughout the supply chain. The color engine can translate ink profiles into designs, proofs, plates, and the press. The ResulTs Brand spot colors in the cloud deliver an end-to-end solu- tion that, for the first time, addresses the needs and require- ments of every single discipline within the packaging sup- ply chain. This means that the brand manager will see an accurate representation of on-press color early in the design process, while converters can be assured of first-time-right color proofing and easy-to-match color on press. This sets the right expectations from the beginning of the process and has the potential to significantly reduce time to market. The new technology delivers color DNA based on real ink on real substrates with real printing processes for predictable, repeatable results. It guarantees consistent color reproduction from design through production, a goal that has been difficult to achieve in the past. Two things have changed the game. The first is integration of a color engine with very specific color pro- files. The second is new plate technologies that allow flexog- raphy to reproduce a wider gamut, thus allowing it to compete with offset and gravure. This results in color that’s easily acces- sible for anyone, anywhere, from the cloud. n About the Author: Jan De Roeck, director solutions management, Esko, leads and co- ordinates the segment marketing activities for the Esko solutions comprising software, hardware and services for the packaging and printing industry, from its headquarters in Gent, Belgium. With a general printing and prepress background, and a specializa- tion in graphic design, Jan has particular interest and experience in solutions and workflows for the packaging and label industry. www.flexography.org may 2012 FLEXO 63