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FLEXO Magazine : January 2008
. . . . LABELS ", J -- I - ;; - I - lii l : ' ; i -- tn. a--,-..._. -J -) ] ] I '" 'I ---- " " . -1-1" "'1..,,. - m: .,.....u:::::......... . ME" I =_= ......... .::::::......... r; -=-=3Æ -=i æ=;;=:. .........:::!tt.. :="iE.- .-f... fl- t . 8 JJ DO DO -01_ 0 1111 .. ;- v}1 ..." . III. _I ; \ I'I , .,,- -I '--" ( ( - _1;;1.......... _.' N _ 1& -, , '""= , J (!) - - _.. , - ... A semi-rotary platform press utilizing hybrid flex%ffset technology. Photo courtesy Matik North America. · '.:...: . ... .:.: 7; ;;:! : = : =: ;: . . . \ . \. A Happy Marriage? Narrow Web Flexo and Offset Coming Together By Chris Davis F lexo has crossed the great divide! In the narrow web world of 2008, flexo quality very nearly equals offset quality. The process is no longer sen as too simple or inadequate for high level production requirements associated with commercial print. Flexographers are succeeding in harnessing elements of off- set, digital, screen and gravure and putting them to work in repro- ducing outstanding and challenging graphics. Work turned out in a typical flexo plant today was unimaginable just one decade ago. As a result, some package buyers are asking, UWhat can't flexo do?" Flexo now prints the demanding register tolerance that is en- demic in CMYK, fine and heavy vignettes on the same color, at any percent, from 1 to 99. Banding and gear marks, are highly un- common today and the accuracy of prepress and plate mounting is ensuring that flexo is synonomous with high quality printing and package production. Ten years ago, even within offset, sheetfed machines were dominant and the quality produced by narrow-web presses was perceived as inferior. With the advent of direct mail, value added forms, integrated promotional and transactional print, the produc- tion efficiencies of long runs with complex in-line finishing began to sway the opinions of respected industry heads. This led many narrow-web offset manufacturers to refine and expand ink trains to meet the expectations laid down by the sheetfed machines. In turn drying technologies advanced, as did press controls to ensure precision in the resulting product. Sophisticated operator interfac- es are now on most presses, many integrating with local MIS and - CIP3/4 facilities. Today, flexo print quality rivals that of Offset. Each continuously challenging each other to reach new heights. Flexo has seen a similar progression. With a simplistic ink feed, the mechanics of the press itself could be improved with relative ease and servo technology found a natural home where direct drive can be applied cost effectively making it a true ugearless" press. Tension controls became more sophisticated allowing ex- tensible films to be converted. Drying systems offered heat, UV, IR or all three with cassette interchangeability. Plate manufacturing improved, as did the accuracy of the mounting tools, so dots were better controlled and CMYK became a reality in flexo. More de- fined anilox rollers are now available, with matching inks, that are able to provide excellent (and consistent) ink densities that offset is unable to equaL As labels and packaging continued to evolve, so did the converting section of the press with more capable die- cutting, foiling, laminating and so on. The irony now is that flexo has borrowed ideas from offset and vice-versa which has led to the evolution of the combination presses and hybrid platforms offering very few limits, as a weak- ness in one process is a strength in another. So it is no surprise, that flexo houses have been inviting offset, the once unwelcome stranger, into their production capabilities. To be fair, flexo print- ers were amongst the first to mix print processes and systems, a good example is filmic products which really started to evolve in the beginning of the nineties as a multi-tasking substrate, and this has led to printers who not only have to know how to print, but JANUARY 2008 www.flexography.org FLEXO