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FLEXO Magazine : January 2008
also appreciate the relative benefits of each process. The European market has felt the effects of shrinking run lengths and interna- tional competition longer than their u.s. cousins. This was, initially, because of ef- ficiencies, geography and regionalization within the EU. The powerhouse economies of Germany, France and Great Britain now compete with the former eastern ' 1 : '1,:7; IIJI: . ..13. r. , II ,_II I rY' t I j í - [ " '1 ' 'J , f - , " - 'l , ' .. , I _... It ' , ;,. I ì- )" 't- r .. - -'. .... -=- I. . . . powerful tool with expensive and sensitive materials. Offset reproduces CMYK (Hexachrome and Opaltone as well) with ease and pro- vides the full screen values from 0 to 100 percent. Color variation across the web is easily adjusted. Offset is the most used and standardized of all the processes which results in cost effective consumables and a healthy choice of operating personnel. - II . -, , I I:I . I] 1'J h, . I] ..' ( - ;C'!!!: -1 I tM) -:. J!. ;;i.il ) ".". ----- ..... .f " \. i ,'. -. \ \ ",".\\,'.,' '.':\:..... .... ;" ..... . ... 1tJ :)0__...",,- o This film press runs six offset units with two flexo stations and a silkscreen head. Photo courtesy Matik North America. bloc countries where labor burdens are 90-percent less costly. The market started to change in the u.s. at the turn of the century because of cost control, strategic marketing, operational efficiencies and the influence of large retailers. Press manufacturers started to examine and critique their particular process. This led to other systems being utilized, pro- viding a smarter method for a traditional problem area. If the technology was not within their grasp to develop, exclusive partnerships evolved or the units were simply purchased from a supplier of excel- lence. Some companies were bought out and embryonic ideas dividended from larger resource. The relative merits of each system start- ed to be more understood. Flexo is able to provide the POP of good color reproduction that many brands are looking for to improve shelf appeal. New print repeats are easy and inexpensive to acquire. The presses themselves have ad- vanced closed loop tension controls with presets to assist speedy makereadies, a Silkscreen is the master of heavy ink laydown and opacity, and is widely used for white, metallic and pearlescent inks. Offset struggles to achieve the opacity and flexo ink technology is currently refining the solution. Other applications are becoming more widespread such as tactile printing and Braille, as up to 30 micron of ink can be applied to the web. Gravure is the primary method for qual- ity metallic reproduction and also opaques. As the ink is solvent based, UV ink issues are avoided in food and direct packaging. Letterpress is still also used as another method of achieving a good hit of color with inexpensive plates. Whichever press and process was chosen, the printers of the new hybrid machines also had to challenge their own workforce and workflows as these were new philosophies which were not always read- ily accepted due to prejudice, misunder- standing of the process, poor training and resource. Both press manufacturers and printers adopted a more rounded approach in the initial start-up to ensure a seamless www.flexography.org . . tt:J; hand-over into production and continued support for the operating personnel. Some of this prejudice still exists, and can ad- versely influence equipment decisions. Alternatively, there were also cases where flexo was initially the alternative process of choice due to cost concerns; folding carton is the prime example. To start, there were quality differences, but the uWal-mart Effect" seems to overcome this concern, and flexo has continued to win business as a result of the productiv- ity of the in-line process. The quality has improved, and if it will equal the value perception achievable on an offset sheetfed press, remains to be seen. Paradoxically, narrow-web offset presses are now attack- ing this market for the same reasons flexo did initially. In looking at the printers of note in the label and packaging fields, it is interest- ing to find that the print processes and combinations on offer are so diverse it asks the question, uWhat can't they do?" Or, put another way, the flexo printer has evolved into a chameleon that harnesses the talents of each process to reproduce outstanding and challenging graphics that would have been unimaginable 10 years ago. Offset, and how flexo press manufactur- ers were offering their version, was the common theme at Labelexpo Europe 2007. Alternatively, offset press manufacturers were showing the flexo community what they are capable of and how it blends in with their needs. Coming full circle, all eyes are everywhere trying to determine the best set -up, with a flexibility that equates to an overwhelming ROI and provides a true win-win scenario. Enhancing the virtues of flexo by collaborat- ing, not competing, with other methods of putting ink down, make a good marriage which requires work and effort, but the re- sults are worthy of respect and merit. . ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Chris Davis is sales manager of offset technologies at Matik North America, based in West Hartford, CT. Formerly an aero engineer at Rolls Royce, Davis Joined the printing indus- try 14 years ago, initially selling Edelmann narrow-web offset presses in the UK. Now a resident in the U.S., he promotes the offset range at Matik (Edelmann and Codimag) in harmony with his flexo colleagues. 2008 - JANUARY FLEXO