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FLEXO Magazine : January 2008
PLANTS & PROCESSES CARTONS Fig. 1 Flatbed Die Layout 1 ì I ;' lli6tt L- Chipper Waste Nes1111g \V m4 e Ed&t' Flg . Ro tmy Die Layout ., \ I Zero Gnpper \Yaste Zero Nestlllg Waste Edge Trim In-Line Flexo for Folding Cartons Great Graphics Unbeatable Economics + Big Profits By Michael R. Pfaff F or the better part of a decade, the folding carton industry has been under pressure to reduce costs, deliver short runs quickly and produce more and more eye-catching graph- ics. As these pressures have squeezed some producers out of business, others have found ways to cope. Some of these coping mechanisms have included price-cutting, non-process-related cost reduction efforts (how many of your customers still have a receptionist to greet visitors?) and even taking contracts at or be- low break-even just to keep the presses running. Fortunately, not all the ways to survive in this tough market have to mean such severe austerity measures. A growing number of paperboard and folding carton converters have discovered that in-line web printing and diecutting, principally using flexographic presses, offers tremendous cost savings, while still producing the kind of graphic reproduction quality that the industry demands. In order to understand this approach, one needs to grasp and accept two primary truths. First, the flexo industry, as a whole, has made tremendous advances in print quality. The historical u gap " between flexo and its nemesis, offset lithography, has nar- rowed to a point where it is largely an academic debate. Second, and no less important, is the economic advantage enjoyed by web-fed in-line flexo over sheetfed offset. Productivity, paper sav- ings and labor savings trump the higher costs of flexo plates and rotary cutting dies, making web-fed flexo the smartest choice for converters facing the ufaster, cheaper" modern-day packaging industry. - FLEXO QUALITY Tight register...Miniscule reverse type... Smoothly fading vi- gnettes...Life-like flesh tones-All these are printing characteris- tics that traditionally were the exclusive domain of offset printing. Flexo, by contrast, was relegated to cheesy one- and two-color reproductions on corrugated boxes. UFragile-this end up" and uMade in Japan" may have been the primary things printed with this method. Process? Fuggetaboudit. Registration? Measured with a ruler. No more. Digital plates, CTP (computer-to-plate) platemaking, precision presses and rapid advances in ink curing, drying and the inks themselves have elevated flexography to a new plane. Anyone doubting this ought to take a look at the percentage of print awards handed out annually for jobs that are printed with modern flexo presses. Most seasoned veterans of the print- ing trades often cannot tell a flexo carton from an offset carton without a loupe. Even with a loupe the differences are becoming harder and harder to spot. Look at the state of the flexo press. Today's machines are flush with the latest technology, including servo drives for every func- tion from web transport to impression control. Hot air dryers and UV curing lamps are precisely calibrated, high-powered devices that allow for near-instantaneous drying. The press is a preci- sion instrument, capable of churning webs at 1,000 fpm or faster, while not only printing but diecutting, removing scrap and deliv- ering finished blanks, ready for the gluer. Modular designs allow JANUARY 2008 www. f I exog ra p hy.o rg FLEXO