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FLEXO Magazine : June 2012
Plants & Processes Platemaking Like Never Before: Invest in Productivity and Get a Whole lot More By Dan rosen Until the 1990s, making a flexographic printing plate was a labor intensive and sometimes unpleasant process. In the early days, rotary washout units were the norm in North America. While low cost and easy to service, these systems struggled with their ability to handle large sized plates. Ex- posure, washout, drying, and light finishing were often tricky to control, and the plates they produced were of inconsistent quality. Around 1990, the industry saw the introduction of sev- eral large format (52-in. X 80-in.) processors that incorporated plate washing and rinsing and delivered a dry-to-the-touch plate. A few years later, those same processors were modified with automatic drying and light finishing, integrating complete plate processing into a single unit. Subsequently, most of the innovation subsided. The new systems that were developed were mostly tweaks of older technology. The platemaking equipment market slowed significantly with consolidations and cost cutting trends. As a result, many of the platemaking systems we see in the North American market today are more than 10 years old and some of them even exceed 15 years of age. Times are not getting any easier for the flexo platemaking businesses. Platemakers are being required to hold finer and finer detail on photopolymer plates; customers for these plates are even more price sensitive, and the competition in platemaking is becoming more globalized. Consumer prod- uct companies are requiring implementation of even more RESEARCH IN ACTION • Consumer product companies are requiring implementation of even more sustainability efforts in the supply chain, and they demand more vivid graphics, faster turn-around, and lower cost • Cyber Graphics, a leading prepress provider based in Memphis, TN, partnered with Flint Group Flexographic Products to explore the very best in platemaking technology • A three year project resulted in the recent installation of Flint Group’s nyloflex® APP (Automated Plate Processor) into Cyber Graphics’ Memphis facility • While automatic platemaking isn’t new, the nyloflex® APP system is able to run 16 plates back-to-back without operator handling and gets finished plates out in record time • A reduction in energy consumption was also seen, as two 52-in. X 80-in washers, plus one dryer could be taken off line after installation of the nyloflex® APP equipment • Customers report about a 25 percent reduction in the number of distillation cycles needed to reclaim their solvent www.flexography.org june 2012 FLEXO 37 cyber Graphics in Memphis, tn