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FLEXO Magazine : July 2012
Often, a single packaging design evolves into many. One product may become available as many line extensions (“Light,” “Extra Vitamins,” etc.), and often these variations have localized versions for global markets. All of these variables — and last minute text changes, not to mention languages —are an open invitation for human error. An option is “dynamic content management.” Simply put, critical text (and barcodes) is separated from the base art as tagged elements. Before a job is printed, a shared database or XML data is polled for updated ”legal content. ” T hen, the job is moved to proofing and plating. Advantages are evident. It’s easier to update text because, rather than trying to refer to what you consider the most recent file (and retyping it correctly), the text is automatically pulled from a pre-set file location. It’s also easier to track all packag- ing extensions, manage translations, and avoid errors. Don’t forget barcodes! While the designer might include them in the design, make sure you have included a barcode, if needed. There are a lot of applications that can generate dynamic barcodes for you — and assure they can be printed. Most of these applications offer automatic box generation, bar width reduction (make sure you can still print them) and output resolution dependent scaling. Manage the colors right! Color management is a topic that really requires a complete article in its own right. Need- less to say, you must make sure that your artwork is color cor- rected before it goes to proof and print. With many jobs, this may require implementation of extended gamut printing, and separating the artwork into a set of five, six, or even seven color inks of your, or your brand owner’s , choice. If you can standardize on a set of inks, your press changeover workload between jobs is reduced to merely changing printing plates. Don’t avoid the traps! While none of us want to admit it, our flexo presses could stray off register from time to time. While it’s not nearly like it was in the “old days,” it is still im- portant to avoid misregistration and the unsightly scene of the substrate sneaking through. Many companies still prefer to manually trap, opting to hire operators who are very good at trapping. While they can do a very good job, the fact is that it’s done manually, which is extremely time-consuming. Also, this can be frequently incon- sistent and very error prone. While some automated systems may not be perfect, in general, automated trapping has been proven over and over to be more accurate and consistent than manual methods. Available technologies offer very efficient vector-based trapping based on user-definable rules. They are typically fully editable and non-destructive: the traps are placed on a separate layer so the base artwork is intact. Remember that the type of inks you use can affect trapping. For example, if you are using metallic ink, it will require a dif- ferent set of rules. Distort the files Shrink sleeve labels—especially heat shrink sleeves—are capturing the imagination of brand owners, who are continu- ally on the hunt for innovative packaging solutions that will give them that elusive competitive edge. But, shrink sleeves have their disadvantages, too, particu- larly in the manufacturing process, which can be complex and labor-intensive. There is increased availability of label- ing machinery—used to mechanically apply the labels to the bottles—and in application/labeling line speeds, especially as converters migrate from manual to automated labeling systems. Even container technology has improved, allowing for better shrink sleeve construction. However, if you are creating a label to be placed around an irregularly-shaped container, you are going to find that the artwork will distort, and you will need to correct that — either manually or electronically. Traditionally, the design and execu- tion of shrink sleeves has been a cumbersome process with long lead times. Designers create grids on the shrink sleeve material, wrap it around the container, run it through a shrink sleeve tunnel, measure the distor- tion, and try to size graphic elements based upon these measurements. The design usually requires several iterations before the distortion is accurate and several replays involving plates and press time are not unusual. Fortunately, software is now avail- able that can resolve that pretty painlessly. Step & repeat! Once your art is approved and final, one of your objectives will be to fit as many pieces on the plate and substrate as possible. This takes materials costs out of the job, as well as time. The more you can squeeze together, the more that can be printed and completed more quickly. With the advent of flexo CtP, no one really does this by hand any more; or do they? There are three practical options. One is to use a plug-in that works through Illustrator®. It’s a little less sophisticated, but can do the trick for many treatments. Another is to invest in a stand-alone application for reference- based step & repeat for PDF workflows. Last, but Once your art is approved and final, one of your objectives will be to fit as many pieces on the plate and substrate as possible. Step & repeat tools take materials cost out of the job, as well as time. 54 FLEXO july 2012 www.flexography.org