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FLEXO Magazine : February 2008
PLANTS & PROCESSES "special" is not standing for magic, rather for the ability to deliver a highly suitable and consistent product quality while re- sponding perfectly to what the customer's design-agent is looking for. Today's packaging and label printers must think ahead to challenges package designers will face tomorrow. This is a tall order in the fight to market and to dis- tinguish a packaged product satisfactory in today's super competitive supermarket environment. Regular quality is not good enough when it comes to consumers' preference. It is a proven fact that the smartest and best looking packaging and/or labels do undoubtedly stimulate consumers' preferred choice. A sharper approach with more colorful graphics will be a stronger recognized product that will gain consumers' final selection ahead of a weaker design. Fulfilling such demands within afford- able conditions is why the European pack- aging presses need to be tuned differently for each different demand. This speaks volumes in explaining why today's modern press lines need the lowest possible num- ber of limitations. One should not confuse capabilities with affordability and the lowest price per thousand as they relate to press line investments. Hybrid is the solution for that! The word "hybrid" stands for something that comprises heterogenic elements. But there is more to be anticipated with packaging and label press lines. European printers have to deal increasingly with setup time reduction. In practice, they learned the effectivity-lessons from com- puter-to-plate offset in parallel printing industries. There the lead-time for new print forms and press setup time was re- duced drastically. Europe is now introducing the cost effective print sleeve technology to its packaging and label press lines by means of computer-to-flexo technology. For the package printing industry this means ap- plications of either directly or indirectly CO2 laser-engraved printing sleeves. There is enormous advantage in the reduction of press setup time thanks to immediate good color register of the sleeves. Next to this, CT-flexo has the ability to adapt the dot-shape and slope of flexo dots for optimal printing to substrate and shore- degree of the flexo printing sleeve surface. The challenge here is for the press manu- facturers to guarantee the much needed predictable print quality through the use of different repeat sizes (sleeve wall thicknesses). AUXILIARIES While prepress and printing technology might be decisive for final print quality, European printers do realize that auxilia- ries are more decisive for the total press- efficiency and stability of quality. Leading European printing machinery manufactur- ers have anticipated and addressed these needs through various press automation and servo-drive features that are computer integrated. Among the top contemporary European packaging and label press manufacturers, the use of full servo drive is often used for printing machinery in order to guarantee an absolute frictionless and torsion-less printing machine with 100-percent accu- rate control on web tension. Such a drive is today's standard now for the latest press versions in packaging and label printing. But lower waste and faster press setup can always achieve sharper targets. In this respect, press manufacturers have desired to---and have proven that they can---stay in the forefront of affordable presses and auxiliaries automation. Such auxiliaries are serious options for European printers investing in the latest press technology. Time-saving innovation both in and on packaging and label printing presses do receive a warm welcome among many European leaders in package printing. European printers count their savings more closely than ever before. ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Eric Hoendervangers, co-founder of MPS sys- tems, started his career working for the machine and system supplier Stork in 1985. Hoendervangers took several positions within the Stork organization, managing sales and marketing activities of different printing technologies in a number of different coun- tries and on several continents. In 1996, He started MPS Systems together with Bert van den Brink, developing new, intelligent flexo printing systems. Next to general manage- ment, Hoendervangers holds responsibilities in MPS marketing and sales, as well as fi- nancial matters. Indirect or direct CO2 flexo laser engraving starts to become a decisive setting time saver on European packaging---and label presses---but also a winner for stable quality improvement. A hybrid press, equipped to run print cylinders and/or print sleeves. 46 FLEXO FEBRUARY 2008 www.flexography.org