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FLEXO Magazine : November 2012
mee, with 20 employees, is its consumer product company (CPC) customer service center. Sun Graphics’ plan is to outfit the facilities with mirrored capabilities with a complete digital workflow. Antioch is already there; it is using automated prepress production software, de- sign plug-ins, a flexo digital imaging system with high definition flexo, structural software and a digital finishing table. Maumee’s new digital imager will go on-line in Decem- ber—it is currently using software to economically place pieces of artwork on the plate and cut the plate with a digital finishing table. Antioch’s workflow is used more than 90 percent for imaging graphics and mounting, while Maumee is waiting to do the same—although it already uses software to gang artwork on a plate and cut it on a digital table. At the end of the year, Maumee will have identical capabilities as Antioch—as a 100 percent digital workflow. The company purchased its first digital imager two years ago. “Earlier this year, we added software for pin mounting, upgrading all our software at the same time,” explains Lee Lucky, general manager, Sun Graphics. With the move, Sun Graphics has been able to deliver products to clients faster, while ensuring absolute product consistency and accuracy for clients’ brand equity. Automa- tion and integration throughout the workflow is reducing cycle time, improving quality and driving down costs of production. “ We are seeing efficiencies all over and a dramatic increase in the quality of work,” says Lucky. “At the time we brought in the digital imager, we were not digital at all. We jumped right over, using a basic digital workflow feeding files into high definition platemaking. Converting to a digital work- flow, we gained speed, accuracy, predictability, repeatability, and reduced overall prepress time required. Removing film and storage resulted in reduced cost, less waste due to film processing, easily accessible archived files, more customiz- able options for printers/end users, expanded color gamut and increased tonal range.” The workflow begins with clients supplying artwork—no big change there—and a CAD file to the design department. Then things start to move. Their editing plug-in for Adobe® Illustrator® and Photoshop® sets imaging parameters. Automation features within the editing software have sped up the process. “ T he dynamic barcode function allows the operator to automatically change the size or type if required,” says Ryan Hansen, a production artist for the Antioch facility. “T he trapping feature automatically traps files to the size specified. Our ink tools plug-in lets us specify which inks are contained within our file before we RIP the file.” Adds Hansen, “If we have something inside a file that isn’t supposed to be processed—if we didn’t check our inks cor- rectly, before we RIPped that file—our ink tools plug-in will show us that we don’t have orange and black. It assures us that we have the correct number of separations for that job.” “ We use all these plug-ins to increase efficiencies and they all help to decrease any problems,” says Lee. Also inside Illustrator, Shuttle technology acts as a link between the editing module and the automated workflow. “Shuttle allows us to launch a workflow straight from the edit- ing application,“ says Hansen. The automated workflow is the heart of the entire opera- tion. “It lets us preset repetitive tasks and make automated decisions within the workflow,” explains Ted Clinton, plant manager, Antioch. “ It is completely programmable—we can specify which parts of the workflow we want to use, which parts we want to customize—which curves, colors and distor- tion. It will hold the changes, so we don’t have to go into the workflow and make changes to the file every single time. It does it automatically.” The software lets operators change or add workflows— add branches to existing workflow or create completely new branches. “ We can do the different tasks in a workflow as part of a long stream, a chain—not as separate tasks,” says Clinton. “Each workflow or task or chain has a ticket, which shows all the parameters associated with it. We can set up a workflow for a particular customer or for particular printing presses.” T he technology can fingerprint a customer ’s press and develop printing curves that help Sun Graphics hit G7 standards or special standards that the customers supplied. “Once we gather our information and build press profiles, the software allows us to build tickets that are customized for that customer, so we don’t have to manually process these through the workflow,” explains Clinton. “ When we return to print the jobs again with those same specifications, the information is stored and we can easily access it. The library is already built.” Adds Lucky, “It also gives us the power to stop, accept, or deny any changes. If we see a problem we can stop it in the process. ” Once the file is approved, it goes to the plating department, where the ganging software is put into action. “ With our software, we create a file that is sent to the flexo imager, and a cutting file is sent directly to the cutting table,” says Lucky. The name of the file and the registration cross marks are automatically imaged on the flexo plate. The structural design software integrates structural and graphic design with production files—eliminating mistakes downstream. Design files are output from the structural software workstation to the digital finishing table to cut and crease the plates. Loading a plate on an Esko CDI flexo plate imager. 46 FLEXO novEmbEr 2012 www.flexography.org