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FLEXO Magazine : April 2008
TECHNOLOGIES & TECHNIQUES Unless they also look at the cost of the printed product "out the door," this para- digm will never change in North America. All of the costs that contribute to the total burden-prepress, mounting, press setup, press down time, material used in setup and restarts, rejected material, etc. must be considered. IfITR can have a positive im- pact on the other burden factors, is it really three times the cost mounted of flat plates? Printers that do look beyond the actual cost of the ITR product versus mounted plates are focused on the total cost to produce the printed product. They take advantage of: · The substrate is often the most expen- sive part of the converted product. What is the savings of less waste? Is this of interest to the CPC's who are attempting to meet the "green" de- mands ofWal-Mart? · Extremely difficult jobs where distor- tion factors of plates cause mis-reg- istration. If you can save 30 minutes per setup, what does that translate to in terms of weekly press time? · Small cylinders where plate lift is an issue. If you have to stop a press every three hours for a 15 minute repair, that equals two hours of press time per day. · Six- or seven-color process demands ex- tremely accurate registration. Can this be done consistently with mounted flat plates? At what cost in the mounting department? At what cost during the press setup? The current trend to an all digital prepress worlálow is partially negated by hand mounting. · The improved wear characteristics of ITR versus polymer plates. (FTA's Prepress Leadership Council is con- sidering researching this to better qualify the statistics.) · High -speed presses can be run faster with ITR sleeves. Several leading North American print- ers have found that the positive effect on their bottom line from more press up- time and less substrate waste is significant enough to offset the additional prepress costs. Therefore, the additional cost of ITR image carriers does not have to be passed on to the print buyer. What are the detriments to implement- ing ITR? When should it not be consid- ered? Jobs with short timelines or short lifespan of designs continue to be a signif- icant part of the North American mix. The special marketing or short-term regional promotions make the additional costs difficult to overcome with the above men- tioned savings. The decision to properly implement ITR will take an understanding of your customers and their campaigns to determine if ITR makes sense. What will it take to mainstream this product? · Reducing the price differential of ITR to mounted plates. · Shorter timeline for the supply of im- aged sleeves. · More demand. The first two factors would take the combined efforts of the manufacturers of sleeves, those doing the application of cushion and polymer coating, the trade shop doing the imaging and the equip- ment manufacturers for all of the process- es. According to both Rosen and Bodwell, there will be significant activity around ITR at the 2008 drupa show. As for the latter, supply and demand drives the implementation of all new products and processes, but it should ac- tually be stated as "demand and supply." Printers are waiting for the suppliers to reduce costs and lead time, while manu- facturers are waiting for the validation of the product through demand before making the additional investments neces- sary to reduce costs and timelines. As an industry, how do we get beyond this stale- mate? More printers will have to select the appropriate applications and run their own cost analysis on several printing jobs with the ITR product. Only then can they prove-or disprove-whether this product can positively impact their quality, effi- ciency and bottom line. Perhaps we should explore the European model to determine why the implementa- tion of ITR has been so much more rapid and thorough in that part of the world. According to Bodwell, "ITR has seen a much faster growth curve in Europe than it has in North America so far. DuPont's global sales for Cyrel Round sleeves are over 90 percent in the European market." Rosen estimates "the current annual North American market of ITR plate media to be around 500,000 - 600,000 square feet. www.f I exog ra p hy.o rg Equipment for processing ITR sleeves is large and expensive. Europe is probably three to four times that amount." A closer look at the differences in the market helps to explain part of the reason why: · A large volume of gravure printed flex- ible packaging that can be converted to flexo once you implement ITR · A greater installed base of cantilevered, high speed CI presses which are ideal for the sleeve based ITR product · A clearer view of the total cost to produce with ITR rather than sim- ply comparing based on line item pricing. · A significantly more robust supply chain. Bodwell states that in his opinion "There is clearly a smaller opportunity for gravure conversion in North America. However, tradeshops printers here are very focused on the return on investment, so if the production economics truly are there for ITR, the industry will embrace it". The economic, environmental and qual- ity benefits of ITR must be demonstrated at North American printers to mainstream this product. Will this be done through Print Buyers looking for an advantage or Print Converters looking for a different advantage? As soon as the advantages pro- vided by ITR are widely recognized in the marketplace, the material and equipment manufacturers and the trade shops pro- cessing the sleeves, will get more active in the increased supply and the reduced cost of this flexo printing enhancement. ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Dan Heller is the National Sales Manager for 360 Imaging Inc. He is a retired FT A and FFT A Board Member. Dan can be contacted with com- ments or questions at 330-607-1025 or email@example.com. APR I L 2008 - FLEXO