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FLEXO Magazine : May 2013
an all-time high. The feeling in 2009 was that ECG was on the verge of a “tipping point.” Fast forward to 2013 and it’s clear that ECG has finally tipped. As evidence, Mark Mazur of DuPont conducted a survey of flexo printers and premedia companies at the beginning of 2013 and documented that ECG encompassed 16 percent of the work at flexo premedia companies and 11 percent of the work at flexo converters. Comparing that to the 1 percent to 2 percent of work estimated to be printed ECG in 2009 and it’s clear that a major shift in the ECG trend has occurred. Coupling this with the level of interest at all points in the flexo value chain, and it’s not hard to foresee that the majority of packaging could be printed ECG by the end of this decade. In our talk in 2009, we cited three major obstacles to ECG reaching the tipping point: 1. Improving spot color accuracy 2. Improving expanded gamut proofing 3. Changing the rules As of 2013, we can say that these obstacles have been largely overcome. We can also cite one more technology – improvements in flexo plates and imaging – often referred to as “high definition flexography,” that we failed to cite in 2009, but that has clearly played a major role in ECG reaching the tipping point. Understanding how meeting the criteria has assisted ECG to tip can serve to help our industry continue to advance in its use of ECG. As such, we’ll take a detailed look at these trends. SPOT COLOR ACCURACY The number-one reason that Consumer Product Compa- nies want to convert to ECG is economics. Put simply, it’s far less expensive to use a fixed set of inks (usually CMYK + Orange + Green + Violet) and mix colors on press, than to use custom inks and mix inks in the inkroom. ECG printing is essentially 7-color process and it’s a fact that process color is far more economical than spot color. As of 2009, however, CPCs had major concerns about how accurately their brand colors could be matched with ECG. In 2009, three criteria to enable ECG printing to “tip” were identified. As of 2013, all three criteria have been realized. In addition to the move from visual format targets (left) to random format targets (right), the principle of data integrity that, “more is better,” has been well proven for ECG printing. www.flexography.org may 2013 FLEXO 31