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FLEXO Magazine : May 2013
62. It took until early in the next century before this technology was embraced throughout the industry 63. As plates and sleeves evolved in the late 1990s, proofing did as well. The HP2500 met the proofing needs of flexo printers for image placement, web layout and accessory elements 64. DuPont’s Digital WaterProof system was another key proofing device at that time. Based on CIELAB color space, this proofer accurately predicted the colors that would be achieved on press using data from a previously printed press profile 65. Fully digital, contract, dot proofing devices from Kodak and Screen became de facto standards in digital proofing, a posi- tion held for almost 20 years 2000s 66. In the early 2000s, Digital Asset Management (DAM) or web- based management of files, offered yet another opportunity for digital technology to cross-over into prepress 67. With DAM, customers could download files from their brows- ers as well as using FTP and email. Customers could also view the job as alterations were made to the file, using PDF files for proofing via the web 68. New workflows continued to be upgraded and added in this era. While Rampage improved, Packflow was slowly replaced by Artwork Systems’ Nexus 69. Nexus software could produce Flexocal films enhanced by quantum screening. Flexocal films produced dots of less than 1 percent on photopolymer plates. Combined, the duo produced a more even and accurate screen than stochastic 70. Imagesetters, such as the Avantra and others from Hell, Scitex and Screen were refined as well, operating at up to 4000 dpi and a maximum screen ruling of 425 lpi 71. New fiber lasers were introduced, going from dual beams up to 40 beams, improving productivity dramatically 72. New equipment for digital platemaking and sleeves became available in the 2000s and was more widely adopted. CreoSci- tex’s Thermoflex 5280 offered a diode laser, which proved itself to be very consistent and efficient in laser-imaging plates 73. At this same time, DuPont introduced its Cyrel FAST digital plate system, a thermal platemaking innovation that became widely used in the industry 74. Esko-Artwork also introduced a laser-imaging device for plates, called the Spark XT. The Spark XT boasted high quality and efficiency, output of plates as large as 48-in x 35-in and was able to be used with the DuPont Cyrel FAST system 75. As digital equipment gradually began to saturate the market- place, OEC Graphics implemented a concept where it could place that same equipment within customer’s facilities. It was called OEC-DFM (digital facilities management) 76. OEC-DFM was an innovative customer partnership program offered where customers were given flexibility and control with platemaking, while maintaining support and prepress exper- tise from their provider 77. In 2003, the Seamex ITR sleeve branched out to offer Seamex- Blanks, a ready-made imagable sleeve. This sleeve would meet the needs of flexographic printers who had the laser technology, but needed a customizable sleeve to image 78. Twinlock by Polymount International b.v. provided another way that sleeves could be incorporated into the pressroom. It elimi- nated the need for standard mounting tape or stickyback 79. Polymount also introduced plate and sleeve cleaners as com- pletely automated devices that cleaned solvent-based, water- based or UV inks, extending the life of plates and sleeves 80. OEC Graphics recognized the impact on the flexo industry and forged a partnership with Polymount, becoming the sole distributor in North America in 2004 81. In 2005, BASF joined the elite group of laser manufacturers with the introduction of its ITR sleeve-making system called Infinity 82. Seamex2, a product of the collaboration between OEC Graph- ics and Flint Group hit the marketplace in 2006. Seamex2 changed the manufacturing process of ITR by eliminating grinding for a smoother surface. This produced a finer dot and improved ink release, which resulted in better color and text quality as well as high solid ink densities 83. Esko made a significant breakthrough in 2009 with the intro- duction of HD Flexo platemaking. Driving more pixels to the plate, it results in sharper imaging of text and line art, more clearly defined, better shaped screens and lower dot gains 84. HD Flexo was made available for both flat plates and ITR sleeves. Any company that adopted the technology and passed Esko’s strenuous HD Flexo certification tests could be recog- nized as HD Flexo certified 85. OEC Graphics was the first company in the world to receive Esko’s HD Certification 86. Esko also introduced a new ITR laser at this same time. Called the Esko ITR laser, it could image sleeves up to 72-in and incor- porated HD technology 87. By the end of this decade, digital technology had taken over 75 percent of platemaking, becoming the preferred method of manufacture by prepress companies 88. New mounting devices increased accuracy in registration 89. Advancements in high speed, automated presses and higher line anilox provided additional push for higher and higher levels of quality and efficiency in prepress 90. The prepress market continues to consolidate into larger, multiple-facility organizations in response to market demands from customers requiring redundancy and services closer to client operations. OEC Graphics expanded, opening facilities in California and Atlanta 91. Kodak, using imaging technology from the acquisition of Creo and its own patents, got into the photopolymer market with Kodak NX, which promised higher solid ink densities 2010s 92. In 2011, MacDermid Printing Solutions won the Flexographic Technical Association’s Technical Innovation Award for LUX plate processing technology. This allowed for the production of highlight dots, reverse and positive copy with a “ flat top,” providing greater surface area and superior image structure 93. Using a combination of technologies, OEC introduced the lat- est advancement in Seamex: a high definition, flat dot continu- ous printing form with customized cushion and base 94. Flat top dot offers a variety of print process improvements, including reduced fluting, extended gamut, improved print, faster startups, superior ink transfer, higher ink densities and cleaner reverse type 95. DuPont introduced FAST ITR, a system which allowed for continuous printing forms to be processed thermally, using DuPont’s proven FAST technology. OEC was a pioneer 96. DuPont’s Digiflow, Flint’s nyloflex NExT and Esko’s in-line UV are other current alternative flat top dot technologies 97. Improvements in inkjet printers, inks and color management solutions made it possible to produce contract dot proofs signaling the beginning of the end for conventional, expensive donor based digital dot proofs 98. Esko’s Pixel+, is the latest development in optics and software, created to support flat top dot technology. Users can individu- ally characterize parameters with plate specific screening to further enhance solid ink density 99. Already in use are new photopolymers from every supplier that are more durable and transfer ink better. 100. A hearty handful of manufacturers of imagers and elastomers portend the rebirth of direct laser engraving on “ rubber.” This continuous and vigorous competition is sure to keep the industry in a constant state of change for years to come n 56 FLEXO may 2013 www.flexography.org HD-ITR Flat Top Dot Seamless Sleeves High Definition Flexo Technical Partnerships Wisconsin . Chicago . California . Atlanta VISIT US AT INFO*FLEX 2013 BOOTH #525 TAKE YOUR FLEXO TO THE HIGHEST LEVEL Let OEC Graphics... • Digital, ITR • Customizable • HD and Flat Top Dot compatible • Tightest registration • Eliminates mounting • No stickyback cost • Faster make-ready • Reusable • Reduced lead times SEAMLESS I CUSTOMIZABLE I CONTINUOUS I REUSABLE OEC Graphics was the first to bring the SEAMEX® seamless In-The-Round (ITR) sleeve to the North American market. Investments in equipment, research and development solidified SEAMEX as the industry standard. Today, it has evolved into a digital wonder; improving press speeds, streamlining pressrooms and producing thousands of sleeves as it continues to win awards and converter’s approval year after year. FOR MORE INFORMATION call Brad Vette at 1.800.388.7770 or email email@example.com oecgraphics.com