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FLEXO Magazine : July 2013
12.5inches7inches Embed a RFID Tag Into a Photopolymer Plate, Without Impacting Image Quality? FFTA Rossini Scholarship Project Findings Reported By Andrew Wong Improving efficiency is the goal of any competitive industry. The promise of reducing cost and increasing capacity has made automation a hot topic in the flexographic printing industry. As an industry forecast in the January 2011 issue of FLEXO magazine stated: “Automation will be required to stay competitive and ensure innovations in quality, as well as fast turnaround and consistent short-runs. ” T his research project aims to fill in one of the remaining gaps in a fully automated flexo workflow: automatic plate identification. In my research, I discovered several pilot projects that are attempting to etch a barcode into the back of plates, but each has reached limited success. This project aims to take a dif- ferent approach by embedding a radio frequency identifica- tion (RFID) tag within the plate itself. RFID tags offer unprec- edented possibilities for flexo plate automation. Imagine a press that can adjust ink settings as soon as the plate is mounted. Imagine an inventory system that can pull out the appropriate plates according to scheduled produc- tion times. Imagine a totally automated workflow, where the operator never has to physically touch a plate. In all these scenarios, there exists a need to automatically identify the plate; this test aims to provide a solution to this problem. For plate production, we have chosen the liquid photo- polymer platemaking method. The viscous state of liquid photopolymer allows us to embed a RFID tag within the plate before it is hardened through exposure to UV lights. A Meri- graph Systems 5280 platemaking machine was used for plate production. The Merigraph 5280 is a flatbed liquid platemak- er, which images the plate face down. Figure 1: This test form was designed to measure differences in dot gain on the output, between corresponding areas on the plate where there were RFID tags embedded and areas without a RFID tag embedded. The test form consists of a grid of 50 percent halftone squares. The grid system quickly identified which areas are affected by the RFID tags. 24 FLEXO July 2013 www.flexography.org FTA TODAy