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FLEXO Magazine : October 2013
PLANTS & PROCESSES Whenthetopicofflexoplatemakingcomesup,it’s only natural to discuss the print quality merits of the different platemaking technologies. The world of digital flexo platemaking is much better than it has ever been, even five years ago. But we’re forgetting how different it is to produce plates. Many of us have not considered how technology has changed the process itself. Flexo platemaking has gone through a pret- ty significant revolution that makes the process faster, easier, more controlled and consistent. There were many steps over the past few decades to get us to where we are today. MoLding A PLAte The world of rubber plates offered an involved process to create them and, unlike the supply chain that exists today, all plates were produced on site by each individual company. There were no major suppliers to the industry. The first step has always been to create a negative film of the artwork, in one way or another. Years ago, this was done by shooting a mechanical with a vertical or horizontal cam- era or, as times progressed, by a film imagesetter. Within a light frame, the negative was placed on top of a metal The introduction of ablation—the process of burning off the top layer of a flexo plate to, in essence, create the negative image directly on the plate—was introduced in 1995. Inline UV exposure eliminates main exposure on the light table. PLATEMAKING EVOLUTION • 1980s—Photopolymer platemaking technology introduced, severing reliance on rubber flexo plates and improving quality • 1990s—Creating a plate negative with a film imagesetter • 1995—Ablation—the process of burning off the top layer of a flexo plate to, in essence, create the negative image directly on the plate—sets the flexo world on fire 76 FLeXo OCTOBER 2013 www.flexography.org www.flexography.org OCTOBER 2013 FLeXo 77 A simpler Process Streamlining Flexo Platemaking By Ian Hole 4th Annual Plate/ Platemaking/Sleeve Selection Guide