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FLEXO Magazine : January 2014
ty that comes from integrating digital printing technology into existing flexo equipment is immediately apparent CONSIDERATIONS & APPROACH Productivity is all about throughput. That which slows down is equally as important as that which speeds up. Companies considering implementing a hybrid digital analog solution should make certain to invest in a system which focuses on minimizing waste, makeready and maintenance time, while maximizing production efficiency. Here are some key criteria to keep in mind when con- sidering a digital inkjet system to integrate with an existing flexo press. • Automated stitching of printheads: Some digital inkjet systems offer seamless printing across the entire web of material with automated printhead alignment and image stitching achieved through micro motor controller technology. It provides easy and accurate setup, with no manual stitching of the printheads. The result is fast makeready, less material waste and excellent print quality that allows for printing seamless alphanumerics, logos, graphics and 100 percent scannable “Grade A” verifiable bar codes • Automated printhead cleaning and capping: Make certain to choose a digital inkjet system that offers an au- tomated cleaning and capping station. Operators will no longer need to manually clean the printheads. Not only does this help provide consistent print quality, but equally important, it means less human intervention from the operator, which eliminates the potential for accidentally damaging the printheads and maximizes uptime • Ink optimization system: Select a digital inkjet printer that has a pressurized recirculation system to ensure ink is always moving around the printhead. This helps to degas the ink that otherwise may cause diverted jets, poor print quality, waste and poor reliability • User selectable droplet sizes: Ink drop sizes as small as 6 pico liters are now being offered in digital printing systems. This allows the ability to print very small, fine text while utilizing less ink consumption and therefore lowering costs. Plus, a printer can print on a wider range of materials with crisp quality. NEXT STEPS The next step beyond the hybrid of an analog and digital system is a complete digital printing system. Today, there are high speed color and white digital UV inkjet systems that offer the productivity of flexo printing with the versatility of digital. That seems to be the best of both worlds. To illustrate, there are digital UV inkjet systems in the market today that offer print speeds up to 250 fpm at 600 dpi on a 13 in. web that print not only CMYK but also very opaque white. At that speed, to print 1 million 3 in. by 3 in. labels with variable data would take just over five hours. With a digital printing system, there is no stoppage required for image changes. With the click of a mouse, SKUs, colors and print jobs can be changed on the fly, without the worry of color variations between operators. In addition, some digital presses in the market today also offer the same type of time saving and production efficiency features covered in the hybrid section previously discussed. And, with a digital press, there is no platemaking, no sticky back tape, no plate mounting and no plate inventory. With to- day ’s increased speed and wider web widths, the digital color label press provides a good option for the printer/converter that is pursuing new business. It assists in lowering produc- tion costs by increasing throughput, while lowering labor and material waste. NATURAL SELECTION When considering a digital color press, ask the supplier to provide a cost analysis and engage with that partner in return on investment calculations, so you can see what the partic- ulars are for that piece of digital printing equipment versus flexo on the print jobs you run. It may end up that it’s not an “all or nothing” solution. You will be able to determine when it makes sense to run digital and when it makes sense to run flexo, based on the numbers. You will also get a good idea of the cost to complete the print job, the time required and the cost per label. And by doing this exercise you may find that by introducing digital printing, you are able to increase throughput and run more print jobs in a given period of time. Digital printing equipment that is typically thought of as a capital expense may in reality be a money making machine. Lastly, digital printing today is much different and much better than it was even just a few years ago, and as we look to the future, there will continue to be advances in the technology. After all, change is the only constant. Digital printing will contin- ue to evolve and we will continue to see its impact on flexo. If you believe in investing in future trends, ever shorter run lengths is a clear one. This can only mean the trend for more runs via digital will continue. n About the Author: Bill Myers is marketing man- ager, digital printing solutions at Domino North America. For additional information on digital printing, please visit dominodigitalprinting.com 50 FLEXO JANUARY 2014 www.flexography.org Printers like the Domino N610i offer the productivity of flexo with the versatility of digital.