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FLEXO Magazine : August 2008
TECHNOLOGIES & TECHNIQUES The new wash-out unit utilizes water with commercially available soap as the wash-out agent. Soap & Water German Printer Tests New Water-washable Flexo Plate B eta tests have begun on a new printing plate. The individual fea- tures of this plate are not, taken separately, very new; but the combination of various characteristics creates some- thing unique. The new photopolymer plate can be digitally imaged, is suitable for all types of ink, and can be washed out with water. In actual use, this means printing companies can purchase an eco- compatible fl exo plate available swiftly in digital quality, as evidenced by more than six months of trials at the label converter Rako Etiketten in Witzhave, Germany. FINE GROWTH RECORD Since its founding by Ralph Koopmann back in 1969, the label manufacturer Rako Etiketten, headquartered in Witzhave, has been steadily growing. Today, the group employs more than 900 people, and operates several production facili- ties in Germany and France. Accounting for approximately two-thirds of total sales, the Adhesive Labels Division is the Rako Group’s major earner. Besides Rako Etiketten in Witzhave, the group also in- cludes Etibana GmbH in Stauffenberg/ Lutterberg near Kassel, Rolf Ritter GmbH & Co. KG in Enger and Straub Etiketten GmbH in Fehrbellin. Approximately 750 54 F LEXO employees work in this segment alone, together producing an annual output of around 4 billion labels, and achieving sales of approximately 102 million Euros ($160 million) out of consolidated sales totalling around 165 million Euros ($258 million). In recent years, the group’s growth rates have regularly exceeded 10 percent. In addition to the market segment of self-adhesive labels, the Rako Group also produces fl exible packages (Folienprint GmbH), security technology (e.g. the Rako Security Label, Hologram Co., Logokett, Sentronik, Lucatron Divisions) plus soft- ware by the company OrgalinX. The group runs its production output on more than 80 printing presses. The fi rm runs fl exo, offset, letterpress, screen printing, and digital offset. For the ongo- ing business year, the company is target- ing consolidated sales of 200 million Euros ($313 million. Moreover, interna- tional business is to be strengthened by further upgrading global alliances and production facilities. DIFFICULT DEVELOPMENT Developing the new fl exo plate required mastering numerous challenges. For ex- ample, a water-washable printing plate has to accomplish the not-so-easy balancing AUGUS T 20 0 8 www. f l e x o g r a p h y. o r g act between being largely unsusceptible to moisture in the ambient air during handling and storage, or at the hands of the operator, while at the same time being amenable to processing with water in the wash-out process. The black surface layer required for imaging with a laser imagesetter is also water-soluble. The residues of the mask layer can be easily removed from the wa- ter bath after the wash-out process. Many water-wash flexo plates are resistant to all common types of printing ink—particularly to solvent-based ink systems. In the press- room at Rako Etiketten, the new plates are predominantly used with UV inks, as Stefan Behrens, head of preprint at Rako, explains. BETA INSTALLATIONS The new fl exo plate is currently being stringently tested on three beta installa- tions worldwide. Beside Rako Etiketten, two Japanese users are also gathering experience with the new system. The product was offi cially launched at drupa 2008 in Düsseldorf. Rako is currently using plates that are 1.14mm thick. The maxi- mum plate size is 900 x 1200mm. A new unit has also been developed for washing out the plates. The washing agent em- ployed is an ordinary soap solution.
Flexo Sustainable Fall 2008