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FLEXO Magazine : August 2008
TECHNOLOGIES & TECHNIQUES Advancements in digital technology are bridging the gap of productivity, profitability and versatility with flexo. Complement and Competition Digital and Flexo Technologies Advancements Abound L abels are no longer just labels. With more than 15 billion printed annually, companies are recognizing that the label is often the fi rst element of their brand that consumers en counter. An effective label must grab a consumer’s attention be- fore he or she reaches for the next product on the shelf. In North America, flexo is the dominant process for narrow-web film and paper printing/converting. Recent studies show that an estimated 90 percent of all label manufacturers in the U.S. use fl exo print - ing. Flexography is a dependable process for high-quality output. Rapidly advancing prepress and press technologies, as well as modern process control and color management techniques con- tinue to bridge the gap between fl exo and other print processes. Also on the rise is digital printing technologies. Newer presses offer strong complements to a fl exo label operation, but also have advantages that fl exo struggles with. The industry is shifting as the demand for customized labels and the urgency for adding web-to-print capability grows. Digital printing is gaining recogni- tion in the marketplace because of its quicker turnaround, flex- ibility for applications and the ability to print customized labels. Environmental and sustainable needs have also changed the landscape. While water-based flexo is highly regarded for being a more sustainable and eco-friendly solution versus other process- es, digital is beginning to offer its own unique advantages. 6 0 F LEXO FULL SERVICE In an industry driven by the consumer and the fi nal end - product, demand for customization is now at an all-time high. To be able to effi ciently offer this capability within a stream - lined workfl ow, label converters are increasingly turning to digital presses, thanks to their ability to handle immediate or just-in-time production runs. Today’s new generation of digital label presses, equipped to print 24-hours a day, give companies the ability to stay competitive by responding quickly to cus- tomer demands. Initial preparation for flexo presses requires serious manual ef- fort—setting up impressions, preparing colors and plates—prior to the fi rst saleable linear image. Newer technologies, including cassettes, sleeves, automatic register and impression setting, and more are helping close the gap. Still, digital presses run on “in- line monitor control,” which requires virtually no manual set up. With the time saved from having to set up a fl exo press, printers are able to use the time to print additional labels. In-line moni- tor control is also offering accurate color and perfect registration without manual intervention, something fl exo is only scratching the surface on. Online color monitoring, web inspection equip- ment and other technologies, while far and above in-line proof- ing methods of 10 to 15 years ago, still do not compare. AUGUS T 20 0 8 www. f l e x o g r a p h y. o r g
Flexo Sustainable Fall 2008