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FLEXO Magazine : May 2014
TECHNOLOGIES & TECHNIQUES Expanding Flexo’s Horizons Esko’s Equinox Wins FTA’s Technical Innovation Award The battle between efficiency and quality in packaging graphics is one that has raged for decades. Flexog- raphers have been conditioned to choose one or the other. Equinox, a technology to reproduce custom spot colors with standard 7-color process, has proven to deliver both. “It used to be that all flexographic package printing was done with custom spot colors,” recalls Esko’s Product Specialist-Color, Mark Samworth. “Each brand color was re- produced with a custom mixed ink and printed on a separate deck of the press. In the 1970s, 4 -color CMYK was added for the reproduction of images. For the first time in flexography, color was being mixed on press instead of in the ink room. ” But even then, printers wondered, “If we can print imag- es with 4-color CMYK, why not print brand colors the same way?” The cost benefits were obvious, but two big obstacles stood in the way. First, the CMYK color gamut wasn’t large enough for most brand colors. Second, flexo did not have the stability required to achieve consistent color throughout the length of a production pressrun. “T he entire value chain—from brand owner through con- verter—has been well aware of the extreme inefficiencies of the custom spot color workflow for 30 years, but until recently, there has not been an alternative,” Samworth says. ON THE HORIZON Advancements in digital prepress, digital plates and flexo presses have made stable process color printing a produc- tion reality. However, having stable process colors is only half the battle. The ability to achieve a color gamut capable of reproducing brand colors that package buyers demand was also a requirement. And so Esko set about investigating ways to print spot colors accurately using seven process colors instead of four. The goal was to mix colors on press instead of in the ink room, in a way that the consumer could not tell the difference when viewed on the supermarket shelf. Samworth notes that the term “fixed ink set printing” may be more descript of the economic benefits than the term “expanded gamut. ” It’s about using the same seven colors on every job, eliminating the enormous costs associated with custom mixing in the ink room, custom setup on press and running every item as a separate job. It’s about gaining the efficiencies of a process color workflow without sacrificing quality. Esko’s solution, a suite of software technologies called Equinox, converts brand colors as well as RGB or CMYK images to 5-, 6 - or 7-color process. For its achievements, it has EMBRACING EQUINOX • Produce spot color jobs with 7-color process • Combine multiple items into a single pressrun • Convert RGB and CMYK images to 7-color process • Increase graphic quality, print consistency, financial profitability With Esko’s Equinox, different jobs can be ganged on the press and still deliver consistent, accurate color. 30 FLEXO | MAY 2014