Dr. John Writes: The Plates are the Brains of Flexo on Press!

Why is the plate the brains of the flexo press you may ask, when we have all the fancy electronics and management systems on modern presses?

Well, many years ago the anilox roll manufacturers claimed that the anilox roll is the heart of a flexo press because it controls the ink delivery like the heart does for the blood. But as we have learned over the last years, the plate is the most important piece in the ink transfer process, with the anilox a close second. When we go to press, for a printer who has struggled with density for years, and with a plate change including DigiCap NX, and with matching tape they often achieve more density than they ever had before. It is clear that the plate and its properties are the controller of the ink transfer and final print achieved in flexo, just like the brain does for our bodies.

Now with the right plate, it is still possible to mess it up with the wrong anilox, bad inks, poor surface properties on the film, or some other issue, but that is like trying to run a marathon in flip flops—it can be done, but we are sure making it hard on ourselves.

One of the challenges we often face is when a printer who chases density with Flexo everyday achieves a 2.2 density value in Cyan; they are so elated that they want to run it everyday. This is not a realistic way to go, because you can’t easily do it every day. It messes up and actually reduces the color gamut available, and is almost impossible to predict in proofing accurately using standard systems.

Here the brain has opened the door, like winning the lottery, and you can only encourage the winner to spend their new found wealth wisely and not blow it!

The secret here is optimization to the new capabilities, reducing the ink volume and pigmentation to reach an industry standard that makes communication and prediction easy. This does not necessarily mean the flexo standard you have always used, but instead many choose an offset or gravure standard for densities to compete at a higher print quality/capabilities level. Others are using the offset version of G7 rather than the modified flexo version.

However, when the system is re-optimized for these new capabilities, the opportunities are immense!

Benefits of this optimization there are usually thinner ink films, so less ink is used, faster drying with less energy used, and potentially faster press speeds, with resulting cleaner and brighter colors with a larger color gamut. Less ink usually results in less dirty print and less stops to clean the plate, resulting in efficiency gains and productivity, not just in printing, but in lamination, slitting, and other processes following printing. See how smart the brain is—it even helps the sister conversion processes be better too!

Now as were all adults and we don’t tend to learn so much by reading, but instead by trial and error and experience based learning, “like when you put your thumb on a nail and hit it with a hammer,” many of us have done it, and you have to hope you learned not to do it again. So isn’t it time you tried something new, put a Kodak plate on your press and see what an upgrade to the brain of your Flexo press, irrespective of how old it is could potentially do for you and your company?

Dr. John’s Contact Information:

John-Anderson-AugFor anyone who does want to email me, please use john.anderson3@kodak.com and please don’t miss out the number 3 in the address, or you will reach another John Anderson in Kodak manufacturing!

Have a wonderful day.

Dr. John
john.anderson3@kodak.com
Tel: +1 412 531 6209

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RFID-Based Inventory Management System Delivers Efficiencies and Cost Savings

by Salmon Creek Media & Marketing

Today’s Flexo printer can’t afford to have stock-outs. The cost of shutting down a press for lack of the right end seal or doctor blade or changing the schedule because the right stickyback to mount a job is gone is unacceptable.

The solution is a real-time inventory management system, APR’s SupplySentry, which uses RFID technology with a web-based interface to manage supplies, making sure that a company doesn’t run out of the things that it needs to get everyday work done.

How does it work?

Crucial supply items are stored in an RFID-enabled cabinet that is equipped with an RFID reader and a computer that keeps track of the inventory and sends the data to APR. The cabinet requires standard 110V power and access to the Internet.

For each item to be tracked, minimum, maximum, and reorder quantities are established collaboratively between ARR and the customer and entered into the system, ensuring that there are no stock-outs and allowing APR to minimize the amount of inventory dollars for the customer. All new supplies shipped to the company have RFID tags attached, so all that is needed is to put them in the cabinet. Because APR has real-time information on the inventory, they manage the rest.

supplysentryThe cabinet, which comes in a variety of sizes designed to meet companies’ specific needs, continuously tracks what’s in stock and what’s been used. When an item’s quantity reaches its reorder point, an order is automatically generated to replenish that item. With the web-based user interface, a company can tell at a glance what it has in stock at any given time, eliminating the time-consuming manual counting of inventory.

To make sure supplies get used in a timely manner, the inventory management system sends an e-mail alert if an item has been in the cabinet for too long. That way, items don’t end up sitting on shelves for extended periods of time, becoming too old to use. It also allows for the consolidation of shipments to save companies shipping costs.

In addition to the cabinets, customers are now having excellent success using RFID-enabled racking systems and, in one case, an entire room. These options allow companies to more efficiently manage their space requirements and optimize the amount of inventory carried.

Balance Supply Inventory for Better Efficiency

Old-fashioned consignment inventory or traditional vendor-managed inventory programs, with all the human intervention, can result in stock-outs or increased inventory amounts because the system is not operating on a real-time basis. The SupplySentry RFID inventory management system is a real-time system that increases profits and decreases costs by improving visibility (and confidence) into a company’s inventory management system.

Control Access to Supplies

The RFID-enabled cabinet can be fitted with a biometric lock that requires a fingerprint scan to unlock the doors and controls who can remove items. A company can be sure that the items they can’t run out of will always be in their supply cabinet when they need them!

The Benefits

APR’s SupplySentry system delivers improved supply chain reliability, lower inventory carrying costs, and increased employee efficiency. Integrating this RFID solution into a company’s supply chain means:

  • Needed supplies are always in stock
  • Visibility of real-time inventory levels at any time
  • No more manually counting supplies and placing orders
  • No outdated stock sitting on the shelf until it’s useless
  • Controlled access to supplies

RFID Inventory Management at Work

To understand how RFID inventory management is changing the flexographic pressroom, it helps to take a look at some real-world examples. These companies are currently putting RFID cabinet systems to work in their respective businesses to reduce costs and increase the efficiencies and overall success of their operations.

coating_excellence_logocei (www.coatingexcellence.com)

cei is an industry leading flexible packaging and technical products company specializing in wide-web extrusion coating and laminating of film, foil, paper, board and nonwovens. cei features EB (electronic beam) coating and laminating, wide-web flexographic presses with award-winning 10-color process printing with registered backside print capabilities, offset printing up to four colors, and onsite graphics including design, layout and digital plate production and High Definition and Expanded Gamut printing.  cei is also an industry-leading sustainable manufacturer and printer, holds ISO, BRC, Chain-of-Custody certifications (FSC, SFI, and PEFC) and is one of a limited number of certified Sustainable Green Printers (SGP).

cei decided to move to an RFID-based inventory management system to help make their process more efficient, more precise. “It creates accurate information for invoicing, P.O. payments, and inventory tracking,” explained cei’s Platemaking Coordinator Eric Huth. “It helps remove the human element of mistakes that can occur during the process.  We pride ourselves in offering the best quality, service and innovation to our customers.  This system helps us uphold that philosophy.

During the installation process, cei worked with APR to determine the proper location and setup of the antennas. “They were great to work with and stopped in as my schedule allowed. There were no specific challenges whatsoever in the installation process. We only needed to reposition some antennas to pick up all the RFID tags,” continued Huth, “and the training required was minimal. APR had the program up and running in no time.”

Today, all of CEI’s flexo plate materials, stickyback, and a wide selection of press supplies are RFID managed. Huth stated that the SupplySentry system is easy to use. Using the RFID system, cei’s inventory management team now has real-time access to the inventory database. Manual counting is a thing of the past, flexo plate materials and stickyback are always in stock, and when inventory levels drop, orders are automatically initiated.

packaging_specialties_logoPackaging Specialties (http://packagingspecialties.com)

Convenience was the big reason for Packaging Specialties’ switch to RFID. “It keeps us from having to worry about our inventory management,” explained Terry Martin, Plate Room Team Leader. “APR takes care of it all now. They monitor when we get low and keep inventory levels where we need them. If we use more than normal, the system automatically keeps up, and we don’t have to worry about running out. We don’t have to be continually checking inventory levels. It’s a good fit for both sides that is working well.”

Packaging Specialties was already ordering supplies from APR, when the RFID cabinet system was suggested. The concept was one that they were all more than willing to try once they understood the benefits. Martin stated, “It seemed like a logical move, a no brainer! APR came in and set up the cabinet, which was supplied at no cost to us. On our part, setup required only one maintenance person and one tech person. The installation when smoothly, and there was no special training required.”

According to Martin, the RFID system is easy to use, and there have been no problems since it was installed. When Packaging Specialties had a planned shut down a few months ago, they notified APR and were walked through a manual system shutdown. When the company powered back up, the system came back online without a hiccup. For unexpected power outages, there is a battery backup system.

“Stickyback and glue sticks are now off the floor and in the RFID-controlled cabinet,” Martin said. “We’ve liked the system so much that we’re now looking at expanding inventory control and working with APR to see if we can convert a storage area into an RFID area.”

So what is Packaging Specialties overall opinion of the system? “The SupplySentry is an easy fit,” Martin concluded. “We’re saving a lot time since we no longer have to periodically do manual inventory counts. Our inventory levels are lower, and someone else is always monitoring and taking care of ordering. Gone are worries about ordering extra supplies if the person normally responsible for inventory management is on vacation. It’s all done automatically—we’re never overstocked with outdated inventory, and we’re never out! Converting to the RFID-managed inventory system is one of the greatest things we’ve ever done. If we could get our entire inventory under RFID control, we would!”

plastic_packaging_logoPlastic Packaging Inc. (http://ppi-hky.com)

Plastic Packaging Inc. is a family business with over 50 years of experience in flexible packaging, providing a wide variety of sizes and configurations including bags, pouches, roll stock, and sleeve labels. Their full range of equipment and expertise includes prepress, plate making, printing, laminating, slitting, and converting. They have won numerous awards for excellence in flexographic printing and sustainability and are a national leader in protecting the environment and conserving and recycling resources.

When APR contacted Plastic Packaging about the opportunity to move to an RFID-based inventory management system, they were open to the idea. “APR was already using the system,” explained William Jenkins, “and we thought that is would work for us. There was an immediate buy in by our inventory management team.”

Plastic Packaging’s IT department worked with APR during the installation process, which was unique in that the RFID system manages a whole room versus a cabinet, and it went smoothly. “Our only specific challenge,” said Jenkins, “was deciding on where to put the sensors and computer in the room. Now that the system is in place, it is giving us better control of what we have on hand.”

“Today, we use the SupplySentry system to manage backing tapes and doctor blades,” continued Jenkins. “Inventory is RFID controlled by APR, and orders are automatically initiated. It’s a much better way to monitor and control what we have on hand.”

American_Packaging_logoAmerican Packaging Corporation (http://ampkcorp.com)

American Packaging Corporation was already an APR customer when the SupplySentry RFID product was introduced, and their inventory management team felt it would be a great tool to manage their inventory needs. “Once we saw the control, accuracy, and efficiency of the system,” stated Aaron Lowry, “we were convinced. There was immediate buy in.”

American Packaging Corporation employees, Steve Moss and Aaron Lowry, worked with APR during the installation process and had a very positive experience. The installation was “graceful,” according to Lowry, and it has proven to be a great tool in controlling their inventory of stickyback tapes, primer, and a wide variety of other tapes.

“The SupplySentry system really is more accurate and efficient,” explained Lowry. “It saves time by eliminating having an employee routinely checking inventory levels and placing orders. With one quick glance at the SupplySentry RFID website, we can easily view and monitor our inventory. Also the rotation of stock according to date is simplified.”

American Packaging Corporation combines award-winning high definition flexographic printing with adhesive laminating to meet customers’ requirements to package a variety of food, personal care, medical, pharmaceutical, and industrial products. Located in Story City, Iowa, the APC Flexographic Printing, Laminating and Preformed Products Division specializes in producing specification that combine performance with high definition award-winning flexographic printing of up to ten colors. The division specializes in film/film laminations including two- and three-ply adhesive laminations, and in the production of Preformed Bags and Pouches.

apr-logo-new-200About All Printing Resources, Inc. (APR):

All Printing Resources, Inc. (APR) is a proven resource for solutions, trusted service, and support to the flexographic printing industry. APR delivers measurable performance enhancements and total cost reductions, including the after sale attention needed to see optimal results. APR represents some of the most innovative product lines worldwide and takes a “team” approach to deliver process improvement and innovative solutions.

To learn more about SupplySentry, contact All Printing Resources at 800.445.4017 or visit www.teamflexo.com/supplysentry/

 

 

 

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Dr. John Writes – Why In The Flexo World Do You Care About: Is 7-Color Process the Right Direction for Brands in Flexo?

why-in-the-world

Is 7-Color Process the Right Direction for Brands in Flexo?

Ever since I joined the EFTA in 1997, fresh out of University with Tony Bath, who was a driving force behind the growing association, people have talked about flexo and 7-color process printing like it was the Holy Grail for packaging.

The challenge for flexo was that consistency was not very good, and we were challenged to deliver consistent 4-color process at that time. A question I often heard Tony ask was, “If you can’t do 4-color process well, why do you think you will do better with 7 colors?

Why did the trend toward 7-color process start?

The drive behind it was simple in many ways. Flexo used a LOT of spot colors—some companies or applications used spot colors almost exclusively—and this was seen as a significant cause of waste including inks, press time wasted changing colors, time washing down the decks, etc. As flexo became less “cheap and cheerful” and went after more challenging work, cost became more important. In the late ’90s, I visited companies that were taking 8 hours to change over a job, and the runs were extremely long, often taking days. The advantage of the 7-color process is to achieve quick changes, leaving the ink and anilox rolls in the press, so only changing the plates for the next job made 7-color process very attractive.  In addition, 7-color processes also partially drove the opportunity for sleeved presses which we take for granted today. In reality, today with the quick “job change over” equipment and mentality, the thought of an 8-hour change over sends shivers down the backs of plant managers.

The need for 7 colors instead of 4 colors related to the relatively poor ink transfer and compressed color gamut of traditional 4-color flexo compared to other print processes. The pin holing in flexo killed the solid ink density achieved, giving flexo its reputation for “muddy” colors from overprints, so most brands did not like the results from 4-color process in flexo. The addition of 3 more colors allowed flexo to expand the color gamut that could be achieved on press, but this still did not match more than about 85% of the Pantone colors.

7-color process was a major driver in the development of the 10-color CI presses, where you often need more than 8 print decks to print 7 colors, plus white, plus any remaining spot colors or a line black for the text, etc.

What has changed in flexo?

Since the early days of digital flexo plates 15 years ago, fast change sleeved presses with automatic ink changes are much more common. Flexo plate technologies have moved to a new level with Flexcel NX and DigiCap NX, often capable of a 25% gamut increase compared to traditional digital flexo plates using just 4-color process. The anilox technologies and chambered ink delivery systems have changed, with finer rolls and more efficient ink transfer, combining with the plate enhancements to get stronger cleaner colors, often using less ink.

Print runs are also getting shorter and shorter and the costs are more competitive with reduced margins throughout the supply chain, so the shorter runs and need for faster change overs supports the 7-color process as a viable option. There is a need to be dedicated to 7-color process, and to dedicate at least one press to it to stop continuous ink changes. When dedicating a press to 7-color process, it really needs to be dedicated to either surface or reverse printing, because switching back and forth with the reversed print sequences kills the primary benefit of 7-color process which is press productivity and minimum down time.

Is flexo the only print process used?

Flexo is not the only print process that uses process colors, or even expanded color gamut color sets like 6-color or 7-color process. In fact, flexo is about the last major print process to embrace it in the way it has. Offset and digital printing processes are dominated by 4-color process, and it is relatively easy to move jobs between offset and digital. Publication gravure also uses primarily 4-color process, with packaging gravure still using a mix of 4-color process and spot colors.

Almost all of the proofing devices on the market base their standards on offset printing using 4-color process. So much of flexo is relatively late to the process printing party, but now that we have learned the printing dance, (with me, dancing is not a strength) we want to dance it all the time. In fact, we have to dial back to get the densities down to the standards that the others used to match, something almost unheard of five years ago!

The challenges of matching on shelf

The challenge for brand owners when converting to flexo process printing is not whether we can print the job in 4 or 7 colors, or how great it looks when we blow the doors off the color expectations. The reality hits later, in the cold light of day, when a family of products on the shelf surpasses the quality of the 4-color offset process printed carton, the 4-color digital printed label, or it makes them look bad side by side. That is a question most flexo printers dreamed of hearing 10 years ago, but today it is a reality every day.

Should brands be looking at 4-color process for all their printing?

So as an industry should the brands look more at 4-color process instead of 7 colors in the future for flexo? We have already seen major retailers make the shift in the private label products to 4 colors. Can we get G7 to work for flexo using the same standard as for offset using 4-color process in flexo, without watering down the target density values? The answer is yes, there are printers doing it every day today.

There are great printers out there doing 7-color process printing in flexo. Printers need to be dedicated to the process and have significant knowledge in file separation and best practices. Those who embrace 7-color stand out as great examples for the industry for what can be done.

But for the brand owner, as their versions increase and run lengths decrease, use of digital printing increases, there are definite benefits in the flexo 4-color process. The latest flexo plate and ink technologies outweigh the additional costs of needing 10-color presses, 25% more plates, tape, ink, dryer energy, etc. And the challenge of matching digital print is driving brands back toward the 4-color process.

Flexo can match the other print processes economically

The flexo process can excel or match today almost every competing print process day in and day out, with 7-color process or 4-color process. The question for the brand owners is why don’t you use more flexo printing instead of the other print processes?  Flexo offers high-speed printing, conversion inline for cartons and labels, and quicker turnaround than most gravure printing. Economically and for your shelf impact, flexo should be your process of choice today—and you choose if you want the capabilities of 4-color or 7-color process.

Dr. John’s Contact Information:

John-Anderson-AugFor anyone who does want to email me, please use john.anderson3@kodak.com and please don’t miss out the number 3 in the address, or you will reach another John Anderson in Kodak manufacturing!

Have a wonderful day.

Dr. John
john.anderson3@kodak.com
Tel: +1 412 531 6209

 

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Dr. John Writes – Why in the World of Flexo? Introducing a New Series

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REVO Team drives Digital Flexo Revolution

Logo_REVO_TeamREVO is a Project Team which collects 7 industry Leaders cooperating to drive flexography towards the new “digital” world of Printing and Converting.  Process consistency, efficiency and cost reduction are the objectives of REVO Digital Flexo Revolution, to win the Labels and Packaging challenge for short runs, global quality and total flexibility. The REVO Project Team members have started to cooperate in December 2013, officially announcing the project in February 2014. REVO Team has selected UV Flexo, extended colour gamut and digital process automation as the three technology drivers to support flexography to become “digital” and keep its role of leadership in Labels and Packaging industry. “We want to create an industry move towards flexo digitalization” state REVO Team Members “We share together all our latest innovation, our open and cooperative approach is the key to success”. Every partner delivers a specific technical contribution to the project:

Niklas Olsson of Flint Group Narrow Web comments: “UV Flexo is the ideal process to become digital: UV inks are inherently consistent as there is no VOC evaporation to “disturb” the printing process, furthermore inks do not dry on the plates so waste is reduced and quality consistency increases. UV flexo inks printing quality is superior to water and solvent based flexo inks as less ink is transferred (ink is full solid, without VOCs). Dot gain is reduced and ink densities are higher. REVO process needs top printing quality and high colour density to achieve the best performances. New generation low migration UV Flexo inks support the REVO Digital Flexo Revolution with high pigmentation, consistent ink transfer, consistent density properties, giving to REVO projects a wide range of graphic possibilities, and excellent consistency performances.”

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Dan Pulling of Esko adds: “Extended colour gamut is the most logic solution for the flexo industry going “digital”. 7 inks always in the press. No need to change anilox or ink. No special colours, no colour matching, no waste of substrate, no press down-time. Most PMS colours can be reproduced by printing 7 colours on top of each other. With 7 colours separation pre-press can “digitally” reproduce 90-95% of PMS colours. A new era can be predicted for Flexo, fully integrated in a digital work flow, as it happens already with Digital presses. The same file can be printed on a Digital or on a Digital Flexo press, with consistent “digital” print quality, and equivalent costs and productivity on both presses (Flexo keeping a wider range of applications in medium to long runs). REVO technology also provides greater design flexibility as the same job can be printed with virtually unlimited number of PMS colours. Or 2 or more jobs can be interlocked on the same web, with total different PMS colours. REVO opens a wide range of new possibilities for graphic designers and production managers. Wide flexibility in a “digital” REVO production flow.”

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Friedrich Wolf of DuPont states: “New digital flexo plates” allow for extreme consistency and print quality. New plate qualities and modified processing work flows results in high image resolution and excellent ink transfer. The solvent free plate processing technology supports the environmental awareness of the REVO project. Fine screen rule of 80 lines per cm is the new standard, changing again the rules of our industry. The new generation digital plates provide the requested quality, thus a wide gamut of PMS colours can be reproduced, without changing the inks in the press. The final printed quality is also more vibrant, with more “natural” greens, reds, oranges and blues. New graphic opportunities to Labels and Packaging designers are available. Further to “digital” consistency and cost reduction, REVO technologies can reproduce “real” colours” which could never be achieved before.”

Nick Harvey of Apex adds: “UV flexo ink and digital flexo plates deliver fantastic and consistent quality. But inconsistent ink transfer, and inconsistency between anilox rollers might endanger the “digital” consistency of the REVO standards. In a 7 colour separation a key factor is to provide accurate consistency of the lay down of the 7 colours. New engraving technologies developed recently, resulting in the next generation anilox rollers are able to overcome some inconsistency of standard anilox designs. REVO standards need a predictable ink density which can be achieved thanks to the scientifically designed open slalom ink channel geometry which delivers an ink transfer with less than 1% tolerance. The next generation technology provides fundamental contribution to the REVO “digital” new standards. A further advantage of REVO technology is that less ink transfer is needed, to achieve the same level of opacity. By overlapping 7 vignettes instead of using full solids, ink transfer is reduced, as well as ink consumption. Ink costs, curing costs are reduced, and the whole PMS process is consistent and repeatable.”

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Federico d’Annunzio of Nuova GIDUE completes: “Extensive Digital Automation in the printing press is needed to collect all the  opportunities of the new REVO “digital” flexo process. On the printing and converting sections, servo motors and digital HD Cameras substitute the eyes and the fingers of the operator with digital eyes and digital fingers. The new generation presses exchange the print and diecutting cylinders from “old” to “new” job fully automatically, without operator. Set up and production operations are digitally controlled, with very limited intervention from the operator, which becomes a production manager and a quality tutor on the press, as most of the operations are automated and digitally controlled. Digital Automation in flexo presses completes the REVO “digital chain” from pre-press, to plates, to inks, to anilox and finally to printing and converting, to achieve a full REVO digitalization of the flexo process.”

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Marko Tiainen of UPM Raflatac comments: “The REVO Digital Flexo Revolution is setting a global standard, and this calls for consistency from all partners.  UPM Raflatac is an innovation-driven, front running developer of self-adhesive label materials, and our proprietary production technologies guarantee the same consistency of surface quality and ink reception in every corner of the world. Among the benefits of REVO are cost-efficiency and a reduction in waste, and our product development supports this with materials like those in our Fit range, which are engineered for a more sustainable use of resources, cost-efficiency and process-efficiency while retaining optimal performance. New substrates and printing technology are progressing in parallel with the same objectives.”

Daragh Whelan of Adare finally concludes: if you can measure it, you can control it, and if you can control it you can reproduce it and this is one of the many advantages Revo gives to the converter. Having digital control of all of our variables ensures Brand consistency and enables Adare to emulate pantone shades out of 7 colours. With REVO “digitally” optimized technologies we are quicker to market and have also reduced the minimum order quantity for laminated flexible packaging products to as little as 5 kilos. It is like having a digital press with flexo costs.”

REVO Digital Flexo Revolution uses new Software, Hardware, UV Flexo inks, digital plates, new generation anilox rollers, 7 colours separation, standardized substrates and digital automation on press exclusively provided by REVO Members: Adare, Du Pont, Apex, Esko, GIDUE, UPM Raflatac, Flint. REVO Team Members provide together an “off-the-shelf” solution to Labels and Packaging converters, with a defined protocol of consumables, software and hardware technologies, which allow from “day one” immediate production using a REVO “digitalized” flexo process.

REVO Digital Flexo Standards will be available to the entire flexo industry 6 months after the official presentation of the REVO Project. REVO Partners agree to promote an “industry move” of flexo towards the full digitalization of the process, and agree to share at a later stage all the standards and the protocols defined for the best performance of the REVO Digital Flexo Revolution. The REVO Project standards will be open to all the flexographic industry players, who are willing to share the REVO Digital Flexo objectives.

REVO Team Members suggest the following list of main advantages for companies joining the REVO Digital Flexo Revolution.

Cost reduction: less substrate, less inks, less time are wasted for colour matching in the press. 90-95% of PMS palette is reproduced with 7 fixed colours in the press. Less ink is needed to print solid colours as only vignettes are used to reproduce heavy solids. Less substrate is wasted during set-up in the press due to Digital Automation and more up-time of the press is achieved due to down-time reduction for colour matching, print and die-cutting cylinders change, press set-up, press inconsistency during production.

Consistency: most variables are digitalized during the whole “from pre-press to print” chain. PMS inks are substituted by 7 fixed colours, operators skills are not required for colour matching. UV flexo inks deliver consistent ink behaviour in the press. Anilox rollers and inks are optimized for consistent performances. Digital Automation on press greatly reduces the variables caused by operator’s skills.

Quality: 7 colours separation-extended colour gamut provide vibrant effects on pictures, more natural and realistic images. 80 lines per cm screen count become standard, taking flexo to a higher print quality level.

Digital flexibility: the same file can be printed on a Digital or a Digital Flexo press, with similar quality and costs. With extremely limited wastes and set-up times on the press, production flow can be similar to a Digital press, with frequent job changes, job interruptions, high flexibility in jobs planning.

Graphic flexibility: a single job can show a virtually unlimited number of PMS colours, without additional print stations: 7 print stations are sufficient. 2 or more jobs can be interlocked, for short-runs production needs, on the same web, even if with several and different PMS colours. Still, 7 colours are sufficient.

A REVO Open House, at GIDUE premises in Florence from 10th To 12th of June 2014 , will introduce the REVO Project to the Labels and Packaging market. Live demonstrations of the full REVO process will be performed, with the participation of all the REVO Team Members.

More information & registration is available online soon: www.revo-digitalflexo.com

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Optimizing the Flexo Color Gamut: Process Control Remains the Key – Part 2

two-of-twoby Paul Lancelle, Technical Solutions Group, All Printing Resources, Inc.

In outlining the process control parameters involved in optimizing the color gamut for flexo print reproduction, it was stated in Part 1 of this series that “the path forward involves the commitment to a stringent process control plan…from prepress and proofing, through plate making and on to print reproduction.” In practice, however, the path is actually reversed. True success with process control implementation begins at the press and is applied downstream from there. The same methodology applies in the determination of the appropriate print standard or specification that a particular printer may choose to adhere to. Without a solid understanding of the capabilities achievable from a set of print conditions, the entire process can easily evolve into a “tail chasing the dog” scenario.

Standardization

What makes the determination and application of a general “flexo print standard” so challenging is the wide and varying range of print conditions that exist within the market segment. Varying press formats, substrates and ink systems all contribute significantly to achievable process print gamut capability. Therefore, the age old mantra of benchmarking and characterization from a given set of print conditions, with optimization remaining as an ongoing goal, remains as the basis in laying the foundation for any successful process control program.

What Can Be Automated?

  • Ink viscosity and pH
  • Impression and registration
  • Anilox cell depth and condition
  • Film surface treatment and tension
  • Color variance throughout a run

Arguably, the most critical keys to establishing color conformity and consistency in flexo remain in the choice of ink system and choice/condition of anilox rolls. Determining the “best” choice of ink system in optimizing the process color gamut, whether through the use of 4/c process or ECG, is not an arbitrary decision. It must first be based on properties required for end-use application, followed by what produces the largest gamut volume under the given set of print conditions. Maintaining ink balance on press throughout a production run is critical for a successful and reproducible outcome. Ink chemistry balance determines color, ink transfer and ink lay characteristics, as well as drying, trapping and end-use performance.

ink-pigment-selection-600x247

The establishment of “standards” for process ink formulation for flexo has remained an evolving process. The FQC arm of the FFTA has conducted a great deal of research and study on this topic over the past couple years, however, and has recently unveiled a general implication that for all printing processes the standards should be the same for hue angle and the variation will be in chroma. This recommended direction will aid printers in being able to more closely align with the standards outlined in ISO 12647-2 and 12647-6. As stated in FIRST 4.0, ” when optimizing the color gamut, the goal is to increase chroma while maintaining hue angle and lightness. In practice, all three components change at different rates as the ink strength is increased… It is better to operate at an ink strength where normal variations result in minor hue angle changes. Additionally, it is important to evaluate the overprint colors (red, blue and green) to minimize changes that may occur in the overprints while the individual process colors perform acceptably.”

The FQC study also recommends that, in the application of an ECG ink set, an important first step in the process control implementation is for the printer to work with their ink supplier in the selection of mono-pigmented formulations that will result in the closest match to the recommended OGV/RGB base colors. The printer may choose to use a commercial system with a pre-defined ink set, or create a custom ink set. The goal, obviously, lies in determining the formulations that will provide for the widest gamut possible under the given print conditions.

Cleaning rolls to maintain consistent cell volume is critical to achieving specifications. When dried ink plugs anilox cells, the ink carrying volume of the roll decreases erratically. (photo credit: FIRST 4.1)

Cleaning rolls to maintain consistent cell volume is critical to achieving specifications. When dried ink plugs anilox cells, the ink carrying volume of the roll decreases erratically. (photo credit: FIRST 4.1)

Optimization Steps

Once ink formulation has been established, the key ingredients in optimizing process color print capability lie in determining the anilox engraving specification and plate and mounting tape materials that will deliver the highest possible densities while minimizing dot gain and maintaining gray balance. Color is controlled by the amount of ink film that is transferred to the substrate. It has been stated often that the anilox roll remains the heart of the flexo reproduction process. Any anilox roll manufacturer will support the statement that the implementation of a successful process color control program involves the establishment of a standardized anilox inventory, followed by well defined and documented cleaning and maintenance procedures and including regular inspection and audit of cell volume and wall condition. Partnering with the roll manufacturer in the establishment of audits, banded anilox trials and ongoing cleaning and maintenance procedures remains a vital link in controlling color on a consistent basis.

Effective process control with the ink metering process continues with ink viscosity/pH and temperature control systems. Controlled viscosity has a direct impact on color hue and strength throughout a production run. Establishing a regular program for replacement of end seals and doctor blades also aids in providing more consistent and repeatable print results.

Equally important, however, is establishing the correlation in color consistency from the ink lab to the press or, in simpler terms, “color matching.” Once a standardized anilox inventory has been established at press, it becomes a much more simplified process in predicting the performance of ink formulation in the lab. There exist several different methods in proofing of wet ink samples, but the most accurate and consistent results have been demonstrated when the press anilox volumes can be replicated in the ink lab. Proofing systems are available today that utilize ceramic anilox rolls engraved to match the exact volume used on press, as well as implementing doctor blades, printing plates, mounting tapes and substrate in the proofing process that replicate the correlating print condition… the proofer, in effect, becomes a “miniature printing press.” Establishing and documenting acceptable “pass/fail” delta Error tolerances for wet ink samples aids considerably in ongoing process control functionality and leads to more consistent and repeatable results. In the case of process ink sets, in particular, the implementation of a CoA program with every batch of ink delivered from the manufacturer is an important step in maintaining ongoing process control.

Further Optimization

With the optimum print parameters established, the focus then turns to print benchmarking, characterization and validation. Or, more to the point, every other process downstream must be calibrated to rectify the gamut capability demonstrated by the particular set of print conditions (color profiling), and the process must be repeated in order to establish realistic targets and tolerances (statistical process control.)

Setting a Benchmark

When the optimal ink, anilox, plate and mounting tape combination has been determined, the initial step of the profiling process typically involves a “benchmark” print run that aids in determining print curve compensation to be applied to the selected profile target. The “fingerprint” or “characterization” press run then captures gamut capability achievable from a given print condition. Results achieved from this press characterization also aid in defining ongoing “run targets” for press operators as it relates to solid ink density and dot area measurements obtained from “control patches” placed on production runs.

Through the application of “standardized” targets and software programs available today, building color profiles for application in the prepress and proofing stages has evolved into a fairly automated and uncomplicated process. What remains critical, however, is conducting multiple readings from the print results in order to establish a predictable average.

As Mark Samworth so aptly states in some of his presentations involving the application of process color print in flexo, the two facts of establishing color profiles remain as:

1.) If your production run matches your profile run, the profile will produce accurate color.
2.) Your production run will not match your profile run.

Is It Worth It?

While these facts may prompt the question of “then why is it even worth it?” it all relates to the given truth that the number of variables involved in the flexo print reproduction process leads to successful process control meaures including the “smoothing” or “synchronizing” of color profiles in order to obtain the most predictable results. An equally important, yet often overlooked, component is that monitors and proofing devices are religiously calibrated to specification.

Process control in the plate making area relates largely to ensuring consistency in the finished product. This can include both instrumental and visual verification and includes parameters related to plate height, floor thickness, “overwash” specification, dot area measurement and surface tack. FIRST 4.0 provides a good general guideline for establishing and maintaining photopolymer printing plate specifications. With digital plate making there also exist certain specifications related to maintaining accurate laser focus and intensity that vary by manufacturer.

Not to be overlooked in the establishment of an ongoing process control program is the assurance of maintaining conformity in remaining process variables-substrates, sleeves, mounting tape, raw printing plate material, proofing stocks, etc. through CoA from the manufacturer or internal verification.

The combination of plate, sleeve, and mounting material, referred to as the "plate package", interacts to influence print quality and ongoing process control. (photo credit: FIRST 4.1)

The combination of plate, sleeve, and mounting material, referred to as the “plate package”, interacts to influence print quality and ongoing process control. (photo credit: FIRST 4.1)

Appreciating Automation

Technology available today has enabled our industry to more accurately automate, quantify and control some of the key process components, such as:

  • Ink viscosity and pH
  • Impression and registration
  • Anilox cell depth and condition
  • Film surface treatment and tension
  • Color variance throughout a run

 

All of this has resulted in increased control and a vast reduction of process variables. With that being the case, why is it then that so many printers have experienced limited success printing to standards? Part of the reason could be that we tend to place too much emphasis and focus on the individual components of the process themselves (presses, inks, anilox, plates, proofs) as compared to viewing the individual components as an integrated whole and addressing process control from that angle.

Expanding the color gamut with flexo has and will continue to lead to many dynamic opportunities for the flexo printer, particularly in the flexible packaging market segment. In the end, whichever path a particular printer may choose towards optimizing the achievable printed color gamut, the keys to success lie in the establishment of a stringent and achievable process control program at the outset, as well as aligning with the most qualified and dependable industry suppliers and partners in defining and implementing the process plan.

You can read the first part of this article here.

apr-logo-new-200APR Technical Solutions Group

All Printing Resources, Inc. (APR) is a proven resource for solutions, trusted service, and support to the flexographic printing industry. APR delivers measurable performance enhancements and total cost reductions, including the after sale attention needed to see optimal results. APR represents some of the most innovative product lines worldwide and takes a “team” approach to deliver process improvement and innovative solutions.

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Interpreting color to cure color blindness

By Shelby Sapusek, ColorMetrix

Screen-shot-2014-02-24-at-5.43.47-PMAt the University of Washington, a color vision expert by the name of Jay Neitzand his neuroscientist wife Maureen Neitz believe they might have found a way to cure color blindness. Through their company, Colorvision Molecular Genetics, they have introduced some gene therapy to spider monkeys, who typically have red-green color blindness. They believe this same genetic therapy could be used on humans to cure red-green color blindness, also known as protanopia, a commonly inherited type of color vision deficiency.

Seeing in shades of gray

Eyesight relies on light receptors to see color; namely rods which see blacks, whites and monochromatic shades of gray and three types of cones that see individually reds, greens and blue-violets.

If you’re unclear on how rods and cones differ when interpreting color, let’s take the following scenario. In the middle of the night, you wake up wanting a glass of water. A streetlamp shining through your windows provide a little bit of light so you don’t use your own electricity to light your way.

Navigating your house without lighting means that you moved around in low light conditions. In those conditions, your eyes rely on the rods for sight. Rods do not provide color. As you made your way from the bedroom to the kitchen and back, you likely only saw shapes of objects in shades of gray.

Seeing color with cones

Screen-shot-2014-02-24-at-4.01.10-PMThe three types of cones depend upon light wavelengths of a certain minimum intensity. Rods still need “light” to see, but are capable of seeing in lower intensity light that may lack the minimum light intensity at the bandwidths needed to see color.

As seen in the chart at left, the three wavelengths of red, green and blue-violetintersect each other to produce combined colors such as yellow, magenta and cyan blue. Red, green and blue-violet are considered the eye’s primary colors while yellow, magenta and cyan blue are secondary colors. The latter appear brighter because they rely on two combined cones of reflective light to appear.

When you’re not seeing red (or green)

Some color theorists argue that while red-green blindness is the most common of the color vision deficiencies, it’s also the worst to have. That’s because the red and green cone wavelengths are the easiest to see.

Notice in the chart above that the blue-violet wavelength peaks much higher on the spectral sensitivity scale. That means that it takes more light to see that blue-violet color than it does red and green. Seeing only in blue-violet due to red-green blindness can also cause headaches over extended periods of time because the eye has to struggle harder to see it if lighting isn’t adequate enough.

It’s also about interpreting color socially

Screen-shot-2014-02-24-at-5.59.17-PM-1024x582Have you ever wondered why the color pink is associated with baby girls and the color blue is associated with baby boys? According to The Atlantic article “How Color Shapes Lives” published in January 2014, department store marketers started the pink/blue trend between 1900 and 1940. Since then, we have been socially accustomed to the pink/blue trend. In fact, we have become so culturally tuned to this color association for gender that the colors can actually affect mood.

A researcher named Alexander Strauss performed a study in the late 1970s that displayed how pink affected the moods of otherwise strong, burly men. During the study, he put about 150 men in pink rooms. After only 15 minutes of being trapped in that color environment, more than 98 percent showed signs of muscle weakness and slowed heart rates.

While that it is an interesting study, it only take a few key strokes to perform an experiment of your own. The Atlantic article suggested that you search for the phrase “baby girl” and then “baby boy” on Google. The image above is predictable but also very indicative of how our culture has taken the colors pink and blue and attributed them to different genders.

But there’s no monkey business when it comes to the color red

As the Neitz’s research is showing, not being able to see red is not a bunch of monkey business. Unlike pink and blue, the color red has many more interpretations socially and culturally. Not being able to see red can have many more setbacks than other forms of color vision deficiencies.

When it comes to interpreting color, red can fall into many categories:

  • Warmth: As in the red found in sunsets or fire
  • Love: As in the red found on Valentine’s Day cards
  • Warning: As in the color of stop signs and traffic signals
  • Error: As in the red ink of teachers’ pens to correct homework assignments

Perhaps these different interpretations for the color red is the reason some color theorists believe red-green color blindness is the worst. Whatever the reason, the husband/wife Neitz team of the University of Washington is trying to find the cure and they’ve made significant steps through their genetic research with spider monkeys.


About ColorMetrix

CMLOGOWWORDINGNew

Our ability to work with you to provide solutions customized to your needs to solve your individual problems make us unique. ColorMetrix has assembled a core team that has helped transform not just the company culture but also the solutions we have to offer. Today, the combination of VerifiedColor, ProofPass, and our consulting services positions us as quite possibly the most agile color verification and process control company in the industry. Visit ColorMetrix at http://colormetrix.com/

Find out more about the Neitz study on red-green color blindness

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FlexoGlobal Travels to MRI Flexible Packaging & Imageworx

by FlexoGlobal

In December, FlexoGlobal had the opportunity to visit MRI Flexible Packaging in Newtown, Pennsylvania, and Imageworx in Levittown, Pennsylvania, to learn more about their operations and the incorporation of the Kodak Flexcel NX system into their workflows.

MRI Meets the Gravure Challenge with Kodak’s Flexcel NX Plates

Richard Speeney

Richard Speeney

MRI Flexible Packaging was founded in 1986 by two brothers and prides itself on delivering packaging with shelf impact for its customers. In the early 1990s, they decided to expand the business to 360-degree stretch-sleeve labels.

“Rotogravure has always been our biggest competitor, and we continue to receive three calls a week from gravure customers that want to switch to flexo,” said MRI’s Managing Director and Co-owner, Rich Speeney. “In the past, the biggest challenge was sacrificing print quality to achieve cost savings. With the Flexcel NX system, MRI can now meet and even surpass roto’s quality while offering the economics print buyers are looking for.”

Starting the Move to a New Flexo Plate System

Nestle Water had a vignette issue that started MRI looking for new flexo plates. With the old plates on a long run, the vignette started looking muddy at 250,000 feet. Today, with the new plate system they are getting three times that run length and holding quality.

Miller Coors was the final big push to the Flexcel NX system. MRI went to an outside trade shop, saw the possibilities with the system, and it opened their eyes. They had a 20-year relationship with their incumbent plate supplier that they didn’t want to end, but unfortunately their product could not match the quality and consistency that the Flexcel NX system produced. Every test with their previous supplier was different—no consistency. This forced MRI to make the switch because without the Flexcel NX system the company couldn’t up their quality. The new print results had the “pop” that other competitors just couldn’t match.

New Bobst F&K 20SIX Press

Bobst F&K 20SIX

Bobst F&K 20SIX

Bobst GPS System

Bobst GPS System

MRI is the first purchaser of a Bobst F&K 20SIX in the United States. A GPS system takes a topographical map of the flexo plate and saves the information to a chip. The press then reads the chip on the cylinder and knows how to set pressure and register. The result—no more eye-balling register at startups. The plate mounter now has to keep up with the press.

On their new Bobst F&K 20SIX press, MRI had an unplanned comparison—two impressions across—their long-time supplier on one side and the Kodak plate on the other. They had to stop the job because there was a significant quality difference between the two plates. The product couldn’t be shipped because of the disparity in the quality. Unfortunately, their old supplier was the loser.

Bill Harlan, MRI’s plant manager and oversees prepress, explained, “We doubted the Kodak plates at first. For a trial, we took their plates and our old supplier’s plates to the new press in Germany for a test run. The results spoke for themselves— the Kodak plate was outstanding.”

Press Efficiencies

There used to be 1,000 feet of waste at startups in the past. Today, jobs are now in register once they run the length of the rollers. With runs on the old presses, MIR dealt with one million pounds of film in the trash. Today, the minimal amount of film is recycled, and waste is dramatically reduced.

Kodak is not yet recycling the plates because there isn’t the volume yet. It’s environmentally important to recycle, but recent plate changes have produced other reduced costs and environmental efficiencies—materials, drying costs, etc. Some customers recycle the plated themselves. As they are a hydrocarbon product, incineration produces a value.

New Advantages

MRI bought the Kodak Flexcel NX system for three reasons:

  • Solid ink density (the primary reason)
  • Higher line screens
  • Plate life longevity

Higher line screens are now possible. They started production at 133, moved to 150, and now can output 175. Moving to a screen higher than 175 is not viewed as being necessary as customers can’t really see the difference without a loop.

Wilfredo Vasquez

Wilfredo Vasquez

“With the higher line screens, we’re able to have the strong densities, the higher line screens and produce colors that make our customers’ products jump off the shelf, said Wilfredo Vasquez, Senior Project Manager.

“With the Kodak plates, we’ve been able to maintain consistency across print runs,” Vasquez continued. “It has allowed us to convert jobs from using all spot colors to four-color process. The customers have been happy with both the quality and cost savings.”

An average MRI press run length is 17,000 feet, and jobs are run on average two times a month. The new plates have a higher durometer and have proven to be more reliable run to run. The average plate life span is one million feet. Although they rarely run that much, they do have plates that are a year old and are still running well.

The NX plates can be mounted several times without degradation. Plates are stored flat, and after each run they go through plate washer. (175-line screen has a shorter life span.)

MRI runs 2 12-hour shifts a day, 6 days a week. With 15-16 changeovers in a day, there has been an optimization of the entire process—from prepress to print. There are fewer ink systems—two instead of five. Registration is done before the press run starts, and the average setup time is 1 hour and 10 minutes. The new press runs at 1325 feet per minute max, and runs that took 30 hours on the old press now take only 5.

The NX system costs a fraction of gravure’s prepress. With the market moving toward increased SKUs— having doubled or tripled over the past few years— it makes flexo and its costs more attractive financially than gravure.

Speeney feels that with the Kodak Flexcel NX system and the Bobst F&K 20SIX “we have the best prepress process and press in the world.”

About MRI Flex

MRI Flexible Packaging turns bright ideas into brilliant labels. They lead the industry with state-of-the-art equipment and unparalleled service that provides their customers with the highest quality comprehensive labeling solutions. Their stretch sleeve, OPP roll fed, and shrink sleeve provide exciting opportunities for their customers

MRI Flexible Packaging offers state of the art flexographic presses, direct-to-plate digital in-house graphic design and prepress, inventory management, speed to market, and internal and external technical support. Their quarter century of experience in flexible packaging has allowed them to benefit many valued customers including: Clorox Services Co., Colgate-Palmolive, Nestle Water NA, Dean Foods, KIK Corporation, American Beverage Corporation, and Kimberly Clark. Visit MRI at www.mriflex.com.

mri-products

Video – MRI delivers packaging shelf impact for customers

Imageworx

Imageworx is a service-oriented, mid-size prepress service company specializing in the production of artwork, plates, film, prototypes, and proofs designed to meet their customers specialized requirements. All work is produced in their 15,000 square foot facility in Levittown, Pennsylvania.

The company was formed 21 years ago as Gold Graphics. Dry offset was the company’s start and flexo capabilities were eventually added for the 35-40 inch narrow-web customers.

Jerry Toepfer

Jerry Toepfer

The company’s President, Jerry Toepfer says his motto is, “If you can do someone’s hardest work, they’ll come back.”

Imageworx purchased a Kodak mid-sized plate-making system about a year ago, and is now moving into wide web. “The Kodak NX equipment can take a C+ printer to a B,” explained Toepfer, “and an A- printer to A+.”

Toepfer likes the simplicity of the Kodak system. “You just expose the plate. It doesn’t need special screening. It just works. If you follow the process, the setoff rules, you can make a great plate. NX takes out all the steps that can cause problems.”

During the testing process, Imageworx created plates from different suppliers comparing type, reverse type, process detail, and density. The Kodak plate excelled and was the clear winner. With a Gallus press, Imageworx has been able to achieve 1 hit black, 2.06 density on black, and a black solid with 1-point type on one plate and can even to do .5-point type.

imageworx

Kodak's John Anderson presents Jerry Toepfer Imageworx's official Kodak certification.

Imageworx is officially Kodak NX certified, and Kodak’s John Anderson presented Jerry Toepfer the official recognition during our visit.

Today, the company’s business is 80 percent Kodak plates and 20 percent other suppliers. The NX plates are initially a hair more expensive, but with the quality produced, it has not been a deal breaker. The plates dry at a slightly lower temperature, offering energy savings, and 87-90 percent of the solvent is recovered and reused. Sludge is recycled.

Toepfer concluded, “We know our Kodak plates are consistently right. We don’t get them back.”

About Imageworx

Imageworx specializes in professional file conversion for all major print processes. They have particular expertise in the print processes normally associated with labels, flexible packaging, cup, and tube production. Their highly trained, experienced, computer graphic operators utilize the latest hardware and graphic software to perform all necessary prepress services to maximize the potential of a printed file. Digital file conversion and transfer is available in all major graphic formats. Superior customer service, quick turnaround, and technical expertise are the hallmark of their excellent staff. Visit Imageworx at  www.imageworx.net

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UV Ink Spitting is a Dirty Habit

FlexoConcepts-logoby Flexo Concepts

As competition for shelf space heats up, companies are forced to create more compelling-looking products.  That means better looking graphics, more vivid colors and unique packaging.  Today’s narrow web printers are turning to new ink and coating formulas to improve efficiency and make products more appealing.  Unfortunately, the properties of these chemistries cause problems such as UV ink spitting and accelerated blade wear.  Where steel falls short, a next generation polymer doctor blade may be the solution in these applications.

UV Ink Spitting

UV inks are being used more often today to differentiate the look of packaging, speed up turnaround times, increase throughput and reduce downtime.  The chemical properties of UV inks make them difficult for the printer to meter and control ink film thickness, however.  UV ink has a normal viscosity of 5-7 times that of water and solvent-based inks, and its thixotropic properties (ability to thin out when agitated) make it transfer differently on press.  This thicker consistency applies excessive pressure to the metering blade, often causing hydroplaning, or “spitting,” and defects in the printed image.

Dyne Levels Should Increase Throughout the Anilox Ink Delivery System to Facilitate Ink Transfer and Prevent UV Ink Spitting

Dyne Levels Should Increase Throughout the Anilox Ink Delivery System to Facilitate Ink Transfer and Prevent UV Ink Spitting

UV ink spitting is common with many flexographic printers who use steel doctor blades.  Next generation polymer doctor blades have been successful in eliminating UV ink spitting problems due to their surface energy characteristics.  To explain, a progressively lower surface energy, or dyne level, throughout the anilox ink delivery system allows the ink to easily transfer from one component of the anilox system to another.  Otherwise, one component wants to hold on to the ink instead of letting it flow to the next.  The characteristics of the new doctor blade material - its lubricity, rigidity and lower surface energy – give the blades a significantly lower dyne level than steel.  This decreases the attraction between the doctor blade and ink and facilitates a more fluid transfer of ink to the plate.

Specialty Inks and Coatings Are Abrasive

Specialty coatings and tactile finishes such as glitter, pearlescent, textures and soft touch, are also being used more frequently to enhance the look of product packages.  These chemistries are extremely abrasive to steel doctor blades and accelerate blade wear.  Printers are consuming blades faster which increases downtime and costs.  Next generation polymer blades are highly abrasion resistant and chemically compatible with all specialty ink and coating formulas; they last longer and minimize press downtime for blade changes.

As the industry evolves to keep up with the demands of manufacturers, printers are faced with new challenges in the pressroom.  The new ink and coating formulas used to make products stand out on the retail shelf are difficult to meter with traditional doctor blade materials.  Unlike steel, next generation polymer doctor blades can help reduce downtime and costs associated with UV ink spitting and accelerated blade wear.

About Flexo Concepts

MicroTip-Technology-01Headquartered in Plymouth, Massachusetts, Flexo Concepts manufactures TruPoint doctor blades, the TruPoint QuikWash™ System and wash-up blades, and MicroClean™ dry media anilox cleaning systems.  All products are designed to improve print quality and reduce operational costs for flexographic and offset printers.  Flexo Concepts maintains distribution locations in North America, South America, Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia.  For more information about the company and its products visit www.flexoconcepts.com.

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The Next Generation of Flexible Sensors in Printed Electronics

chansinBy Dr Guillaume Chansin, Technology Anaylst, IDTechEx

There is a new generation of sensors that are directly printed on flexible plastic substrates. A recent study by IDTechEx has looked at 68 manufacturers of printed sensors worldwide and found that several emerging technologies will offer disruptive new features. The details have been published in a report entitled “Printed and Flexible Sensors 2014-2024: Technologies, Players, Forecasts“.

Printing sensing devices is not a novelty. For instance, many vaccines shipped across the world now have a printed temperature label which alerts medical staff if the cold chain has been broken during transport and storage. However, these labels are not electronic devices: the ink undergoes a chemical reaction and changes colour when the temperature is too high.

Electronic sensors are usually more complex and manufacturing can therefore be more challenging. There are multiple layers of materials and the devices require metal interconnects. The manufacturing technique is selected based on the material properties, cost, and the resolution. For many years, printing (and in particular screen-printing) has been used to make sensors based on specialised ceramic materials. The problem is that these sensors require a sintering process which makes them incompatible with plastic components, due to melting and deformation.

In contrast, the new sensors are based on inks that can be printed directly on plastic substrates. They offer advantages such as flexibility, thinness, light weight and, in some cases, the potential to be manufactured with roll-to-roll equipment. What it means is that these sensors will be able to go where no sensor has gone before. For example, think of curved surfaces, ultra-thin devices or shock-resistant devices.

While there are many flexible sensors still in early R&D phase, IDTechEx has identified the technologies that are emerging and now near commercialisation. Those are:

• Printed gas sensors on plastic
• Printed temperature sensors
• Flexible photodetectors
• Flexible piezoelectric sensors
• Flexible digital X-ray sensors

2014 will be the year when some of these sensors will start shipping to end users. By 2020, the combined market value of the sensor modules will be worth almost $120 million.

Fig. Market forecast (at sensor module level) for emerging printed and flexible sensor technologies

Source: IDTechEx

Discover more by IDTechEx
For more information see Printed and Flexible Sensors 2014-2024: Technologies, Players, Forecasts and other IDTechEx Research reports. Conference attendees at the forthcoming IDTechEx event Printed Electronics Europe 2014 (1-2 April 2014, Berlin), have the opportunity to hear from over 190 international speakers. These include presentations from Peratech, ISORG, Canatu, Electrolux, Clothing+ and more who, will be covering many new sensor technology developments.

About IDTechEx
IDTechEx guides your strategic business decisions through its Research and Events services, helping you profit from emerging technologies. We provide independent research, business intelligence and advice to companies across the value chain based on our core research activities and methodologies providing data sought by business leaders, strategists and emerging technology scouts to aid their business decisions. For more information see www.IDTechEx.com.

 

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