The Evolution of Corrugated Doctor Blades

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TruPoint_Boxes_250x250Since the 1960s, corrugated printing requirements have grown from simple logistics to eye-catching promotional packaging with skus and tracking information. Improvements in doctor blade materials and tip configurations have played a key role in making this possible. While anilox rolls have gotten better at efficiently transporting a precise volume of ink to the plate, they are only as good as the metering blades they’re paired with: if a doctor blade leaves excess ink on the roll, a printer quickly loses control over quality and consistency.

Corrugated Doctor Blades Through the Years

1960s – Straight UHMW

About 50 years ago, corrugated printers started using doctor blades as a replacement for rubber rolls to gain control over the amount of ink transferred to the plate. (Read:“Corrugated Ink Deliver Systems: Two Roll or Doctor Blade?) UHMW offered a good solution because its dense molecular structure was ideal for printing environments that combined long runs and coarse anilox engravings. This soft, thick material was safe to handle, didn’t score anilox rolls, and was highly resistant to stress cracks and chips. It was also very abrasion-resistant which gave the blades extremely long life. UHMW products were engineered in thicknesses of .090” and .100″ which was adequate to produce the type of work being done at that time (and still in many applications today) – simple solids and lines in one to three colors.

Late 1980s – Early 1990s – Introduction of Bevels

As packaging began to take on more of a marketing role in the 1980s, the demand for higher quality graphics grew. Doctor blades became common in corrugated applications and new press technology, including ceramic anilox rolls and doctor blade chambers, came to market. Blade manufacturers focused on developing stronger, more durable materials that could be engineered into thinner products. Blade thicknesses decreased to .060″ and .080″, and 30° and 45° bevels were introduced to allow a smaller area of contact with the anilox roll.

Late 1990s – Early 2000s – Plastics and Composites with Finer Bevels

Packaging requirements continued to increase in the 1990s, and there were more innovations in anilox rolls and press components. Printers began using more advanced plastic materials for a stiffer, more durable alternative to UHMW.  Acetal blades were effective at metering moderate to high line screen rolls while providing great chemical resistance, good dimensional stability and a low coefficient of friction. These materials could be fortified with additives such as Teflon and manufactured into thicknesses of 020” to .040”. The material was able to accommodate finer bevels of 15° and 22° to produce difficult fine type and reverses. Tight weave fiberglass composites were also developed for screen and process work due to their extremely stiff and durable characteristics.

Mid 2000s – Next Generation UHMW

For printers using UHMW to produce low to moderate graphics, Flexo Concepts introduced a new high-density formulation UHMW to deliver up to 25% longer blade life than traditional UHMW. This next-generation formula was capable of producing enhanced graphics for a longer wear period and is still widely used today.

Today – Next Generation Polymers with MicroTips

Nowadays, box makers are asked to produce packages that serve as both shipping and display vehicles. Graphics requirements are exceptionally challenging and more colors, finer plate screens, half-tones and higher anilox line counts are being used to produce attractive point of sale and point of purchase containers. Predictable ink density and color control are essential to ensure manufacturers’ brand consistency. Until recently, steel had been the only blade that could meet this performance criteria. In 2012, a new blade that offers the best of traditional non-metallics and steel was created for these applications. Flexo Concepts’ next generation polymer blade with a unique MicroTip™ is capable of metering the highest line screens as well as a steel blade for the most demanding graphics requirements (read: “New Polymers Meter Like Steel Doctor Blades”). The MicroTip wears slowly and evenly and delivers consistent ink film thickness for the duration of the print job.

Along with press builders and anilox roll manufacturers, corrugated doctor blade suppliers have done their job of “keeping up with the times.” Blade materials and tip configurations have advanced over the past half-century along with the demands of the packaging industry. While UHMW, traditional plastics and composites are still the best choices in many low-moderate graphics applications, corrugated printers who want to avoid the short blade life and risks with using steel now have a next generation polymer blade to produce the highest quality work.

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Are you experiencing Pin-holing and Production Pitfalls? Part I

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Flexographic printing technology, like all other printing technologies, relies on the transfer of ink to a range of substrates. With flexography, that transfer begins with the anilox roll, which is designed to enable a controlled, predicatable transfer of ink to the plate surface. Ideally, the ink is transferred to the surface of the plate as a series of dots, but in reality, rotation of the anilox roll often turns the dots into ridges. So the ink transferred from the plate to the substrate can contains ridges and voids—otherwise knows as pin-holes.

Because the ink layer is not continuous, the printed piece suffers from a loss of density and color vibrancy. To get the highest possible density with the least amount of ink, the ink needs to be printed in a thin continuous layer, with no voids. If you can accomplish this, the light from the source reflects evenly and continuously to the observer—in this case, to the consumer viewing packaging on the shelf. But trying to apply more ink to counteract the problem increases drying times and slows presses down, and applying more impression to increase the density results in compressed highlights and reduced tonal reproduction.

More ink also requires the use of a higher volume anilox roll, but these rolls often have lower LPI value, with bigger cells and a larger gap between the centers of each ink dot. What you get then are potentially larger voids between the ridges of ink.

Over the years, several approaches have been developed to try to eliminate pin-holes in flexographic printing. One such approach is to reduce the amount of gap between the anilox cells on the roll. This can also increase the ink flow, but there are production limits on how much this can be done. Another option is to change the surface of the plate, which typically involves creating small cells in the surface of the plate that carry ink in an attempt to transfer more ink to the substrate, but this increases ink use, drying demands, and slows the presses further.

Another newer alternative is to use a specific imager technology to apply a texture pattern on the surface of the plate, like regular rectangular islands surrounded by a thin sea of ink that breaks up the cell pattern from the anilox roll. By breaking up the anilox pattern, it breaks up the pin-hole pattern, and significantly improves the ink transfer.

By breaking up the pattern, this solution allows the transfer of the ink in a smooth layer without the large pin-holes, resulting in cleaner brighter colors, and higher densities, with the same or lower ink laydowns. Also, it should be noted that contrary to popular belief, solid densities are impacted more by the smoothness and eveness of ink laydown than they are by the actual volume of ink transferred, and increased densities with lower ink laydowns allow for better overprints for cleaner and brighter expanded gamuts, without adversely impacting drying times or press speeds.

The key is that better ink transfer allows printers to achieve their target densities, generally eliminating the need to chase density with more ink, more pigment, and more pressure. These features alone often allow printers to achieve greater color gamuts, better print quality, higher print speeds, and greater consistency.

So how do you modify the plate surface to create these surface texture patterns? With the right technology, it’s a fairly simple process that yields impressive results and opens up many more opportunities for flexographic printing.

Learn more on the technology that will prove helpful to address “Pin-holing and Production Pitfalls” you may experience – read Part II of this series next week.

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

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Packaging Regulations: Will You Master the Changes and Benefit?

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By Stephen Kaufman
Chief Technology Officer, SGK

Many U.S. and European Union shoppers and consumers merely glance over nutrition information on food labels – or fail to comprehend it when they do pay attention. But that’s about to change. Not just because consumers are growing ever more conscientious about what they eat, but because EU and U.S. regulations will ensure that nutrition information is easier to understand and much harder to overlook on the label.

No doubt, this will drive more consumer engagement with packaging. As for brands and manufacturers, some will see the regulations as a burden to be avoided for as long as possible and minimized wherever possible. But others will see it as an opportunity to become more efficient and more accurate – and more profitable in the long term. Let’s start with the vital background.

The New Regulations – European Union

In the European Union, EU Regulation 1169/2011 establishes a new legal framework for the nutrition information presented to consumers. Ratified in September of 2011, with full compliance for most companies required by December 13, 2014, this new regulation encompasses more than 50 pages of rules that standardize the presentation of food information and lower the administrative burden of tracking data. And, most important, the rules ensure that consumers have complete, unambiguous, highly legible information about the foods they plan to eat prior to purchase. Here are the main features.

Well-Organized Allergen Information

Prior to the new regulation, many products displayed an “Allergens Table” somewhere on the package. But with the new regulations, all allergens must be in the list of ingredients and highlighted “through a typeset that clearly distinguishes it from the rest of the list of ingredients.” This keeps mom from having to read the ingredients first and then scour all the other panels to look for egg yolks, whey, crustaceans or products made with a part from one of the 85,000 extant species of mollusks.

The implications: The redesign of hundreds of thousands of packages across Europe, but the potential to leverage this for a more trust-based relationship with consumers.

More Prominent Secondary Information

The new European regulations require clear expression of many facts not related to the ingredients themselves – such as net quantity, “use by” date, storage conditions, country of origin and instructions for use. While there are some exceptions based on the overall size of the product, most packages will show more information, in a larger format, than ever before.

Paradoxically, there is a push from the sustainability end of the packaging spectrum to lower the amount of post-consumer waste, while at the same time, the 1169 rules dictate the need to hold more information. Expect to see your favorite packages stuffed even more tightly with info.

The implications: A serious design challenge for all brands and manufacturers, but an opportunity to stand out against competitors who don’t handle the redesign as deftly and as attractively.

Clarity Online

The most interesting part of the new EU food labeling regulation concerns “pre-packaged foods offered for sale by means of distance communications.” For example, a candy bar sold through Amazon: the regulation states “information shall be available before the purchase is concluded” and “without charging consumers supplementary costs.” This means brands must coordinate the information printed on the package with information displayed on any number of online retail sites.

The implications: A tremendous responsibility to get lagging online information in sync with the physical package – which could remedy widespread consumer frustration with incomplete and out-of-date e-commerce product information.

The New Regulations – U.S.

New food labeling regulations are coming to the U.S. as well. For example, the Food and Drug Administration announced on February 27, 2014 that there will be:

  • Much more prominent display of information such as serving sizes and calories
  • A requirement that serving sizes reflect what people actually eat at a typical sitting not the smaller amount they “should” be eating
  • More prominent display of daily value percentages for nutrients, along with information about what the values mean
  • Changes in label information based on new understanding of nutrition science – such as requiring information about added sugars, updating the daily values for certain “nutrients of public health significance,” emphasizing the importance of avoiding certain kinds of fat rather than focusing on total calories from fat and so on.

At the same time, there has been tentative activity in the U.S. Congress around requiring prominent front-panel information such as the percentage of wheat or whole grains in products marketed as “multigrain” or “whole wheat,” as well as the inclusion of sweeteners, coloring or flavoring. Proposed new regulations would also prohibit misleading information such as touting low cholesterol in a product containing significant amounts of trans fats.

Although as of mid-2014 the legislation was still in subcommittee, brands should be aware that such legislation would require new label formatting.

The implications: Similar to the EU regulations: serious practical challenges for brands and manufacturers over a short time frame – but clear opportunities to build consumer trust through information transparency and superior package design strategies. The key here is handling the changes in a thoughtful and systematic way.

Your Challenge

Brands know that consumer trust is one of their most valuable assets. And of course, brands are aware of the importance of complying when governments regulate safety into branded products. One minor mistake and you could be looking at a long-lasting, even permanent, impact on your brand.

Beyond avoiding mistakes, smart brands will be using new food labeling regulations as an opportunity. Some regulations – for example, the front-panel disclosures proposed in the U.S. – will require substantial modifications to package design. This is an opportunity to refresh the brand through new package design, messaging, promotions or even nutritional improvements to the product itself.

All of these possibilities are best addressed early and holistically – not dealt with in isolation from the need to comply with new labeling requirements. Although we’ve focused on food labeling, it’s worth noting that pharmaceutical companies face the same kinds of regulatory challenges – and should also be looking for ways to turn labeling requirements into opportunities to improve brand performance.

The Solution

Both food and pharma industries can make it to the other end of the wire by employing a centralized system for managing copy, artwork and digital assets across all the brand’s manifestations, globally.

SGK’s BLUE! is one example of a system that helps brands manage graphics and copy across media to ensure accuracy and consistency. BLUE gives brand owners the ability to centralize product information and brand assets for easy control, and to automatically distribute approved versions across channels to simplify regulatory compliance – and assure overall package quality and appeal.

Brands need to have a plan in place – or much better, a system like BLUE – for managing the many print and digital redesigns that will be required to deal with new regulations that are already in place in the European Union, and soon to come in other regions. Are you ready?

 About the Author

Stephen Kaufman 0844 RTStephen Kaufman, Chief Technology Officer for SGK is a visionary leader able to connect technology enablers to real business challenges in user-friendly ways. As such, he directs the development and implementation of strategic technology solutions for SGK around such pressing client business issues as globalization, supply chain integration, process automation and environmental sustainability.

Kaufman joined SGK in 1993 where he has held a number of technology leadership positions, pioneering the development of what was then the industry’s first digital asset management system designed specifically to meet the stringent requirements of the consumer products packaging sector. Today, this product is marketed under the name BLUE! ™ and continues to be implemented globally by industry giants in consumer products, retailing and life sciences. BLUE! gives brand owners the ability to centralize product information and brand assets for easy control, and to automatically distribute approved versions across channels to simplify regulatory compliance – and assure overall package quality and appeal. http://www.bluesoftware.com

References

Birtsas, Stephen. “The Three Packaging Challenges Holding Pharmaceutical Companies Back,” Pharmaceutical Compliance Monitor, April 15, 2013. Accessed on April 30, 2014. http://www.pharmacompliancemonitor.com/the-three-packaging-challenges-holding-pharmaceutical-companies-back/4719/

FDA News Release. “FDA Proposes Updates to Nutrition Facts Label on Food Packages,” February 27, 2014. Accessed April 30, 2014. http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAn­nouncements/ucm387418.htm

SGK News Release. “’Brand On A Wire: Walking the Tightrope of Regulatory and Consumer Trust’ to be Presented by SGK SVP and Group Managing Director Scott Strong at the 2014 PACE Forum in Brussels, Belgium,” February 4, 2014. Accessed April 30, 2014. http://www.sgkinc.com/insights/news/brand-wire-walking-tightrope-regulatory-and-consumer-trust-be-presented-sgk-svp-and

Sjerven, Jay. “Easy to Understand Nutrition Labeling Proposed.” Food Business News, October 14, 2013. Accessed April 30, 2014. http://www.foodbusinessnews.net/articles/news_home/ Regulatory_News/2013/10/Easy_to_understand_nutrition_l.aspx?ID=%7B8A59894A-DECD-4021-BE85-B991BA95B38C%7D&cck=1 BLUE is a product of SGK. www.bluesoftware.com

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A Guide to Reflectance Measurement Devices, Part 2

by John Seymour, John the Math Guy

Blogging my way to insanity

This blog post is a second or third or maybe fourth in a series of blog posts attempting to unbewilder the bewildering array of geometries for spectrophotometers. In the zero-eth post, I introduced the idea that reflected light comes in two forms: specular and bulk. That was background for the first post on spectrophotometers, where I discussed the 0/45 and 45/0 spectros. Then in a wild frenzy of blogomania, I followed up with a special article on measuring metallic inks. 

Today I look at one special case of 0/45 spectros, the polarized instruments. Stay tuned for the last section of the post, which is a public service announcement about the difference between process control and customer specs.

 

A problem unique to newsprint
Suppose your business is printing newspapers. You print on a rough, uncoated stock. You can’t get a terribly high density – everyone knows that, and accepts that a black ink with a density of 1.2D on newsprint is pretty dark. Everyone assumes it’s because the ink soaks into the paper. Actually, the larger effect is because you are seeing more of the specular component, but that’s not the point of this blog post.

Do you realize just how much dryback we have today!!!??

Do you realize just how much dryback we have today!!!??

Here’s a funny thing that everyone in the business of measuring the color of newspaper printing knows about: dryback. If you measure the density of ink hot off the press, and then again minutes or hours later, you will see a drop in the richness of the color. The density will drop by around 0.10D. They call this dryback.

And here’s a funny thing that few people in the business of measuring the color of newspaper printing know. If you were able to measure the density of ink on the press as it is running – not just “hot off the press”, but “hot a few milliseconds after the ink hits the paper”, you would be astounded at the amount of dryback there is. (I was astonished.)

A rich black ink might have a density of 1.10D when it just comes off the press. That same ink will dryback to maybe 1.03D. When it has just been put on the paper, the ink has a density approaching 2.00D. To put that in perspective, that number is higher than almost all printing of black ink on fancy-shmancy ultra-high quality paper.

Wow. Really?

Yes. Really. I was involved in the development of an newspaper color control system, and I have seen it myself with my own two sensors. When ink is first applied to the paper, the surface of the ink is very smooth. As a result, all of the specular light heads off at one angle, and a 0/45 spectrophotometer won’t even notice it. As the ink dries, it conforms to the rough surface of the paper, and the spectrophotometer will start seeing the specular reflection.

What are we gonna do?!?!?
Celio, Mast and Ott, celebrating their brilliant discovery

Celio, Mast and Ott, celebrating their brilliant discovery

Dryback is troublesome for process control. But three guys who were working for Gretag came up with a solution. As the story goes, Tino Celio, Hans Ott, and Mast (I don’t recall this last guy’s first name) were sunning themselves at Malibu Beach. These guys were sipping umbrella drinks and talking about the sad state of affairs when it comes to measuring the color of ink on newsprint.Celio (I think it was him) pointed out some attractive lady, commenting that it would take an instrument with a pretty small aperture to measure the color of that bikini. I am sure most everyone reading this column can relate to the situation… pointing out a hot babe or stud to a buddy. (I assume that most everyone in divorce court can relate to pointing out a hot babe or stud to their spouse.)Ott said “What are you pointing at? All I see is glare!”. Mast. always the clever one, pointed out that Celio was wearing polarized sunglasses, and Ott was not. When the two switched glasses, Ott said “Ahhh… I see her now.” A light bulb suddenly appeared above all three heads.

I may not have gotten the story quite right. I wasn’t there at the time. Maybe it was the Riviera, since these guys were Europeans. I think they were from Switzerland or Uruguay or somewhere? Maybe they were drinking a good Bordeaux? Who knows?  All I am sure of is that one of these guys got this idea.

A pair of polarizing filters can be used to eliminate practically all the specular reflection that a 0/45 spectro sees. Bear in mind that bulk reflection is randomly polarized, but specular reflections remembers the polarization of the incident light. The following diagrams explain how we can take advantage of this fact to separate the bulk from the specular.

Polarized inst #1

All tiny facet of the sample surface that are tilted at 22.5o will direct specular light to the detector

A polarizer is added just after the light -- note that the specular reflection has the same polarization

A polarizer is added just after the light –
note that the specular reflection has the same polarization

Adding an s polarizer at the detector will eliminate this specular reflection

Adding an s polarizer at the detector will eliminate this specular reflection

With these filters in place in your densitomoter, you can measure the sheets right as they come off the press, an hour later, or a week later. The polarized density won’t change. A polarized densitometer is a great tool because it is immune to changes in gloss.

We have ourselves a process control tool! This tool has gained acceptance among densitometerophiles in Europe. But as good of an idea as this might be, it has never really caught on in the US. I suspect that the invention of the Atlantic Ocean has to do with this.The definition of what goes into a polarized densitometer has been enshrined in ISO 13655, and polarized densitometers are referred to by the euphonious name “the M3 condition.”

Comparison

Naturally, you’re gonna ask how polarized and non-polarized densities compare to one another. Surely there is a simple conversion, right?  As is often the case when I am asked a question, I have two answers: yes and no.
Polarized to non-polarized
The plot shows measurements of a total of forty solid black patches, all of which were fully dried. Each patch was measured by a densitometer with and without polarization. The patches range in density from very light to very heavy, according to the pressman’s subjective view. Ten of the patches were printed on a matte stock, ten on low gloss stock, ten on a medium gloss, and ten on a high gloss stock. The gloss of each was eyeballed by my very carefully calibrated eyeball.The x axis of the plot is the density as measured without a polarizer.  The y axis is the amount that the density of the patch increases when measured with a polarized densitometer.The red arrows illustrate the conversion from non-polarized to polarized on a matte stock. For that particular stock a density of 1.10D shows a difference of about 0.28D. That is, a 1.10D non-polarized density would be read as 1.38D polarized. Similarly, the blue arrows show how the density changes for a matte stock. A nonpolarized density of 2.00D is increased by only 0.06D when the polarizer is kicked in.There are a couple of interesting things to note from this graph. First, for any particular stock and ink, there is a very simple transform between non-polarized and polarized. The difference between one and the other falls along a nice straight line. That’s good news. There is a simple transform!Second, the actual line for correction is highly dependent on the paper stock. For a very glossy stock, the correction is minimal; for a matte stock it is greater. That’s bad news. The simple transform is not universal. To make matters worse, note that the medium gloss patches show the largest change. The patches on the low gloss stock have a conversion much more similar to the patches on the glossy stock.Third, I will put to rest an old wive’s tale. Density is kinda sorta linear with ink film thickness. In truth, the relationship flattens out as you go higher in density / ink film thickness. The tale that the old wife told me is that polarized density is much more better – polarized density maintains this linearity over a wider range of density.

The plot above shows this wives tale is just an old wive’s tale. For any particular stock, there is a linear relationship between polarized and non-polarized density of dry ink, so any comments about linearity with ink film thickness that you can make about one holds equally true for the other.

Process control, or meeting customer requirements?
A great man once said that a polarized densitometer is a great tool because it is immune to changes in gloss. It gives you an indirect indication of the ink film thickness without confounding it with the gloss.On the other hand, that same wise man is about to say that a polarized densitometer is a lousy tool because it only gives you an indication of what the sample looks like when it is viewed under polarized light while wearing polarized sunglasses with your head tilted properly. I haven’t done any in-depth surveys, but I think that most print buyers and readers of newspapers don’t look at the newspaper under this condition.

Using a polarized densitometer to monitor color is like using this guy as an accountant

Using a polarized densitometer to monitor color
is like using this guy as an accountant

The annoying thing about customers is that they have this nasty habit of getting annoyed when the product is not what they wanted. Go figger. If we could only get rid of our customers, life would be so much easier. The print buyer (and end user) really and truly doesn’t care if the “correct” amount of ink has been applied to the paper. If the color on the paper is not the color that they were expecting, then it’s time for them to ask for rebates or go looking for another printer.

Therein lies a dilemma which is inherent to deciding on a color measurement instrument. Are you trying to do process control, or are you trying to measure the color?  Do you want your printing press to run predictably, or would you prefer to get the color that your customer wants?  Process control or customer satisfaction?

Process control often leads to meeting customer requirements. If the whole process is under control, then this is indeed the case. But, for anyone who has either dealt with customer complaints from the field, or who is married, it will be obvious that the best laid plans of mice and men oft go awry.

ISO 12647, parts 2 and 3

And now for the public service announcement…ISO 12647-2 is the standard when it comes to defining print. The purpose of this standard is to serve as a set of acceptance criteria for print. It is often cited as part of a contract for a printing job. Part 2 is about commercial web offset printing and part 3 is about cold set web offset (AKA newspaper) printing.Since the inception of part 2 in 1996, this standard has been clear that quality monitoring is the thing, and not process control. (Well, at least for the solids.) Density (be it polarized or non-polarized) is not a reliable indicator of the color that you see, and should not be used as an acceptance criteria. All the colors of the solids and the solid overprints in the standard are specified in CIELAB, since CIELAB is the closest thing we have to our perception of color.The standards are clear that densitometers are a useful tool for process control, internal to the printing plant. Generally, the printer establishes the density that will get to the proper CIELAB value with any particular substrate and ink combination, and will run to that. But ISO 12647-2 and -3 make it clear that the printer and print buyer should not converse in density when it comes to setting targets and tolerances. And as I have noted here, the printer and print buyer darn well better not even think about talking polarized density. There are just some things that are better left behind closed doors.

About the Author

John Seymour

John Seymour holds the title principal engineer for QuadTech, where he has been doing research in printing, color theory, and imaging since 1992. John was instrumental in the development of QuadTech’s Color Control System and AccuCam. John currently holds seventeen patents and has authored thirty technical papers. He is an expert on the Committee for Graphic Arts Technologies Standards and ISO TC 130, and currently serves on the board of the Technical Association of the Graphic Arts. He writes a blog under the pen name “John the Math Guy”, which is described as “applied math and color science with a liberal sprinkling of goofy humor.”

Prior to working with QuadTech, John worked as a scientific programmer in medical imaging, satellite imagery, electron microscopy, and spectroscopy. He holds bachelor’s degrees in mathematics and in computer science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

John had a hobby job as a karaoke host, going under the name “John the Revelator”, and before that his hobby job was teaching remedial math at a local university. He likes to think that he is gifted at “edutainment.” John teaches a color science class for QuadTech and has traveled as far as South Africa, England, Germany, and Hong Kong on speaking engagements.

Visit John’s Blog, John, the Math Guy – Applied math and color science with a liberal sprinkling of goofy humor, at http://johnthemathguy.blogspot.com/

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How to Avoid Product Recalls While Building Your Brand

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By Michael Leeds,
Senior Vice President of Client Engagement, Americas, SGK

The American food industry is on the cusp of an unprecedented change in regulatory standards, inspection, enforcement and, logically, the frequency of recalls. The number of “reportable foods” in the Reportable Food Registry is increasing. The FDA’s Food Safety Modernization Act has given the FDA much more authority, including authority over actual recalls, food performance standards, traceability and inspections. And manufacturers are likely to be responsible for hazard analysis systems.1 But that’s not all.

FDA-proposed changes to the Nutrition Facts label (covering nutrition information, serving sizes and the size of the label itself) and the display of other information could impact nearly 60,000 manufacturers and 750,000 Universal Product Codes (UPCs), representing nearly $250 billion in sales.2

These changes require significant relabeling efforts by manufacturers in a specific time frame and have been estimated to cost up to $3 billion.3 And the European Union is already well into labeling changes that must be completed by the end of 2014.

Naturally this activity has forced food manufacturers and brand owners to analyze the impact on their businesses. For example, a great deal has been written on how these companies should handle the increased liability risk and the obstacles to recovery after a recall. But there’s been less discussion of the food label itself – and this is risky, because where product safety, recall protocols and nutrition information are concerned, all roads go through the label.

Simply put, any company that’s potentially exposed to the risk and damage of recall due to misleading or inaccurate label information should be preparing to optimize its graphics processes. This will ensure that nutrition and traceability information is accurate in the first place, which in turn can mitigate the risk of a mislabeling recall and lower risk insurance costs. It will also go a long way toward satisfying government agencies and consumers, as both groups are loudly demanding better, clearer, more accurate labels. And optimum labeling can preserve – even enhance – hard-earned brand equity.

How can a manufacturer or brand owner optimize the accuracy of a product label? There are several interconnected ways:

A full commitment to best practices. In the coming years, this is not a luxury or idealistic – it’s crucial. In 2011, the Grocery Manufacturers Association surveyed representatives from 36 companies, a majority of them with more than $1 billion in sales and nearly a quarter with sales over $5 billion. All had undergone Class I (health and safety) recalls.

Nearly half estimated the cost of the recalls at under $9 million, but 29 percent estimated between $10 million and $29 million, and 23 percent estimated $30 million or more. For 5 percent, the cost was more than $100 million.4 The cost of a full implementation of best-in-class graphics workflow management system is far lower than this, and it pays permanent benefits.

Here’s another way to look at it… While the FDA calculates the cost of amortizing the impending packaging regulations over a 20-year span, an optimum graphics process can be implemented in less than a year.

In this light, the new food labeling regulations aren’t just regulations: they’re a prime opportunity to refresh and grow brands – and to drive agility and efficiency in the graphics process to save costs and increase speed to market.

A commitment to a better graphics workflow and technology. At a cost far less than even a small Class I recall, a manufacturer or brand owner can implement a system such as SGK’s BLUE, including implementation, training and ongoing support. This kind of system is designed specifically to optimize the storage and application of label artwork and copy across all media. It minimizes the number of “touches” by humans in the process of producing labels or digital expressions. And it protects approved assets from accidental changes or misapplication. It can even produce key performance indicator data to further improve accuracy and speed.

Technology like this is fully embraced by the pharmaceutical industry for the same reasons it’s now ideal for the food industry: strict demands for quality, accuracy and traceability, including cGMP mandates. And in an age of “just-in-time” global manufacturing, this geography-agnostic technology can give companies much- needed control of far-away processes.

Vendor consolidation. While much of the new burdens fall on manufacturers, brands can suffer in long-lasting ways from recalls. And when a comprehensive store brand is supplied by dozens or even hundreds of vendors, it’s very difficult to have total visibility and control of accuracy and consistency on labels. Consolidating the label graphics phase with one expert company – rather than leaving it to the individual manufacturers – gives the brand owner considerable control, consistency and savings.

When companies use multiple agencies and multiple printers, there often isn’t a single source of coordination. And many companies no longer have the additional staff or deep knowledge on their payroll that they had 10 or 20 years ago. It may be that the medium- and small-sized companies are even more in need of impact analyses and project management services than the larger food and beverage manufacturers.

Although the food labeling regulatory changes discussed here are still being formulated and finalized, it’s certain that food manufacturers and brands will have additional new risks and burdens. They will address those through risk assumption and risk transfer plans, certainly. But risk avoidance is equally crucial. Optimizing the graphics supply chain and workflow processes is a proven strategy for risk reduction – and brand building.

About the Author:Michael_Leeds 2

As Senior Vice President of Client Engagement, Americas, at SGK, Michael Leeds has over twenty-five years of client-facing experience supporting global brands that include Accenture, Coca-Cola, Johnson & Johnson, and Kellogg. Michael’s roles include Global Account Management, leading SGK’s Client Engagement Organization, and creating leading practices for the Client Growth Organization. Michael holds a Master’s degree in Business Administration from Rutgers University in New Jersey. http://www.sgkinc.com

References:

  1. In Appendix 1 of “Capturing Recall Costs: Measuring and Recovering the Losses,” GMA/Association of Food, Beverage and Consumer Products Companies, Covington & Burling LLP, Ernst & Young; October 2011.
  2. Nutrition Facts/Serving Sizes Combined PRIA, U.S. Food and Drug Administration
  3. Ibid.
  4. In “The Price of a Recall” in “Capturing Recall Costs: Measuring and Recovering the Losses.”

 

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New Doctor Blade Technology Is Worth a Look

 

FlexoConcepts-logoBy Brad Williams, OEM/ Account Executive, Flexo Concepts
 

New_Technologies_SignAs a salesman introducing new technology to a mature industry, I am constantly hearing, “But I’ve done it this way forever.” Press men are busy and don’t’ have time to waste trying new products when their current ones are working fine. But changing times call for an ongoing evaluation of your print process to find ways to improve. Today’s printers are smart to run controlled tests of new products to make sure they are maximizing efficiency and profitability and “keeping up with the times.”

Anilox roll evolution

Chrome anilox rolls

I like to use anilox rolls as an analogy. When chrome-plated anilox rolls came on the market almost 80 years ago, they were an improvement over the previous (and crude) methods of ink transfer. Steel rolls were covered with a chrome layer and mechanically engraved using a knurling tool. The dimples or “cells” filled with a precise volume of ink and carried them to the plate.  This gave the printer more control over the ink application process and better print quality.

As the industry continued to evolve, however, the limitations of chrome-plated rolls became apparent. The chrome surfaces wore down quickly from the friction between the roll and the doctor blade. Due to their shape, the cells quickly lost volume capacity and print densities declined. Also, the maximum line screens that could be achieved with the knurling tool were 500 lpi which was only enough for basic and moderate graphics reproduction. As demands for higher quality printing increased, and there were advancements in presses, plates and inks, so did the need for better anilox roll technology.

Ceramic-coated rolls

To keep pace with the industry, anilox roll manufacturers began applying a ceramic coating to their rolls using a plasma spray device. These new surfaces had hardness of over 1400 Vickers compared to 850-900 Vickers for the chrome-plated surfaces.  As the hardness of the roll determines its strength and durability, the new surfaces had better resistance to wear from the doctor blade. These rolls were too hard to engrave mechanically and lasers started being used to etch the rolls. The lasers produced a consistent engraving with cleaner cells and more distinct cell walls. Higher line screens could be achieved to expand a printer’s graphics capabilities. The ceramic surfaces not only lasted longer but the cells were also less sensitive to volume changes from wear. Printers gained more control over print quality and were now able to achieve target ink densities with thinner ink films.

New doctor blade technology

Like presses and other press components, doctor blades have evolved to adapt to the market. Blade manufacturers are continually experimenting with new materials and edge designs and introducing new doctor blade technology to keep up with their customers’ needs.

Steel

Today’s steel blade users have a choice of carbon, stainless, long life, coated and ceramic blades to fit their precise applications. Until now, steel was considered the only material capable of achieving a fine contact area with the roll and produce an effective wipe on high line screen engravings. Printers had to accept the downside of frequent blade changes, injuries and anilox roll scoring because there were no alternatives.

Plastics

Plastics, on the other hand, have always been known for their blade life and safety. The material has to be thicker to provide rigidity and these blades were suitable only for producing low-moderate graphics. The upside is that they don’t have to be changed as often, and the long and steady wear period allows for consistent ink film thickness for the duration of the print job. The material is also safer to handle and won’t score anilox rolls. Plastic doctor blade choices include a variety of acetals, UHMWs, and polyesters.

Next generation doctor blades

Flexo Concepts® recently introduced a new blade that acts as a hybrid between steel and plastic. A combination of an advanced polymer material and an innovative tip design called “MicroTip™” allows the blade to perform in high line screen applications where previous non-metallic materials were not an option. Printers using these advanced polymer products get blades that can produce the graphics quality of steel while remaining safe to operators and anilox rolls. The blade is now successfully being used in a range of narrow web and wide web applications.

As with anilox rolls and other press components, new doctor blade technology has gone hand in hand with the evolution of the flexo printing industry.  The new polymer MicroTip blade is an example of a product that, once again, improves upon “what you were using before.”  Why not try it?

Request a TruPoint Orange Doctor Blade Sample

FlexoConcepts-logoAbout Flexo Concepts

Headquartered 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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Leverage New Label Regulations to Optimize E-Commerce Content

sgk_logo_pms

By Matt Bennett, SVP, Growth Strategies, Product Development & Innovation, SGK

 

U.S. and EU regulatory bodies are handing brand owners a prime opportunity to grow their brands. Regulations in force in Europe and pending in the U.S. do mean more work for brands: privately, major brands have told us that as many as a quarter of their U.S. labels will need complete redesign if current FDA proposals become reality in the next 12 to 18 months.

And this would be costly news if the mandates didn’t also present a golden opportunity for manufacturers and brands to radically improve package design, brand consistency, label accuracy and production efficiency, on both the physical and digital shelf.

In other words, by synchronizing workflows, brands can create a stronger shopper experience by ensuring that regardless of where consumers see your brand, in-store or online, the packaging is consistent.

EU brands must adhere to Regulation 1169 by the end of 2014, with clearer and more prominent display of allergen and other information on product packaging, on both the physical and digital shelf. Proposed FDA regulations will require changes to the Nutrition Facts label to emphasize calories, provide realistic serving sizes and align with the latest nutrition science. The FDA has not yet addressed images of packages online, but with e-commerce continuing to boom, it likely will. How hard would it be for you to comply?

At Schawk, we researched the consistency of physical shelf vs. digital shelf of a wide range of products from a wide range of retail brands. We were astonished at the extent of the disconnects: inconsistent product specs online, outdated artwork – even representations that were several rebrandings out of date. Here is what the U.S. and EU regulations address, for the sake of consumer safety:

  • Missing or incorrect data, ingredients, nutrition information and allergen alerts

But here are additional common problems we encountered:

  • Outdated product images
  • Images that don’t represent final approved artwork
  • Limited product views
  • Inconsistent or inaccurate color
  • Low resolution and poor e-commerce image quality

These problems are the result of e-commerce growing faster than e-content management processes are evolving to accommodate this growth – in other words, faster than brands’ capacity and commitment to total quality and accuracy online. But customers have sharp eyes and expect to see the same package content on the digital shelf as they saw on the physical shelf. Without this seamless shelf, they can question authenticity or freshness.

And shoppers who only know your packaging from e-commerce images can be confused when they receive a newer package in the mail. In either situation, you risk eroding consumer trust in the brand – the very trust that you’ve built over time at great expense through traditional channels. You could lose customers to a competitor who’s getting e-content right.

Or you could do it right, and reap these benefits along with regulatory compliance:

  • Absolute brand consistency
  • Absolute product information accuracy
  • Greater agility and speed in executing design changes online
  • Greater efficiency and significant cost control

With global B2C e-commerce sales expected to rise 20.1% this year, reaching $1.5 trillion1, strict accuracy across channels is paramount. In one study, 24 percent of shoppers said they didn’t trust online product information as much as information in-store. And more than four in ten said they’ve given up on an online purchase because they didn’t feel they had enough information.2 These startling figures prove that what’s on the digital shelf must be as complete and accurate as what shoppers find on the physical shelf.

Convinced? Here’s how to achieve that accuracy.

Commitment. Commit to complete, correct and up-to-date packaging wherever your brand appears – on the digital shelf as well as on the physical shelf. This typically requires an in-house advocate and buy-in at the top levels.

And there is outside expertise, like Schawk’s Packaging e-content service, that helps you take control of e-content management from approved, regulatory- compliant copy and artwork to consistent, high-quality e-commerce images.

Audit. Thoroughly check your brand’s e-commerce images across online retailers and product review sites. If you’re seeing a mix of 2D and 3D images, different angles, different lighting and color, missing information and outdated images, you’re eroding consumer confidence and – soon – opening yourself up to regulatory issues. Note: if you’re using an outside firm to assist in this audit, the findings will be even more pertinent and actionable.

Organization. Inside many companies, often there is no one single person accountable for packaging e-content. It’s split by brand and among individuals in different departments as well as among a variety of external suppliers. Brand managers have a clearly defined supply chain process to ensure the package on the physical shelf is right and ready on time. But without a similarly unified strategy for packaging e-content development, it’s difficult to control a brand’s timely and accurate representation on the digital shelf.

Technology. Even assuming brand owners use a digital asset library, they often don’t have 3D images of packages or multiple 2D panel shots depicting product information. And if they do, it’s usually been created through a conventional photography process that eats up six to eight weeks, costs more, produces fewer images and opens up this part of the supply chain to risk. And this happens every time a design is refreshed or ingredients change or a new packaging regulation requires compliance. It’s a vicious cycle.

An e-content management solution that uses approved artwork files and enforces GS1 standards for 3D images promotes compliance with your own standards for packaging images online. The result is 100 percent synchronization of content for packaging on the physical shelf and digital shelf.

Process. It’s crucial to develop digital brand content in tight integration with the same workflows used to create and manage artwork for the physical shelf. This requires synchronization among brand teams, design departments, marketing services, procurement and more. It’s a process that Schawk helps its clients implement. And it creates e-commerce images directly from the final, approved master artwork file for the physical package – including complete views of all required informational elements. This way, the product on the digital shelf is never preliminary, incomplete, variable or untrustworthy.

Without control of the process, you do not deliver value or reap the benefits of speed, cost, efficiency, quality and regulatory compliance. Control the process and you will control the benefits.

 About the Author:

Matt_Bennett_low resMatt Bennett leads big, complex, long-term strategic initiatives while always keeping his ‘eye on the prize’ – how successful businesses with ambitious brands drive innovation. He spent many years as a head of graphics and packaging innovation manager at Coors Brewers, driving a strong creative-thinking-and-innovation culture across many business functions. Today he’s a senior vice president at SGK, a leading global brand development, activation and deployment company that drives brand performance, with responsibilities for growth strategies, product development and innovation. For Bennett, innovation is everyone’s job, and corporations need to foster a culture that encourages every team to engage in creative, collaborative thinking every day. http://schawk.com/what-we-do/packaging-e-content 

 Visit SGK at  http://www.sgkinc.com

References:

  1. http://www.emarketer.com/Article/Global-B2C-Ecommerce-Sales-Hit-15-Trillion-This-Year-Driven-%20by-Growth-Emerging%20Markets/1010575
  2. “Four in 10 Abandon Purchase for Lack of Information,” SJP Business Media, GS1 UK, February 24, 2014.

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Dr. John Writes: How to Make Your Older Press More Productive and Profitable

why-in-the-world

Throughout life, as we get older, we longingly remember what it was like to be young—to be able to do amazing things in sports or work that today would have us begging for mercy. In the end, we all wish to be younger again. Well, I see a similar trend among many printers who have older flexo presses and want them to perform like they were new. They want to do more with them, but the reality is that older presses generally have register and impression control limitations that a printer would not see with a new press.

However, there are a number of steps a printer can take to improve the productivity and profitability of an older press. Over the past few years, one of the most common changes has been an expansion in the use of KODAK FLEXCEL NX Plates on older presses. What’s interesting to note in this trend is the fact that users are often embracing the thicker 0.107” plates instead of the normal 0.067” plates in North America, making the shift even more significant.

What are the benefits of making changes to improve the performance of your older press? It’s simple—the older presses are paid for, their running costs and maintenance are often quite low, and the operators are already trained. So the payoff on your efforts to improve an older press just adds to the bottom line, which is good for everyone.

Although many presses in the field today are 20-30 years old or more, new plate technology makes it possible for them to come to color more quickly while offering better stability and longer plate life, along with fewer stops for plate cleaning. An added benefit at some production facilities is the expanded tonal range and stability of these plates, allowing better image fidelity, more continuous tone, and better looking images, with or without an increase in the lpi of materials being printed. As a result, print salespeople are able to sell a better product for potentially a better price, further improving the profitability of the existing equipment.

Normally, you might expect that every printer would at least want to know what a new plate could do for them, but interestingly it is often not the case. In many cases, the printer is actually resistant to testing, not believing that they can do any better with their existing equipment and people. That’s often the nature of almost any manufacturing business.

Instead, the push for change is coming from an unexpected source. We are seeing an increase in brand owners who have seen positive results elsewhere, investigated the technology, and then convinced their printers to try high definition solutions to improve their products and their shelf impact. This is true not only for 4- and 7-color process work, but also for 1- and 2-color tone work, such as multi-wall bags, envelopes, and basic flexible packaging.

Whether pushed by clients or taking it upon themselves to find improvements, most printers who make the switch to high definition plate technology are amazed by what they can do with their existing presses, especially when they don’t try to go too far at first. The “walk before you run” mentality is being applied with success. They are gradually moving more and more jobs over to new plate technology, improving their productivity and profitability every day.

To accomplish the improved results on older equipment, the digital flat top dot works best, providing more impression latitude, and more forgiveness to the older technologies driving it. Flat top dots also deliver longer plate life compared to the round top dots of the traditional digital LAMS plates. In addition, micro surface texturization such as KODAK DIGICAP NX Patterning helps improve ink transfer, lowers the required impression pressures, and extends plate life.

Whether looking for change, or dragged to it kicking and screaming, once printers see the improvements that are truly possible in daily production—without any drama or magic pixie dust required—the technology starts to sell itself.

The biggest compliment I hear comes from the printer managers, who say that the printers love the plate so much because it makes their lives easier. In fact, they ask for it all the time, and complain when they have to reuse the older plates for repeat jobs.

Try the technology for yourself. Contact Kodak or one of the many trade shops already offering FLEXCEL NX Plate Technology. See how you can make your older press more productive and profitable.

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

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A Guide to Reflectance Measurement Devices: Part 1

by John Seymour, John the Math Guy

You wouldn’t think it would be all that hard. You go into McSpectros and ask the guy behind the counter to show you a reflectance measurement device. You expect the guy to ask whether you want to measure the specular or the bulk reflectance. If you read my blog on specular and gloss, you know that those are the two critical parts to look at.

When you get to the front of the line, you expect to be shown a couple different models. Maybe one will be pimped out with an LED light show synced up with Beyonce for the Millennial crowd. The deluxe model (eligible for senior discount) will have a cup holder for a Venti sized Starbucks, and will play Michael Buble as measurements are made.

Order of gloss

Oh… are you in for a rude awakening! There is a bewildering array of choices. I started counting up the different possibilities for configurations of an instrument and came up with 18 different types that are in use and officially blessed in the standards. Some of them are interchangeable—measurements made with one device should match those of another, at least in theory. But  there are still 12 different types of non-interchangeable measurements that can be made. The wonderful thing about standards is that there are so many to choose from.

Spectrobucks
“I’d like a grande, two pump, d/8 spectro tea latte with SPEX, please.”

In reality, the big question is “gloss or bulk.” You want to measure one or the other, or both. But rather than ask that simple question, a wise reflectance measurement device salesperson will ask what line of business you are in.

 

Are you in the graphic arts?

If you are in the graphic arts, then you got it easy. All the instrumental decisions have been made for you. Thou shalt use either a 45/0 instrument or a 0/45 instrument. A 45/0 instrument is one where the light hits the sample at 45 degrees (preferably in a cone, all around the sample) and measures the reflectance at 0 degrees, which is to say, perpendicular to the surface of the sample. A 0/45 instrument simply interchanges the illumination and detection angles. The cool thing is that a wise old fellow named Helmholtz once said that 45/0 and 0/45 are interchangeable (usually). Most everyone I know believes him, so it must be true.

45 slash 0 geometry
Illustration of either 45/0 geometry or an upside-down umbrella

 

One of the rationales for picking the 45/0 or 0/45 geometry is that it emulates the way one would normally read a Victoria’s Secret catalog. Perhaps this may not have been apparent to everyone, but whenever I take a sidelong glance at this catalog that has been discretely addressed to my wife, the first thing I notice is that the magazine is printed on a high quality glossy stock. If I should happen to pick it up (which rarely happens, of course) I will naturally orient the prurient magazine so as to avoid seeing the specular reflection. One could argue that this natural viewing condition is something like 45/0.

Another rationale for 45/0 is that, when you convert these reflectance measurements to density, you have a number that is almost kinda sorta proportional to ink film thickness. One of the weaknesses in the correlation between the two is that darn specular reflectance. Even though 45/0 was designed to get rid of specular, a little bit or a lot of the specular will show up, depending on the smoothness of the surface.

This leads me to the topic of next week’s blog post, polarized spectrophotometers.

About the Author

John Seymour holds the title principal engineer for QuadTech, where he has been doing research in printing, color theory, and imaging since 1992. John was instrumental in the development of QuadTech’s Color Control System and AccuCam. John currently holds seventeen patents and has authored thirty technical papers. He is an expert on the Committee for Graphic Arts Technologies Standards and ISO TC 130, and currently serves on the board of the Technical Association of the Graphic Arts. He writes a blog under the pen name “John the Math Guy”, which is described as “applied math and color science with a liberal sprinkling of goofy humor.”

Prior to working with QuadTech, John worked as a scientific programmer in medical imaging, satellite imagery, electron microscopy, and spectroscopy. He holds bachelor’s degrees in mathematics and in computer science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

John had a hobby job as a karaoke host, going under the name “John the Revelator”, and before that his hobby job was teaching remedial math at a local university. He likes to think that he is gifted at “edutainment.” John teaches a color science class for QuadTech and has traveled as far as South Africa, England, Germany, and Hong Kong on speaking engagements.

Visit John’s Blog, John, the Math Guy – Applied math and color science with a liberal sprinkling of goofy humor, at http://johnthemathguy.blogspot.com/

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Dr. John Writes: The Advantages of Open Standards in Packaging

why-in-the-world

As I travel around the U.S. and Canada, I have the privilege of talking to customers with a very wide range of packaging applications, and I continue to hear from them how important it is to have choice in their investment decisions, their workflow being one of them. No one wants to be told they have to use a specific solution or adhere to very strict standards—by any company-that’s just not conducive to maximum productivity. The reality is that every production environment is different and every customer has unique needs, and Kodak understands that there is no “one-size-fits-all” solution and the need for open standards. So, in case you may have heard otherwise, I am here to tell you that the KODAK FLEXCEL NX System is an open solution that supports Kodak Workflow and third-party systems.

Now, having said that you will get maximum productivity and quality, when using the KODAK PRINERGY Workflow to drive your FLEXCEL NX System, a powerful combination that delivers impact in packaging print production.  PRINERGY Workflow 6.1 is built on open standards, and a number of new features make it an even more powerful solution for packaging. With its database-driven functionality, industry-leading automation capabilities, an improved web-based interface and easy job management tools, PRINERGY Workflow 6.1 is a fast-growing solution among packaging professionals.

The KODAK FLEXCEL NX Imager takes press-ready 1-bit TIFF files from any workflow and processes those files in the TIFF front end attached to the imager. The only requirement is that the 1-bit TIFF must be prepared at 2400×2400 dpi. To better maximize productivity and minimize waste, multiple files can be collated and laid out automatically or manually on a single FLEXCEL NX Plate. But no matter how you prepare the original design files, pretty much every open-standards workflow on the market can produce a suitable file for imaging with the FLEXCEL NX System.

Once the final production file is delivered to the TIFF front end, the real magic begins. The file is automatically prepared for the laser to image, applying award-winning KODAK DIGICAP NX Screening, and other pattern and screening features at 4800×2400 dpi, with no loss of imager speed or capacity. Absolutely every single FLEXCEL NX Plate is imaged in high definition using these 5×10 micron features.

When developing the FLEXCEL NX System, the decision to incorporate these capabilities directly into the imager was an intentional one—making it fully open as an imaging solution. By incorporating the differentiating features directly into the imager, Kodak is making it possible for customers to choose the best configuration for their needs.

Once the job is prepared and the data is rendered into square pixels in the digital 1-bit TIFF file, the FLEXCEL NX Imager is the only imager on the market using KODAK SQUARESPOT Imaging technology to reproduce each of the pixels in the digital file perfectly without error. The SQUARESPOT Laser is globally accepted as the leading imaging technology, with more than 20,000 SQUARESPOT Imaging Heads currently installed. To give you some perspective, there are just over 3,000 flexo CTP devices installed globally.

The unique platemaking process within the FLEXCEL NX System then transfers the imaged pixels to the final plate surface perfectly, truly pixel-for-pixel from the digital file to the plate. The ONLY way to transfer this image to the plate “pixel-for-pixel” is by using the FLEXCEL NX system, maintaining maximum data and full tonal range, while simplifying file preparation, proofing and printing. Also, using 2400 dpi uses 3X less data compared to 4000 dpi, resulting in savings in terms of file preparation, processing, imaging, and storage space.

So now you know, Kodak’s flexo platemaking solution is an open one. To fully optimize your FLEXCEL NX system, we recommend PRINERGY Workflow for its unique, innovative capabilities that drive maximum productivity and quality. 

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

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