Tag Archives: flexography

10 Reasons Your Anilox Sleeve May Not Mount Properly

Apex International Blog

by Doug Jones, Apex International

Perfectly constructed anilox rolls should mount and dismount without any issues.  They should slide and rotate easily on the mandrel.  However, if an anilox sleeve will not mount because the necessary air film cannot be established between the sleeve and the air mandrel, here are 10 tips to help you troubleshoot the issue:

Potential Issues with the Air Mandrel:

  1. Check the air pressure measured at the air cylinder.  This should typically be between 6 and 8 bar (87-116 psi).
  2. The air volume flow should never fall below 12 liters (0.42 cubic ft.) per second.
  3. Make sure the compressed air system and cylinder surfaces are free of moisture, oils, lubricants, inks and solvents.
  4. Check for blockages in the air outlet holes.  This should be routine as all air holes must be open in order to establish an air film between the anilox sleeve and air mandrel.
  5. Make sure the air mandrel diameter is within the original STORK tolerance (see drawing below).
  6. Check if the air mandrel diameter in front of the the first air holes is within the original STORK tolerance and not damages (see drawing below).

Potential Issues with the Anilox Sleeve:

  1. Inspect the inner liner making sure it is clean and not damages as deep scratches can cause air pressure to fall.
  2. Ensure that the sides are not damaged and that the inner liner is intact.
  3. Check if the sleeve will mount more than a quarter of its total length without air pressure.  Doing so should not be possible.
  4. While placing an anilox sleeve onto the mandrel, wait a few seconds after passing the first set of activated air holes to continue mounting.  This will the inner liner enough time to expand.

Apex International sleeve technology is engineered to be perfectly constructed.  The result is the industries most stable sleeve with no vibrating or bouncing, precise TIR values and a perfectly straight and round construction.  To learn more about our sleeve technology or any of our products, please download our brochure.

Download the Flexographic Solutions Guide

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Filed under Anilox Rolls, Printing

York Repro-Graphic Group on Forefront of Innovation with Limitless Packaging & Fixed Colour Palette Printing

fixed colour palette

About York Repro-Graphic Group

York Repro-Graphic Group (YRG) was founded in 1974 and, provides a full range of pre-press and reprographic services to retailers, brand owners and print clients, including a new concept-to-print-management service. With its significant growth, YRG has become the largest independent privately owned repro group in the UK, operating from five locations in the UK with additional operations in Ireland and Africa.

The company has assembled an equipment portfolio and employee skill set that enables it to offer what it calls “Limitless Packaging”—total control of a brand from concept and design to printed approval—to its retailer, brand owner and print clients. This includes 3D visuals and animations at the concept stage before going to digital or flexo mock-ups, providing their clients with brand control without any surprises at final print. And, they can produce real print mock-ups on their new Digicon flexo press.


YRG was seeking a way to help its printer customers improve the quality of fixed colour palette printing work as the demand for that process continues to grow. YRG believes fixed colour palette printing is the future of flexography due to its process and cost efficiencies as long as quality requirements can be met.


For fixed colour palette printing, YRG recommends that printers use Asahi AWPTM water washable plates with Pinning Technology for Clean Transfer. YRG has acquired two Asahi plate processors for production of these plates, including a large AWP 1116-PD plate system at the YRG Eclipse site in Cottingham in the UK. The company plans to use this technology to expand its on-site platemaking services for its printer customers.


For YRG, quality is a primary consideration in everything it does. The company is continuously assessing new technologies on the market and invests heavily in research and development to stay on the leading edge. YRG was the first reprographics house in the world to comply with the ISO-12647 colour standard and strongly believes in the ability of the fixed colour palette printing process to ensure the future viability of the flexographic printing process.

“Fixed colour palette printing offers a number of efficiencies that make flexo printing more competitive,” says Mark Gration, the company’s group managing director. “Using a fixed set of inks reduces ink inventories, speeds makeready, and reduces press stops and waste. It significantly reduces job changeover times since no wash-ups are required between jobs. But to achieve the quality that brand owners demand requires precise registration. That’s why we chose to use Asahi AWP water washable plates for those clients using fixed colour palette printing. The quality that can be achieved with these plates surpasses Flat Top Dot printing quality, making the AWP plate the best plate in the market for this purpose. More specifically, its print consistency, precise register, fewer press stops with less waste on press are the drivers of increased demand for use of a fixed set of inks, and the quality of the AWP plates keeps our customers coming back.” Gration also likes the fact that AWP plates have a small environmental footprint. “They are water washable,” he says, “eliminating solvents and the associated hazardous waste and VOCs, with waste water being able to be disposed of without environmental impact.”

Moving forward, YRG plans to further develop its in-plant platemaking services at customer printing sites. “This will enable us to help our clients further reduce turn times in the plate-to-press process to meet the needs of the changing market environment, which is increasingly demanding just-in-time production,” Gration states. “And the Asahi AWP system’s ease of use and environmental friendliness will be an important factor in moving this process closer to press operations.”

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Filed under Plate Technology, Printing

RGB Printing Brings Spectacular Visual Possibilities to Packaging

Saueressig - RGB Printing

By Volker Hildering, Manager Sales and Customer Service Packaging – Special Applications, and Anna Zumbülte, Innovation Manager, Saueressig GmbH + Co. KG


Most people take color printing for granted. The limited gamut of colors available in the CMYK color model may seem to mimic all the possibilities of the real world—but that’s only because we’re so accustomed to seeing images reproduced in CMYK. In truth, there are so many more ways of seeing that have remained impossible to explore throughout the history of printing.

What if you could give shoppers a whole new way to see your brand? What if you could stop them in their tracks, thinking “That’s remarkable—I’ve never seen anything like it before”?

That’s the impact of RGB printing, the first completely new innovation in color printing technology in more than 100 years. Before, if you asked a supplier to print in RGB, you’d get a laugh and a lecture about why your request made no sense. Now, you can get a world of new visual effects that have never previously existed.

Substrates of the deepest black. A much broader color space. More vivid saturation. A surface sheen unlike anything you’ve ever seen. How is it possible? Let’s take a closer look.

CMYK and RGB: Looking Back

CMYK printing was first used in 1906,1 when the Eagle Printing Ink Company demonstrated that the colors cyan, magenta, yellow and black (key) could be layered over a white substrate to produce a practically unlimited range of colors.

The RGB color model is even older, although it only came into prominence with the rise of color TV. In 1861, James Clerk Maxwell experimented with taking photographs of the same scene through red, green and blue filters. Projecting the images through the same filters in a darkened room, these primary colors combined to reproduce the scene in full color.2

CMYK inks on a white background, or RGB lights on a dark screen: For well over 100 years, these have been the two principal ways to create full-color images. Both models are so ubiquitous—CMYK for print; RGB for screens—that most people hardly even think about the different ways they engage the eye.

RGB Printing: Seeing Things Differently

The idea for a new kind of vision grew from a 2014 brainstorming session between creative people and the Performance Materials unit of the Merck KGaA Darmstadt (the centuries-old German multinational chemical and pharmaceutical company). Their idea turned the standard color models upside down: Instead of illuminated pixels on a black screen, what if RGB inks were used to print on black paper?

That thought led to many months of testing and refinement. Now, Merck KGaA has created the first major color innovation in over a century: A process for RGB printing with international patent pending.

This new method uses highly reflective pearlescent red, blue and green inks, plus a silver-white ink. In CMYK printing, the black “K” ink provides a definitive black that the mixture of cyan, magenta and yellow can’t quite achieve. Similarly, the silver-white ink in RGB printing is used to provide the white “pop” that the combination RGB inks can’t quite achieve.

The effect is uncanny. The image seems to shimmer. It emerges from the black background as an ethereal possibility, not a prosaic reality.


RGB printing is done directly on a black substrate, as opposed to CMYK where a black background is achieved by printing all four colors at full saturation. So, for example, you can present your brand artwork directly on a black box or label for a deep, dramatic look that you couldn’t achieve using CMYK.

The pearlescent pigments create otherworldly images that seem to radiate a shimmer or glow from within. And the RGB technique offers a larger, more diverse color space than CMYK, giving designers a greater range of hues and saturations for the freedom to explore entirely new possibilities.

Luxury brands, fine wines and whiskies, cigars and other indulgences are natural candidates for the distinctive and sophisticated effects that can be achieved with RGB printing. Graphic designers will likely discover creative uses for this new method across many other product categories.

What We’ve Learned: Visualizing the Possibilities

Merck developed its RGB process using its proprietary pigments, applied by screen printing. When they were ready to move from concept to full production, Merck came to Saueressig for expertise in rotogravure printing—the ideal system for transferring pigments in the volume required for the RGB technique.

Our team has spent endless hours refining the technique and working with clients to bring their RGB printing projects to market. What we’ve learned is that clients want help visualizing how the process works and what they need to do to be successful with it. Here are a few key points to keep in view:

  • The cost for rotogravure cylinders is not more for RGB than for CMYK. That part of the process is the same; only the inks used differ.
  • The cost of inks may be marginally higher for RGB due to the special pigments required and the volume of ink applied during printing. This small difference is well worth it for clients who want the special effects that can only be achieved with RGB.
  • Color correction requires special expertise. You can’t proof your design on a CMYK printer and expect the results to match in production. This is where working with an RGB specialist with the necessary expertise and tools can make all the difference in the success of the final product.
  • An RGB-printed package or label, when photographed and reproduced in CMYK, will lose some of the vibrancy and sheen that makes RGB so special. That includes the images displayed with this article, and it’s due to the inherently restricted color space of CMYK compared to RGB. Again, this is an area where specialized expertise can help optimize the results—but you really need to see the RGB original to get the full effect.

At Saueressig, we’re delighted to be part of the first major innovation in printing to be developed in many generations. It’s still relatively new, and we expect to see further developments and refinements in the years to come. RGB will always be an additional option, never an alternative to CMYK, and will likely always be the choice of a few, select brands. But when you first encounter it on the shelf, you’ll know right away that you’ve found something special. So keep your eyes open while you shop.

About Saueressig

Saueressig is a renowned expert in premium rotogravure and special machinery solutions. The company supports customers along the entire prepress process and improves profitability by applying innovative solutions to the complex challenges faced by brand owners, printers and converters in the reproduction of brand assets. Saueressig owns more than 150 patents and has more than 60 years of experience. The internationally expanding company serves customers from ten production sites worldwide. Saueressig is part of the brand deployment group of SGK. SGK is a division of Matthews International Corporation (NASDAQ GSM: MATW). For more information visit: http://www.saueressig.com

Volker Hildering - RGB PrintingA recognized expert of the printing industry, Volker Hildering, Manager Sales and Customer Service Packaging – Special Applications, with Saueressig, has been deploying security and microprint technologies as anti-counterfeiting solutions for 16 years. Having completed his commercial education at Saueressig and complemented by a Media Business Administrator degree, he assisted in building the Security department, which he has led since 2008. Saueressig is part of SGK, a Division of Matthews International Corporation. http://saueressig.com

Dr. Anna Zumbulte - RGB PrintingHaving graduated from the University of Muenster in 2015 with a PhD in physics, Dr. Anna Zumbülte joined Saueressig as the Innovation Manager. In her role she drives innovations both in collaboration with customers and industry partners as well as internal developments to enhance the possibilities of printing and embossing. Saueressig is part of SGK, a Division of Matthews International Corporation. http://saueressig.com


  1. “The History of the CMYK Color Model,” Club Ink Blog, September 12, 2014. http://www.clubink.ca/blog/print/history-behind-cmyk-colour-model
  2. Robert Hirsch, “Exploring Colour Photography: A Complete Guide,” London: Laurence King Publishing, 2004

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Filed under Branding, Printing

3 Ways Flexographers can Win Over Brand Owners

Apex International Blog

by Doug Jones, Apex International

The only thing more difficult than earning the business of a new customer is keeping it.  Printers working with brand owners sometimes have a hard time differentiating themselves in the marketplace and demonstrating consistent value.  There are three areas in maintaining a brand owner relationships where your efforts will most certainly be rewarded!

1. Help brand owners reduce cost

Every brand owner is looking to spend less on materials and the “buy more, save more” approach that has resulted in longer and longer runs is not a viable solution.  Instead, brand owners want the flexibility of just in time without having to absorb a price increase.

The key to saving brand owners money while running a profitable business is volume and efficiency.  Your goal is to become their preferred printer because a) you have demonstrated your commitment to the partnership and b) you have a real, tangible success strategy that details exactly how your process is more efficient and more consistent than the competition.  Managing shorter runs profitably is only possible if you are still able to minimize machine down time in the process.  One tried and true way to accomplish this is by eliminating variables and increasing overall operational efficiency.  Reducing the color palette, for example, is one way to drive efficiency and reduce costs.  Taken a step further, an optimized fixed palette solution will certainly provide any printer with a competitive advantage.

Tip: Provide brand owners and retailers with the ability to have high print quality on a wide range of substrates. 

2. Help brand owners manage inventory

If you have the space, a vendor managed inventory (VMI) solution can help you demonstrate value by creating an efficient print management system in partnership with your customer.  With VMI, you’ll work with your customer to establish stock level minimums and maximums based on forecasting models.

The upside for the printer in this scenario can be enormous.  First, you will become very “sticky” with your customer in terms of the relationship.  Established VMI partnerships are difficult to break.  Second, you will be able to complete longer runs while still delivering just in time value.  You’ll have greater control over the planning process and more flexibility.  Third, printing in volume allows for greater overall print consistency.

3. Help brand owners manage their brand standards

Printers running the same job at multiple sites or even with multiple machines in the same site understand the common standard expectation brand owners have.  Generally, brand owners have little concern over where a job is printed or by whom so long as the common standard is met.

The key to successful brand standards management across multiple sites is consistent, predictable printing.  Optimized fixed palette is one means by which to ensure consistency across all stations.  In fact, many of the same cost reduction strategies you can use to win over brand owners will ultimately help you deliver more consistency.

Get the Flexo solutions guide now!

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Filed under Branding, Printing

Big Value, Small Environmental Footprint

Asahi Photoproducts - Asahi Kasei



By Dr. Dieter Niederstadt – Technical Marketing Manager Asahi Photoproducts





This is what drove Nu-Maber, a leading Italian repro house, to choose Asahi AWP-DEF water-washable plates with Pinning Technology for Clean Transfer. The company is known for being innovative and forward-thinking, and has many firsts to its name. Being the first in Italy to adopt Asahi AWP-DEF plates adds another diamond to its crown.

Nu-Maber Blog Post with Livio Simionato“We wanted to stay current with the latest trends in flexography in order to deliver plates of the utmost quality to our customers, while also taking into consideration the environmental footprint of the platemaking operation,” said Livio Simionato, Nu-Maber’s CEO. “After reviewing the options available in the market, we chose to partner with Asahi, and we have been able to grow our business in both narrow web and wide web markets using Asahi AWP water-washable plates, for printing on paper and plastic substrates .

Simionato was also concerned about the environmental impact of platemaking, both in his operation and that of his customers. “One of the attractions of these water-washable plates,” he explains, “is the elimination of the solvents required for the production traditional flexo plates. But perhaps even more importantly, the Pinning Technology for Clean Transfer that is a hallmark of these plates results in a cleaner overall printing process with fewer press stops for plate cleaning, improving pressroom productivity for our customers and reducing waste.”

Simionato and his team are working hard to educate the Italian flexographic market about these benefits. “Asahi studies show significant improvements in overall equipment effectiveness,” he says, “which means much less waste and significant time savings. We’re seeing this in action with the customers who have adopted these plates, and we want to make sure that everyone in the Italian flexo community has access to these outstanding plate solutions that will drive their productivity and their profits while also improving quality.”

Pinning Technology for Clean Transfer is also ideally suited for Fixed Color Palette printing using a fixed set of 4 to 7 inks and requiring precise plate-to-plate registration, a printing process that is growing in popularity among packaging converters and brand owners alike. Some experts estimate that fixed color palette printing using seven colors can match as many as 90% or more of the 1,838 named Pantone spot colors, reducing ink inventories and improving efficiencies.

View Video – Asahi Photoproducts – NuMaber AWP Interview

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Filed under Plate Technology, Printing

The Rise of Pantone Simulation in Flexography

The Rise of Pantone Simulation in FlexographyRecent studies and trials aimed at optimizing Pantone simulation suggest that the fixed palette approach is ready to revolutionize the flexography and label industries. The change is due specifically to advancements allowing for unprecedented process control and consistency as well as the development of new tools designed to pinpoint which process parameters are failing so they may be addressed before problems arise.

4C  No limits – No compromise!

According to Nick Harvey – Print Application Director of Apex International – 4 color fixed palette has many advantages over 7 color simulations in for particular for wide web Flexo. First you must understand and consider that existing wide web printers have:

  • Many existing designs that they hold plates in stock for (100,000’s Euro’s)
  • Many ink press returns in stores that require re-formulating for spot color printing (1000‘s Euro’s)
  • A number of customers that will not move old designs to Fixed Palette

When you understand and consider the above, printers require a transition solution to move over to Fixed Palette. Apex 4C using the GTT technology offers this smooth transition. Harvey states that an estimated 90% of printers only have 8 color presses and therefore 4 color Fixed palette plus White allows for printers to use the spare 3 units for:

  1. Spot colors that are not possible with 4C simulation and this gives the possibility to print 100% of the pantone book.
  2. Printing designs side by side saving set up costs, increasing run lengths, increasing profits
  3. Printing up to 800 colors at the same time (a designer’s dream)
  4. Printing added value combination lacquers, Gloss, Matt, Tactile
  5. Printing up to 800 Metallic colors at the same time just by backing simulations with silver
  6. You still have the possibility to increase to 5, 6 or 7 C as and when it suits your business needs and your production is comfortable and consistent with 4C.
  7. Finally the ability to print all existing designs in the current format without disturbing the 4C fixed process set.

Added to the above moving to Fixed Palette printing in the first instance is a matter of variable elimination in order for printers to make the transition into Fixed Palette Color simulation they need to optimize their internal process control which requires a mind set to remove / eliminate as many process variables as possible.

Therefore starting this journey into Fixed Palette is much smoother when you begin with the already familiar Y M C K process set. When it is understood that 4C brings a possibility of more than 800 colors within a delta e of 2 this is already a huge step forward, whilst at the same time allowing all existing designs to be printed and press return inks to be used away during the transition as stated above.

The demand for optimized fixed palette is only expected to grow as brand owners demand better color consistency with shorter run lengths and just-in-time production. Chief among these concerns is the ability to create color consistency across multiple markets ensuring that the same values and same Pantones can be printed on labels just as they can on films.

For more than a year, Apex International has been involved in a project to proof that Fixed palette printing with only 4 colors is the future of the Flexographic printing industry. At Drupa the results of the trials will be presented to the international Flexographic printing industry.

What is so special about this project?

Fixed palette optimization through advances in color management and process consistency has fundamentally changed flexographic printing in the 21st century. Brand owners around the world have taken notice. In fact, more and more brand owners are choosing printers with a proficiency in fixed palette. Two leading brand owners – Asda/Walmart and Morrisons – have contributed their participation to the project from the start. They have offered designs of some of their packages to be used and printed in the trials.

Secondly, the designs contain packages that were previously printed in various different types of printing techniques, going from Litho to Aluminium foil lidding, from Gravure to Surface Prints in Flexo and from UV Label to UV Shrink sleeves. All these designs are now printed in Reverse on OPP in Flexo!

Third, the number of different designs per printing plate are incredible, all printed with CMYK. For the Morrisons design more than 100 Pantone colors were matched and 28 (!) designs were printed. The Asda printing plate covered 17 designs and also here more than 100 Pantone colors were matched!

“Nothing is Impossible”

Apex International has proven that the impossible ís possible by presenting print results in UV label, OPP Polythene and Offset/Litho. Visitors to Drupa can come to the Apex booth and check the color results with their own eyes, as well as with the X-Rite Color management equipment Exact Scan & ColorCert Master. Since it is about matching the original proof that is signed off by the brand owner, the Apex stand will also provide this original proof.  And as if that weren’t enough proof, Apex also displays some of the original packaging the way they can be purchased in the supermarket nowadays.

The Morrisons Print Proof

The Morrisons Print Proof with 28 designs previously printed in different printing technologies, now all on OPP Reverse Print in Flexo.

The ‘role’ the Anilox played

“Achieving color consistency is probably the most difficult component of transitioning to a fixed palette process.” says Bas van der Poel, Technical Sales Director EMEA at Apex International. “Fixed palette is about control: control over variables, control over ink flow and so on. It is this control that has allowed us to hit the number of Pantones we have with these trials and do so while not having to make any changes to plate inventory. It requires a level of control that simply is not possible with conventional anilox rolls.

Apex holds globally recognized patents on the award-winning GTT technology that uses continuous lasers to engrave a slalom pattern onto the anilox. The continuous laser is responsible for creating an anilox product capable of the smooth, consistent and controlled laydown necessary to optimize fixed palette. The Fixed Palette 4C consists of 4 GTT rolls/sleeves and one calibration roll/sleeve for closed-loop control and a guaranteed process stability”.

Get Your Fixed Palette Sample Kit Now

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Filed under Color Management, Printing

Lower Your Anilox Line Screen and Cell Volume for Better Performance!


by John Rastetter and John Bingham, Pamarco

It sounds counter-intuitive to lower your anilox line screen to improve performance but that’s exactly what we are proposing. Read on for a detailed review of the logic and the results.

For years anilox producers have been recommending that printers increase the anilox line screen to improve print reproduction. The thought is that by increasing the anilox line screen more support is given to the printing plate, producing cleaner print. Increasing line screen does insure that more cell walls contact the plate, but what it primarily does is reduce the percentage of cell volume that is transferred to the printing plate. The lower transfer efficiency creates a thinner ink film. A thinner ink film in turn produces cleaner print. However, there are negative side-effects of increased anilox line screen ; plugged cells, scoring, and pre-mature wear.

Lower Your Anilox Line Screen and Cell Volume for Better Performance
On the left is the EFlo cell technology and the right the HourGlass cell, note the clean sharp cell formation created by fiber-optic laser technology

Pamarco feels there is a better way to produce the same, or improved print result and at the same time increase ink transfer consistency and anilox durability. This is accomplished by decreasing the anilox cell count and reducing cell volume to produce anilox engraving that provide the correct ink film thickness, more consistent ink transfer and an engraving that is more durable.

Today’s anilox technology utilizes fiber-optic, multi-beam, Thermal engraving technology. To be more specific, Instead of using a blend of gases, mirrors, and tubes to produce a single laser beam, a crystal creates a short pulse-length beam that is so powerful a single beam is split into as many as four smaller ones. The splitting of the beam is what currently enables anilox cells to be “multi-pulsed” or “multi-cycled” creating cells that are “carved” with precision. The end result is a great deal of heat and energy directed into the cell of an anilox within a very short time-frame.

The benefit of fiber-optic technology is the ability to produce a wider range of line screens (35 lpi to over2000 lpi), increased cell depth and increased volume per line screen. This fiber-optic technology also allows us to create cell bottom that are flatter, shallower and smoother than a comparable CO2 laser engraving. Software advances in conjunction with this laser technology allow us to produce new cell shapes like EFlo and HourGlass, these new cell designs add additional performance benefits as well. However, If not implemented correctly the down-side of this technology can be a reduction in cell durability (resistance to scratching, scoring, and premature wear).

Older CO2 technology typically burned / engraved cells with a single pulse and at a pulse-length much longer than fiber-optic technology. CO2 technology does not vaporize as much of the ceramic that is burned away to form the cell, leaving a rim of melted ceramic on the cell walls referred to as re-cast. Melted and re-hardened ceramic is believed to be harder than the “as sprayed” ceramic on the surface of the anilox. This recast assists with durability of the engraving. Fiber-optic technology, because it burns at a shorter pulse length creates recast in a different way, it tends to accumulate in nodules or posts at the corners of the cell. If cell geometry is not correctly established by utilizing an acceptable depth to opening ratio, the multiple pulses inside each cell can over harden the nodules, causing them to become brittle. The end result can be chipping or breaking of these particles, creating pre-mature wear and/or tiny scratch or wide score lines on the anilox.

Since the anilox industries implementation of Thermal lasers, the focus has been to increase anilox line screen and cell volumes. Where a 4.0 bcm may have been utilized at a 400 line screen, today it is common to produce the same volume at a line screen of 600 and higher. The 600 line screen at a 4.0 bcm produces cleaner print than a 400 line screen at a 4.0 bcm because less of the 4.0 bcm volume transfers to the printing plate. This is caused by the fact that deeper cells have a lower transfer coefficient. The resulting transfer produces Print that is cleaner, but density is reduced and engraving life is compromised. Pamarco thinks a better approach, in most cases, is to decrease the anilox line screen and cell volume to reduce the ink film thickness transferred to the printing plate. This will produce cleaner print, targeted ink densities and anilox cells that are more resistant to wear and plugging.

Lower Your Anilox Line Screen and Cell Volume for Better Performance - engraving-testing
“Above are photographs of the 450 lpi – 3.4 bcm and 600 lpi – 4.0 bcm engravings tested on the banded roll. Cell depth on the 450 was 15.5 microns with a 53.4 micron opening (29% depth-to-opening ratio) versus a cell depth of 20.3 microns with a 40.3 micron depth (50% depth-to-opening ratio). Note the improved smoothness of the cell walls on the 450 lpi”.

An example of this can be illustrated by a recent banded roll test. A test was done to determine if a better alternative is available to a 600 lpi, 4.0 bcm, 60° cell used by a customer for combination process/line work/solids printing and a 900 lpi, 2.6 bcm, 60° cell used for process print. To enable us to utilize a more durable lower line screen engraving, without sacrificing print cleanliness, it was necessary to also decrease the cell volume as we decreased the line screen.

Eight engravings were tested – 600 lpi – 4.0 bcm, 550 lpi – 3.8 bcm, 500 lpi – 3.6 bcm and 450 lpi – 3.4 bcm for combination print and a 900 lpi – 2.6 bcm, 850 lpi – 2.5 bcm, 800 lpi – 2.4 bcm and a 750 lpi – 2.3 bcm for process print. The end result was, by reducing both line screen and volume, all four engravings in each category produced nearly identical density and dot gain results. The advantage of utilizing the lower line screen and volume engraving is the cell surface is much smoother and it will transfer its volume more consistently.

Lower Your Anilox Line Screen and Cell Volume for Better Performance - LPI
The table above shows the results of the highest and lowest LPI for each application, please note the LPI, BCM, density and dot gain results for each.

In addition, Pamarco believes engravings used with steel doctor blades should be diamond film polished after engraving using a precision mechanical process. This process removes the nodules and creates a flat, smooth surface that is resistant to wear. All of our engravings used with steel doctor blades receive this process. In addition by utilizing lower cell count and volume ratios this process can be done with much more successful and repeatable results. Cell walls are flatter, smoother, and narrower, allowing for greater durability while insuring consistency in ink transfer and print performance.

The anilox’s “job” is to transfer a precise, predictable, and consistent ink film to the printing plate. The ink film is determined by the cell volume, not the line screen. It may be time to re-think the specifications of this import tool for greater long-term printing performance, consistency and durability.

For more information about Pamarco or for help acquiring the correct specifications for your anilox rolls, please call us at 1-800-53Flexo.

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Filed under Anilox Rolls, Printing

Pinning Technology for Clean Transfer

Pinning Technology for Clean Transfer is a unique plate technology engineered by Asahi Photoproducts to transfer all remaining ink to the print substrate due to the photopolymer plates having a lower surface energy than other plates on the market. Not only does this deliver stunning graphical quality, but it also improves overall production efficiencies due to reduced makeready waste and fewer press wash-ups.

Pinning Technology for Clean Transfer - infographic

Asahi AWP™ water-washable plates use Pinning Technology for Clean Transfer. This enables them to produce superior results compared to both traditional and digital flexographic printing plates. They also are a more environmentally sustainable solution. It should be noted that up to 15 litres of solvent per plate are used in the solvent-based platemaking process. The entire AWPTM plate manufacturing process creates little waste, just unexposed polymer residues and wash out solution, which are collected and safely incinerated.

In a recent controlled test comparing water-washable plates to standard solvent-based plates, results indicated operations could achieve in an immediate ROI when switching to these plates.

  • For the conventional plate, the run length was 37,368 linear metres. It took a total running time of 173 minutes. Total press down time was 47 minutes for plate cleaning and make-ready. Waste produced was 1,025 metres. OEE efficiency was calculated to be 72%.
  • For the Pinning Technology plates, the run length was 38,000 linear metres. It took a total running time of 140 minutes. Total press down time was 8 minutes for plate cleaning and make-ready. Waste produced was 450 metres OEE efficiency was calculated to be 91%.

Pinning Technology for Clean Transfer

Pinning Technology plates produced 575 linear meters less waste material. They resulted in a 26% improvement in overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) with fewer press stops for plate cleaning and more consistent overall quality. For a 24-hour operation, this translates to the ability to process at least two additional jobs per day at a higher quality level with more contrast and less environmental impact.

Pinning Technology for Clean Transfer - OEE AWP

The cost benefit of the AWP plate may vary depending on the customer’s production profile but is typically between 25% – 35% vs. conventional plate technologies.

Due to their exceptionally precise registration, plates with Pinning Technology for Clean Transfer also make it easier to implement Fixed Colour Palette printing to virtually eliminate the need for spot colour inks, reducing ink inventories and minimising or eliminating the need for press wash-ups between jobs.

Using fixed colour palette printing, the breakeven between flexo and digital printing continues to fall to as short a run length as 350 metres. This means that flexo is competitive with digital for all but the shortest runs, and there are many benefits packaging converters can gain by moving to this model, including very short job changeover times with minimal or no wash-up and limited waste due to the fact that inks do not have to be changed. Plus, more than 90% of Pantone colours can be accurately rendered using fixed colour palette printing.

Pinning Technology for Clean Transfer is an innovation in flexographic plate technology and a win/win for forward-thinking flexo printers.

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Addressing Metering Challenges of White Inks

by Daetwyler



All professional printers eventually come up against the metering challenges of white inks. Throughout the industry, white inks are notorious for being inconsistent and requiring frequent changing of doctor blades often. The longer a doctor blade lasts, the more expensive it is in many cases. Weighing the cost of a doctor blade vs. the cost of press downtime is as issue printers and coaters deal with constantly. The issue with metering white inks is actually a little more complicated than just buying the right blade.


First and foremost, ink, anilox, and doctor blade suppliers should all be consulted in a cooperative manner. When everyone knows the details of the scenario, a more comprehensive solution can be attained. Having end seal suppliers involved can also prove useful. Most people working in these industries are either printers themselves or have at least been involved in the print industry for some time – so they will most likely be able to relate to your specific challenges.


Having your press and chambers in optimum condition can provide big results. By taking care of the mechanical issue in order to optimize the setting of the chamber at the lowest amount of pressure possible, run times for both doctor blades and end seals can be significantly extended. By simply taking the extra 10-15 minutes to clean a deck and an extra 2 minutes to set it lightly and evenly, some issues may be completely resolved. It’s definitely worth investigating before moving on to more involved solutions. CAREFUL SET-UP AND MAINTENANCE: Maintaining the proper viscosity and ink/vehicle/solvent ratio is another very important consideration when it comes to working with white inks. Often, when issues come up with white inks, even though other printing functions have been problem-free for some time, viscosity and solvent ratios are a primary reason behind the problem.

In most cases radius tipped blades are used for any roller under 600 lines per inch (lpi). Switching to a radius tip blade from a lamella or bevel blade may help or eliminate many white ink challenges. Increasing the thickness of the blade may help as well. However, remember, the more steel you throw at the problem, the more it increases anilox wear – so proceed with caution. Many printers elect to use a coated blade to address the wear, quality and press downtime issue with metering white inks. These coatings are generally significantly harder than a standard doctor blade but not quite as hard as the ceramic anilox roller itself. Other ingredients in the coatings can help address coefficient of friction values (COF). These coated blades can greatly increase doctor blade wear but should also be installed in the chambers properly and care should be used setting them. They are significantly higher in cost, though proper care when using them can increase the return on your investment. In some cases, plastic blades have been used with promising results. While this has not proven to work across the board for consistent metering, it may be worth looking into.

Download the full White Inks White Paper for more information. 

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6 Factors of Maintaining Plate Quality

APR Logo

by Catherine Green, All Printing Resources

6-factors-plate-quality-800x800-300x300Platemaking is a science, not an art. While there is a bit of flexibility in specifications for different processes, there are defined parameters that must be followed if high quality plates are to be made consistently. In this article, we’ll discuss six important factors for making high quality plates.

1. Relief Depth

Relief depth is the difference in height between the printing surface and the floor of the plate. We can obtain this measurement by measuring the overall plate thickness, then subtracting the floor thickness.

There are recommended relief depths for different plate thicknesses:

Plate Thickness Ideal Relief Depth Max Relief Depth
0.045” (1.14mm) 0.018” – 0.022” 0.022”
0.067” (1.70mm) 0.018” – 0.022” 0.025”
0.112” (2.84mm) 0.020” – 0.025” 0.030”
0.250” (6.35mm) 0.050” – 0.070” 0.070”

2. Imaging Quality

Whether you’re using digital or analog plates, the finished plate cannot exceed the quality of the original image carrier. If you’re making analog plates using film, confirming proper film density (over 4.0) is critical. With digital plates, the digital imager must to be checked for correct focus and power settings periodically (every 4 to 6 weeks, or any time the laser head is contacted by a loose plate). These tests can be done yourself with the proper tools and training, by your digital imager supplier, or by APR’s TSG group.

3. Exposure Conditions

Plate exposure units contain two types of UV bulbs: UVA bulbs (for back, main, and post exposures), and UVC bulbs (for light finishing). For maximum plate quality, these bulbs must be monitored and replaced at the end of their useful life. While extending exposure times to make up for weak bulbs can work in a pinch, this tactic sacrifices plate quality. Longer exposure times can lead to broadening of the plate’s shoulder angle, resulting in dot gain and filling in of fine reverse detail (especially with analog plates). In addition, the plate room environment should be kept clean and free of dust to prevent any unwanted debris from contaminating the plate before or during exposure.

4. Polymer Saturation

Both solvent and aqueous platemaking use liquid to wash away the unexposed photopolymer in the plate’s non-printing areas. This liquid, whether a hydrocarbon solvent or water, will eventually become contaminated with dissolved polymer solids. The level of saturation, or percent solids, can have a dramatic effect on both plate quality and equipment maintenance. In solvent platemaking, it’s recommended to keep the concentration of solids below 6% to ensure optimum plate washout and keep equipment maintenance to a minimum. If the solids are allowed to collect above this level, the result can be increased washout time, which results in a longer dwell time in solvent for the plate, culminating in a longer drying time. Extensive cleaning may also be needed to remove excess polymer buildup throughout the system. In aqueous platemaking, weekly solution changes and machine cleanings are key to trouble-free operation. Since aqueous polymer doesn’t dissolve completely in water, there is a chance that small particles of polymer could re-deposit onto the plate if they are not removed from the system. It is essential that these machines are kept clean and proper filtration is used to manage the washout solution. The exception to this rule is thermal plate processing. Since thermal processors utilize a one-time-use wicking media to remove the uncured photopolymer, there is no polymer saturation to monitor– only the amount of wicking media remaining in the machine.

5. Drying

One of the most important, yet most overlooked factors in solvent plate quality control, complete drying is crucial to consistent platemaking. Incomplete drying can be caused by a number of factors including early removal of the plate from the dryer, inadequate dryer air circulation, and improper drying temperature. To check a solvent plate for complete drying, remove the plate from the dryer and allow to cool for 5 minutes. Next, measure the overall plate thickness with a micrometer. The plate should be no thicker than 0.001” – 0.002” over the original plate gauge (be sure to measure the original gauge on a sheet of raw material). When plates are not completely dry, they remain swollen from absorption of solvent. This can lead to problems on press including poor registration, over-impression, and decreased plate life.

6. Plate Handling

Good plate handling and storage practices can save time and money with both press downtime and plate remakes. Plates should always be handled with care, and treated as a fragile component of the printing press. Never place objects on top of plates, fold/crease plates, or expose plates to unknown chemicals. Plates can be only be stacked flat when foam or parchment paper is placed between them to prevent direct contact. Environmental factors that can harm printing plates include exposure to room light or sunlight, and storage near ozone-producing equipment (most common offenders include: HVAC and electrical equipment). To ensure maximum plate life, used plates should be cleaned as soon as they are removed from press using an approved cleaner and a soft horsehair brush. Another great option for plate cleaning is an automated plate cleaning machine. These simple machines make quick work of dirty plates, produce consistent cleaning results with minimal labor, which streamlines the post-press workflow and makes the most of valuable employee time.

By following these simple steps, you will ensure that your platemaking and storage is as efficient and effective as possible.

For more information regarding products or procedures mentioned in this article, contact Catherine Green of APR’s Technical Solutions Group (c.green@teamflexo.com).

About the Author:

Catherine-Green_200Catherine Green – Catherine has over 12 years experience in graphic arts. An honors graduate of Clemson University’s Graphic Communications program, she has held positions in prepress, platemaking, and technical support. Before joining APR’s Technical Solutions Group, Catherine worked for Asahi Photoproducts as their Technical Specialist for North America. She brings expertise in digital platemaking, prepress, and process improvement to the TSG. She is an active member of the FTA, serving on both the Excellence in Flexography judging panel and FQC groups.

About 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.

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Filed under Plates, Prepress, Printing