Miamisburg, OH (USA), February 2011 – Ampac has enhanced its prepress capabilities following the implementation of EskoArtwork’s HD Flexo High Definition Flexographic technology in its Seattle facility An innovator in the global retail, food, security, and medical packaging markets, Ampac has already demonstrated the highest level of expertise with the system, becoming the first EskoArtwork-certified HD Flexo user in the U.S.
The Seattle facility, specializing in surface-printed polyethylene printing, handles a wide range of products, including film extrusion, bag conversion and shrink-wrap. Ampac chose to move into HD flexography following the request of a customer looking to “take their graphics to the next level,” says Joe Lydic, Ampac’s art director. “They wanted more consistent color management, tighter detail in the screening, and a 150-line screen.”
HD Flexo uses high-resolution optics and advanced screening technologies to deliver 150-line screening at 4000 dpi with a smaller dot size and imaging quality that rivals offset.
Decision to upgrade
Ampac didn’t have to look far when it decided to upgrade. In 2004 the company migrated from analog platesetting to an Esko CDI Spark XT 46x35 with 2400 dpi 126-line screening, implementing a hybrid dot via a Nexus Rip.
“We always considered ourselves a very good printer with the auto blend hybrid dot,” says Lydic.“We don’t use an extended gamut—we print very well with four-color process. The hybrid dot worked well for us. Following our customer’s request, we started researching our options and came to HD Flexo. Once we showed it to our management group, they were 100% behind the concept.”
The installation in June of 2010, which included the existing CDI imager upgrade to the new optics and implementation of HD Flexo software, went smoothly. The rest of the workflow remains the same, including the anilox rollers and flexographic inks and solvents.
Ampac is impressed with HD Flexo’s ability to deliver an extended color gamut, higher contrast, increased tonal range and smoother vignette reproduction. “HD Flexo has done a great thing for the process image—we see a lot of positive attributes happening with solids and ink density,” says Lydic. “A good 2400-dpi printer has a highlight dot from 9%-12%. HD Flexo brings the 9-12% dots down to 3-6% dots. When talking flexo, expanding highlights 6% is huge. When you image a fade or vignette with 1-2 colors with the hybrid dot in 2400 dpi, you have a rainbow effect or build-up—not an issue with HD Flexo. You get a broader gamut range, sharper image, 150 lpi and tighter halftone dots. You get better ink transfer. From the testing we’ve done, imaging at 2400 dpi and imaging at 4000 dpi in HD flexo, with all the same standards and gains, HD Flexo gives you more ink saturation. That alone is a big plus.”
HD Flexo reduces the time Lydic spends on Photoshop file cleanup, a term he’s coined “flexifying,”—a necessity in the pre-HD Flexo days for ensuring optimal plate performance on press, especially with continuous-tone images. “With HD Flexo, I have to do a lot less ‘flexifying,’ such as pushing the highlights so it meets our tonal range on press or pulling out color out so it doesn’t contaminate the press run,” says Lydic.
Customers are taking note of the change. “We had a customer supply us with a possible project.” explains Lydic. “When I received the electronic PDF file I explained to the customer that we should use HD Flexo; thinking it over, the customer decided to stay with their current vendor. Since I had the artwork, I decided to re-separate it and output a target proof using our HD Flexo color profile. I asked our sales rep that when she came to the facility again, she should bring a label (the job we didn’t get) from the printer. When I put the sample next to the HD proof, our rep was ecstatic, ‘Oh my goodness! I have to show this to my customer!’ she exclaimed. A couple of days later I received an email message form the customer. The subject line: ‘Very Clever!’ The job was sent to us, re-separated by us, we went to press, and the customer approved it on the first pull.”
Ampac’s customers are also reaping the cost- and time-saving benefits of HD Flexo technology. Jobs once reserved for 150 line gravure can now move to 150 line flexo, eliminating the increased costs associated with gravure prepress. Customers now have the option of using lower-cost prepress for those shorter run packages with surface printed flexo poly or reverse printed flexo laminates, versus gravure printed packages, without quality loss. Make ready and time to market are also reduced by avoiding long gravure prepress backlogs, a benefit for both Ampac and its customers.
Ampac’s HD Flexo implementation is a partnership between EskoArtwork and the packager. A key ingredient in the implementation's success is the facility's personnel. “EskoArtwork gave us the tools, but it took the whole company to pull it off,” says Lydic. “We have the talented people to pull the plates and run the press. Our staff, in combination with HD Flexo software and hardware upgrade, has allowed us to live up to our name and mission. Ampac: Innovation in Action.”
HD Flexo Certified
HD Flexo is the new standard for flexo quality. Companies — such as Ampac — that are HD Flexo certified are among the best in their field. They are constantly innovating to offer the very best in flexo quality. The HD Flexo Certified seal is only offered to those companies that have passed EskoArtwork's strenuous HD Flexo certification program.