Auto loading and Esko HD Flexo are important enablers
Miamisburg, OH (USA), February 2014 – Cyber Graphics LLC, a leading pre-media and media provider to the flexographic industry, has invested in Esko ‘in the round’ and CDI flexo plate imagers, with HD Flexo technology—and a roadmap to Full HD Flexo—to create better sleeves and plates for their customers, while increasing productivity.
Cyber Graphics:Simplifying the prepress process from design concept to plate and sleeve media
Established 1994 in Memphis, TN, Cyber Graphics is a privately owned pre-media and media provider, currently employing over 110 people at four sites in North America. Their specialties include customer service, creative design, digital photography, production art, color management, workflow applications and platemaking expertise. Cyber Graphics believes in continuously developing its technologies, work systems and people to provide excellence and flexibility in responding to customers' challenges.
“We have been producing ITR (in-the-round) sleeves since 2001,” explains Rick Parker, Cyber Graphics Director of Operations and Technology. “We watched digital photopolymer as it was being developed and invested in our first digital imager in 2001. At the same time, we were doing some background color seamless printing, which we contracted to other companies. We decided to bring this work in-house, so we needed a device to laser ablate photopolymer sleeves or to laser engrave elastomer sleeves.” Their investments included a digital plate imager for plates and a laser-engraving device because, according to Parker, “there was no bona fide option for photopolymer sleeves in North America.”
In 2003 Cyber Graphics revisited photopolymer technology and invested in their first ITR photopolymer sleeve imager. “We received some raw sleeves from vendors like Rotec®,” recalls Steve Dearing, Cyber Graphics Project Lead, Manufacturing. “We mounted the raw sleeves onto the cylinders, and sent press-ready sleeves to our customers.” From that time until a year ago, Cyber Graphics was plating photopolymer as well as laser engraving in the round because they could not determine a clear, technological ‘winner’. Part of the challenge was finding readily available media.
Investing in future technology
Then, in February 2013, Cyber Graphics decided to review their ITR processes again. “Previously we had considered Esko when evaluating digital imagers – both their device for plate imaging and their cantilevered device for both plate and ITR sleeve imaging. Unfortunately for them, given our installed base of imagers and our existing workflows, it did not make sense,” recalls Parker. “However, this time, with some nice automation features and what we saw in their new, evolving Full HD Flexo imaging technology we made the investment. We can now image plates and sleeves up to 4000 ppi resolution, which provides us more options to utilize our advanced screening techniques.”
The CDI Advance Cantilever can be also equipped or retrofitted with Inline UV main exposure, an integrated, digitally controlled, ultraviolet diode array that prevents main exposure from being an analog process on a light table. It is now a highly precise and digitally controlled inline process, performed within the equipment right after the imaging of the flexo plate, without any operator intervention. Through the integration of the image carrier, a digital flexo plate also has sharper image definition and steeper relief shoulders than conventional plates produced with film. Image deterioration by UV light absorption and scattering in the traditional contacting through vacuum sheet and film is totally eliminated.
Cyber Graphics decided on an Esko CDI Advance Cantilever 1750, a full-sized flexo imager able to image sleeves up to 69” and plates as large as 50”x80”. Loading and unloading of large, thick plates is assisted by an air-supported loading table that makes it easy to move plates in place.
“For our ‘in the round work’, the CDI Advance Cantilever was the best option. When Esko introduced in-line exposure technology, it just made sense,” says Edwin Woods, Manufacturing Site Director “We pushed the high resolution with specialized flat top and round top dot technology, and have started to migrate all of our projects to the new Esko imager.”
“The installation went well. We really appreciated Esko’s FIQ (Flexo Implementation Quality) staff that worked on the imager. They are very knowledgeable and set us on a good course. The entire process was phased and well orchestrated,” says Edwin Woods, Manufacturing Site Director. “Esko’s technicians had a pre-site meeting with us, and reviewed everything that would occur during the implementation. Their people helped with installation and physical delivery and placement of the hardware. Their trainers provided both classroom and hands-on instruction on equipment operation. Now, if we have a question, the service organization is responsive, with access to their product specialists, if needed.”
Ready for photopolymer ‘In the Round’ sleeves
Cyber Graphics has been running the CDI for nine months. When Cyber Graphics does ITR work with seamless sleeves, they buy consumable materials from a number of available vendors, slide it on the mandrill on the CDI, and image and process the sleeve. Flexo printers can easily put the sleeve on press. If a converter wants a plate on a sleeve, they send the sleeve, which Cyber Graphics prepares, images and processes. “We still do some ‘plate on sleeve’ work, which is a gateway to full sleeves. At the moment, full seamless work is required on about 15-20% of our packaging work. But, we feel that those companies who invest and prepare for ‘in-the-round’ will be ready when demand increases,” explains David Smith, Manufacturing project manager.
“With the Esko CDI, highlights are more defined—there is more stability. Part of that is because the higher resolution invests more pixels to describe each dot. We can physically see a difference in details and surface texture,” says Smith. “Even at the standard 2540 dpi resolution, we feel that quality has improved and is more consistent. We have better focal depth control of each plate media, during imaging. Our printer customers still control the line screens that they prefer. They usually run at 133 lpi. Some run slightly higher.”
A second CDI imager: Esko Full HD Flexo for plates
Cyber Graphics was so pleased that they purchased a second CDI in the same year—one dedicated to plates. The new CDI is a complete Full HD Flexo device with inline UV main exposure within the imager. “We are using Full HD Flexo on the newer plate imager, and we are considering retrofitting the same capability onto the CDI Advance dedicated to ‘in the round’,” remarks Woods.
“We also love the semi-auto load. Before, we taped every plate onto the cylinder. We were using 1800 rolls of tape per year. We no longer use tape. We push a button and the CDI does everything. All we do is check the vacuum on the cylinder,” adds Dearing. “While plate imagers typically do not have loading units, we like the loading unit on the CDI Advance so much that we’re going to have it retrofitted to our new CDI.”
The CDI is also faster than previous imagers. At 2400/2540 ppi, the platesetter was producing plates in 35 minutes. At 2400/2540 ppi, the CDI is producing plates in 19 minutes.
“The fact that we invested in a CDI imager during the early part of the year and, six months later, bought a second, is enough evidence that we believe in the technology and the people behind the products,” concludes Parker. “Esko has the right set of technologies to help us sell our offerings to our customers. We have looked at every possible imager and have tried to do everything possible to ensure our investments are lasting and sustainable. Our company has multiple sites. Our other location has Esko imagers and software. Based upon our experience with CDI imagers, we’re now exploring how to potentially deploy Esko workflows here.”