Miamisburg, OH (USA), September 2015 – Installing Esko Full HD Flexo, the Expac Pre-Press Service Group is offering its wide portfolio of customers flexo plates that deliver better quality with finer highlights and a bump in print density, along with economies on press.
In-house prepress department becomes its own business
Based in Downingtown, PA, the Expac Pre-Press Service Group (Expac) and its six employees specialize in prepress for both flexographic and gravure printing—producing digital flexographic plates for a wide variety of end use products that can be run on any press. Their highly skilled prepress technicians are cross trained on state-of-the-art Esko software, allowing customers to receive excellent quality prepress support with fast turnaround times and competitive prices.
Ed Bernier, President and CEO of Expac, and Curt Kerns, CtP tech
In 1996, Ed Bernier, President and CEO of Expac, created a complete, internal, fully functioning prepress and plate making operation inside a large packaging company, with two in-plant plate locations on the East and West coasts. Three years ago, he prepared a business plan to start his own company, approaching his company and proposing a contract to offer preferred pricing for them. Part of the agreement included the equipment—everything he built, including hardware and software. Expac took ownership of two Esko CDI Spark 4260 digital imagers with optics 80 along with Cyrel Fast exposure and processor units from the facilities, and brought them to their new office. "We left our previous company at 5pm on June 30, transported all of our equipment 1/16 mile down the street to our new facility, wired it up, loaded the software on our servers and on all of our machines," remembers Bernier. "We went live on July 1, 2014. We are now able to service a broader market, along with our core packaging customers."
Looking for even better flexo print quality
At first they were producing almost all plates at 100-120 lpi RIPped at 2540 dpi—and were very successful and busy at it. However, they were looking for more. They installed an Esko Full HD Flexo system with inline UV exposure, which went into production on April 1, 2015. Expac had a Full HD Flexo retrofit—inside a six-year old CDI 4260 machine. "We were nervous about installing the new Full HD UV technology into the older device, but the installation went beyond smooth," remarks Bernier. "It took only one week of time. With the Full HD optics and inline UV upgrade, we can still make plates at 2540 dpi on the Full HD machine and match the standard optics 80 machine. There's no difference. We have been very successful with interchangeability."
Offering significant ink savings
"We were hoping to see a bump in ink density on press with Full HD Flexo screening technologies, that would allow our customers to realize ink savings on board stocks. We worked with the tech rep of INX, who is in the building with us," comments Bernier. "We work daily on all projects, assessing different inks and other testing to make sure our customers have a seamless startup on press between graphics, proofs, plates and ink. We are working to achieve ink savings on high volume press runs with our customers. The goal has been to get higher ink densities through HD plate technologies, thus allowing the pressman to add more extender and use fewer solids to achieve the same LAB color value with the same anilox set. Our first tests have shown very good results and savings with the ink 'mileage' over the press runs.
That was Expac's primary interest. While imaging at 4000 dpi takes a little longer than 2540 dpi, they were able to market the cost of the plate at a premium because the cost savings for ink was so significant. It became a big win for everyone.
The nicest surprise was the printability of highlights on smooth paper board. "We had a vision of cost savings on press," adds Bernier. “There has not been a lot of Full HD Flexo printed on smooth paper board. We tested the new Full HD Flexo plates on one of our customer's new mid web presses, using new screening created by Esko. We're able to hold .8 plate dots using Thermal FAST plates with a 4-5% print dot on smooth paper—all but eliminating hard edge highlight cut offs. Full HD Flexo certainly offers very good print quality and faster press startups—which is where there is economy for the printer."
In addition, with Full HD Flexo, Expac's ink technician saw about an 18% ink density boost with the plates and a potential 12-13% ink savings in dollars on high coverage jobs. "When you're spending several million dollars on ink annually, that's a big savings from just changing to a new plate," says Bernier.
"In July, a New York City retailer 'decks up' one of their flagship stores for the Christmas holidays, just to get a feel of how the stores will look. Part of the process is to create the Christmas shopping bag. Producing the bag is the job of one of Expac’s new customers. Historically, no one had much success with it, which was traditionally a CMYK built plaid design that could also be found on several other product lines for the holidays, so color match was ultra-critical. In past years it would go on and off the press. After a few runs with retouching and adjustments by their previous supplier, it was reluctantly approved because of PR deadlines," recalls Bernier. "This year, the converter sent a digital print for Expac to use as a target for what the final bag should look like. Expac worked on the file and profiled the press with Full HD Flexo plates, using Esko Press Sync software for which they built custom press curves and proofing profiles, prepared a color proof, and dialed in the press with the correct ink densities. The Full HD Flexo plates were put on the press, and the print was signed off and approved in less than two hours. The customer was extremely happy with the results! It looked great — CMYK process and tight registration on uncoated paper."
"Among all the technologies we researched, Full HD Flexo has met all our needs," concludes Bernier. "We are more than satisfied."