Miamisburg, OH (USA), July 2015 – JET Printing, a smaller printer, is taking advantage of the technology utilized by larger print companies, with the installation of Esko Full HD Flexo plate technology. In the process, they are experiencing better quality as well as production efficiencies.
JET Printing, based in Dickson, TN about 40 miles outside of Nashville, was founded in 1998 as a small regional printer & converter. The company has grown to become a high quality converter, with a national presence—a printer, laminator and converter of plastic flexible packaging, manufacturing laminated films, pouches and plastic bags. Their nearly 50 employees serve a wide range of customers involved in many industries.
With their three wide web 6-, 8- and 10- color flexo presses, the company provides printed roll stock, plain or printed laminations, and preformed pouches or bags, among other products. With consumer demands pushing package printing toward shorter, more frequent runs with emphasis on speed to shelf, they continue their focus on flexography as their primary process for flexible packaging.
Until 2011, when they purchased an Esko CDI 4260, JET Printing relied exclusively on an outside source for all its flexo plates. Even then, the CDI was only used for line work; process plates were still produced by the outside resource. However, customer demands were changing. "We were spending so much money while moving to process work that we had to make a decision," says Jim Petty, Principal and operations manager at JET Printing.
"As far as I could see, all the work done by customers was trending to process artwork," notes Tim Hall, JET Principal in charge of sales and marketing. "Even less expensive products were headed to process printing. We started printing 133-lpi work with CDI plates. Although we were happy, we were looking for something even better. We needed to compete. Either we would buy outside plates for process work and get left behind with the evolution of printing, or control our work in-house. Conversations with others—including the 'big guys' in the industry, told us that they liked the quality and productivity of Esko Full HD Flexo. They said it was the easiest way to produce great results. So, in the end we knew that Full HD Flexo would deliver the quality we needed."
The transition was easy. "The Esko people were qualified and had good experience with Full HD Flexo," remarks Petty. "We are equipment savvy, and the tech people spoke our language, and explained what they were doing. We started installing the system on December 1, and with only a few production jobs behind us, we are already very comfortable."
"One of the first jobs we produced with Full HD Flexo was a very wide 59" job with 6 images across, at 150 lpi. The press operator was amazed that the job ran completely from beginning to end without needing to clean the plates," adds Hall. "As a cost-conscious owner, that is what I'm looking for—more throughput."
"We were still spending a lot of money outside, and looking to gain some more control. Ultimately, we got control. We are using a water washout system that we experimented with for 18 months to perfect. Our proofing system is very accurate to the press," says Petty. "Now, if we do not like something on the plate, we can make a new one and change it within an hour. With Esko Full HD Flexo, we're completely press ready within an hour."
With Full HD Flexo installed, Hall was hoping to show JET customers enhanced printing with screened artwork. Petty was looking to print a consistently better product 150 lpi. "After we ran a job for 6-7 hours, it looked as good as when we started the job. We didn't have to stop it to clean the rolls," comments Petty. "Production is up 10% just because there are no stops. The technology—particularly the water wash plates—releases ink well. We are already noticing that we can run our presses a bit faster—at least 10%. We get on color faster, too."
"We ran two separate process image jobs next to each other. In the past, we would never have done that. We would have run one job and then the other, even though the press quantities were the same," says Hall. "To our surprise, Full HD Flexo plates have printed better side by side." When Hall showed the job to the customer, comparing the same job from before (at 133 lpi) and side-by-side with Full HD Flexo (at 150 lpi), it wasn't even close. The highlight vignettes were smooth and with Esko Microcell screening, the solids also looked nice—nowhere near before. The plates also stayed cleaner and the job matched the proofs.
"We used to get pinholing and had to experiment with sticky back and different aniloxes to fix the problem. We were choosing between getting pinholes, or squeezing the plates and getting more dot gain. With Full HD Flexo Microcell screening, it works much better," explains Petty. "We're getting the combination of nice solids with great laydown and terrific highlights. We've been able to minimize the compromise of either producing light colors, or nice density."
We work continuously with our prepress manager, Johnny Melton, to make our plates even better. The process is also much simpler, now. "We back expose a flexo plate, put it in an imager, and place it in the washout processor. That's one less step of handling, which is so much safer because we don't have to worry about carrying it to an exposure unit and getting our fingerprints all over it," notes Petty. "Any kind of mark on an exposed Full HD Flexo plate is no issue."
JET Printing also upgraded to Esko Automation Engine when they invested in Full HD Flexo. They conduct their prepress (trapping, preflight, etc.) within Adobe Illustrator using Esko DeskPack tools. Once the jobs are approved, they go through automation, imposing the artwork on the plates and RIPping the files. Melton works with portion of the workflow, as well.
JET Printing will apply for Full HD Flexo certification after they have proceeded through the learning curve using water wash plates. "We have progressed in leaps and bounds. What is important to us is our commitment to technology," says Hall. "There are a limited few companies of our size who are producing Full HD Flexo plates in-house. We have built a strong, integrated in-house plate making system. It's a big factor driving our business forward. We're preparing for a groundswell by the third or fourth quarter of this year, making a name for ourselves. It will happen due to the decisions we're making now. The implementation of Esko Full HD Flexo is a huge piece."