Ghent (Belgium), March 29, 2017 – Esko is keeping its promises to bring flexo platemaking to new levels of quality, consistency and to dramatically simplify the platemaking operation. First customers confirm excellent performance and exceptional print results.
As Esko’s Vice President Hardware, Thomas Klein, explained, “Flexo average run lengths are getting shorter, and the industry needs ways to produce those shorter runs faster and more effectively. A considerable part of the solution consists of rethinking flexo platemaking, so far a complex and highly manual process often involving up to five different hardware devices and six process steps. Integration of process steps and more automation -- and thus standardization -- improves quality, consistency and ease of use, and enables customers to more efficiently manage the digital flexo platemaking workflow.”
About 10 months ago, Esko introduced a range of innovations for flexo platemaking, and demonstrated these at drupa 2016:
The XPS Crystal 5080 is a UV LED exposure device that combines UV main and back exposure in a single operation. The CDI Crystal 5080 is the new digital flexo plate imager based on the industry leading CDI. The devices can be connected with each other to act as one single plate production line, the CDI Crystal 5080 XPS, thus combining plate imaging and exposing into a single operation. This solution cuts the number of manual handling steps by 50% as compared to other technologies.
During the second half of 2016, the first series of Esko CDI Crystal and XPS Crystal devices were installed at customer production sites in Europe and North America. The number of additional shipments throughout the world is rapidly accelerating.
A series of popular plate types from the primary flexo plate vendors (DuPont, MacDermid, Asahi and Flint) have already been certified for the Esko XPS Crystal to accommodate most of the flexible packaging print applications. The list of certified flexo plates continues to expand to ensure that the CDI Crystal platform supports the widest possible range of flexo printing applications.
As a next step, together with its partner Vianord, Esko is further innovating and automating the flexo platemaking process. The next step toward a fully automated flexo platemaking process without manual touch points will consist of a bridge between the CDI Crystal 5080 XPS and a plate processing installation. Flexo plates will be imaged, exposed simultaneously from the back and through the mask, and processed in a single streamlined production line, taking even more manual steps out of the process.
Esko has pioneered flexo print quality and is recognized as the industry leader in this domain since decades. The industry readily acknowledges that HD Flexo and Full HD Flexo are the highest quality standards and benchmarks for today’s flexographic printing. The XPS Crystal 5080 further contributes to HD Flexo and Full HD Flexo quality by offering superb plate consistency. Plate consistency is one of the key drivers to standardize the flexo print process and achieve and maintain optimal print quality. UV contact frames using fluorescent tubes will never deliver the level of energy control required for the best result. “With more than a year of experience, we can now confirm that a simultaneous and optimally controlled UV main and UV back exposure using UV LEDs produces the highest consistency for digital flexo plates,” Klein added. “In traditional exposing with fluorescent tubes, one of the uncontrolled variables is the time between front and back exposure. This causes the so called ‘dwell-effect’ or changes in the floor-shape of the individual dots. As these dots become variable in shape and strength, the print result is negatively affected.
The series of print samples we have received from our users confirms that our quality and consistency claims are well justified.”
Shorter print run lengths require flexo plates to be ready faster, within a reliable delivery window, so that printing operations are not jeopardized by press downtime waiting for plates.
Esko helps by moving operational control further upstream to the prepress department, tearing down silos and better integrating flexo platemaking with the prepress workflow. These innovations make it easier to meet challenging lead times.
Automation Engine Device Manager monitors job status, and controls and drives flexo platemaking operations. Work in progress, job status and device queues are monitored and presented visually. This way the prepress department has all the necessary information to prioritize and manage platemaking queues to produce the right plate at the right time.
Esko flexo platemaking customers Inci.Flex (Italy) and Glatz Klischee (Austria) are amongst the first users of the new flexo solutions from Esko.
Inci.Flex, is a flexo and gravure prepress business based in Fisciano (Salerno province), Italy. “Esko has been a key Inci.Flex partner for decades,” says Enzo Consalvo, Managing Director of Inci.Flex. “Now, with our new CDI Crystal 5080 XPS flexo plate production solution, we are taking quality and customer service to yet a higher level. In addition to the automation and increased capacity achieved with our new Esko CDI Crystal 5080, its ability to produce more stable and reliable dots on the plate ensures our customers achieve excellent printing results across the entire tonal range. This delivers perfect highlights, stable halftones, shading toward zero, smoother transitions and more dense, full, uniform solids. Thanks to the high print quality, we are able to offer printers the ability to create high quality flexographic packaging that stands up to comparison with gravure printing. It has become a true marketing tool for us with our customers.”
Glatz Klischee has been working with the new XPS Crystal 5080 from Esko for about six months. “The fact that the new solution delivers main and back exposure in one step has proven to be a huge improvement in device development and is on the verge of making a quantum leap in plate manufacturing” says Manfred Schrattenthaler Managing Director. "Thanks to this technology, we now are able to supply our clients with standard screens (137lpi/152lpi), up to the absolute premium range with 250 lpi. We can deliver the best possible plate quality with the highest level of consistency and repeatability that we have ever experienced to date,”
“In our opinion, UV main and back exposure in one unit represents a milestone in flexographic platemaking. It improves plate exposure quality and ensures extremely consistent flexographic plates,” Schrattenthaler continues.
Klein concludes, “As all our hardware and software innovations in flexo platemaking are fully tested and ready and being adopted by our customers, it is clear that our solutions drive flexo print quality and consistency, improve press uptime at converters, and as such, support the entire flexo industry. This is true not only for our customers, but also for our wide network of industry partners, from press manufacturers to plate suppliers, who confirm that Esko continues to innovate flexo platemaking.