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FLEXO IN SIGHT: Platemaking technologies

by Debbie Waldron-Hoines, executive director, EFIA

This article is the first in a series reviewing platemaking technologies used in the flexographic market.

Plate development in recent years has facilitated rapid and substantial change to the quality and commercial viability of the flexo package printing process. But the brand owners’ and retailers’ perception of the process is still often incorrect. The fragmented nature of the industry in Europe means that the message that things have changed and significantly improved the print quality has not been transmitted sufficiently.

Whatever the platemaking process, the decoration of the packaging must remain consistent. The interaction, manipulation and the optimisation of the platemaking technique, plate type and the equipment used during production enable high quality print and consistent packaging to be produced. Correct calibration of all the equipment used is vital if the brand owners’ and retailers’ expectations are to be satisfied. A “holistic” approach must be maintained throughout if the benefits of the latest platemaking techniques are to be delivered in the end product.

In the past two years, several derivations of platemaking technique claim to be able to offer further print quality enhancements. These improvements can only be delivered when partnered with accurate calibration of the prepress digital file and the platemaking technique. Only then will a significant improvement in print quality be achieved. Once the printers understand that tighter tolerances and constant measuring are required on press, the improved print quality benefits facilitated by the change in platemaking technique can be delivered.

Accuracy and consistency are both important fundamental plate characteristics. These days, external pressures such as solvent regulations and the speed at which the plates can be manufactured and delivered to the printers complicate the platemaking process. Printers are under pressure to improve press performance by reducing downtime. Seamless-endless and direct engraving technologies both address these fundamental market pressures.

Much of the new innovation in the photopolymer plate industry is designed to speed up the process and improve printing efficiency. Modern platemaking systems require a complete understanding of both prepress and onpress technology and their interaction with the plate. Companies who work closely with their suppliers generally have more success in fulfilling the potential of the ‘value in use’ aspects of this innovation.


EFIA Debbie Waldron-Hoines

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