By Debbie Waldron-Hoines, executive director, EFIA
‘Solventless’ platemaking uses similar chemical mechanisms and exposure techniques to conventional analogue or digital plates. The unique feature of this technology is that the cross-linked polymer image is revealed using heat.
The advantage of this is that the normal hydrocarbon-based washout solvents are eliminated, significantly reducing the production time for the first plate through the system.
As brand owners and retailers require improved print quality and consistency for their packaging, many printers are turning to endless and seamless sleeve technology. This offers three significant advantages over the conventionally mounted flexo plate: better register accuracy, increased printing speed capability and reduced press makeready times.
The use of endless and seamless technology in the flexo industry represents a radical change in the production of packaging. Substantial commercial and technical gains are offered to the printer, but to realise these, a new mindset has to be adopted. This concerns such issues as procurement, logistics and prepress data collection.
The advantage of using liquid resin technology to form the base sleeves is marked superiority in the engraving characteristics and low engraving debris. It also avoids expensive off-cut waste often generated by systems which adopt solid sheet material to dress the sleeves.
The coating of sleeves is fast when using liquid technology. One of the key advantages is the substantial amount of time saved by being able to directly engrave the sleeve once it has been coated.
Innovation is still a key driver for the platemaking industry. Gains can only be achieved by taking a holistic approach to the production process. Plate and sleeve production costs are a key factor to consider when choosing which technology is the most appropriate for your application.
Environmental issues are also important and these are often best addressed by using aqueous-based systems. However, solvent systems are still the most prevalent globally.
Plate life due to chemical attack is a key concern that has to be considered when developing new plate technology. UV ink systems are particularly aggressive and, as quality demands increase, these types of ink will become more common, so plates have to be designed to withstand the aggressive chemicals they contain.
Resilience characteristics are key factors for plate manufacturers to consider, so that printers are able to achieve higher printing speeds without compromise to the print quality. The number of press stops due to plate cleaning during the run can be a direct consequence of the type of plate chosen by the printer.
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