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Flexo 2003, last month, attracted 2,656 visitors from 48 countries. A total of 160 suppliers displayed the latest in flexo technology, materials and services from 15 countries

A combination flexo/UV flexo/gravure press was announced by BHS. The Flexline Vario offers all three processes configured for either flexible packaging or carton printing, operating reel to reel, reel to sheet, or from cut blanks. The press features include infinitely variable print repeats, digital drive controls, direct cylinder drives, and automatic sleeve changing for print cylinders and anilox rolls. It is available with up to 10 print units, for web widths ranging from 680-1,620mm, and is capable of speeds up to 500m/min. Drying is by hot air or UV lamps after each print unit.

Among recent innovations from the Bobst Group was the availability of a Foilmaster module for in-line application of decorative foils and/or holograms on the Lemanic range of carton presses.

Creo introduced a sleeve imaging capability on its ‘next generation’ ThermoFlex imaging device to provide flexibility for trade shops and converters who need to run both digital plates and sleeves. An on-imager load/unload system is designed to minimize potential damage to the sleeve’s digital mask and cut the time required for changing from one sleeve to the next. It will accommodate sleeves with repeats up to 1,050mm and lengths to 1,829mm in both continuous (seamless) digital photopolymer sleeve and digital plate-on-sleeve formats.

FlexoFix, an automated retouching software system launched by Esko-Graphics, is designed to enhance images for flexo printing. “What we have done is to allow a process which could take a skilled retoucher three to four hours to be achieved in a few minutes and perhaps around 30 minutes’ tweaking by the retoucher,” said Jürgen Andresen, marketing director hardware products. “With perfect control over the flexo plate making and printing process, results may be acceptable, but without a specific treatment for flexo, the effects on images can include darker highlights, loss of saturation and highlight tonal jumps. FlexoFix adds an image filter to the workflow that automatically addresses these issues, resulting in a printed image closer to the offset target.” The software applies various modifications on different parts of the image in a smooth and natural looking way. Alpha testing is being carried out in various sites, including York Reprographic.

“The most powerful long range static eliminator available” featured in Euroto’s exhibit. The Ionstorm, from Fraser Anti Static, is said to be effective at distances up to two metres without air assistance. Also on this stand, Kelva highlighted its claim to be the only supplier of both contact and non contact web cleaning systems. The company has now added a contact cleaner for the label market to its range.

Advance information on the new Labelmax narrow web print inspection system came from Futec. Suitable for widths up to 450mm, it will feature linescan technology, a very compact design, and the ability to cope with shiny surfaces – at speeds up to 150m/min.

Polywest revealed its Trend S and AS electrostatically conductive flexo print sleeves, developed to comply with the forthcoming European Explosion Protection Directive 94/9/EG. Due to come into force on June 30, 2003, this directive sets basic safety requirements for machines and protective systems for use in potentially hazardous atmospheres.

TecScan is now offering Italian manufacturer Selectra’s range of register controls to complement its own web inspection systems.

Previewed in the UK by tesa was a group of double-sided foam tapes designed for mounting photopolymer plates onto hard polyurethane sleeves. Said Richard Eeles, trade marketing manager fastening: “Softprint Sleeve Master features a customized adhesive solution for PU sleeves and we have worked with the sleeve manufacturers in its development.” Sleeves produced in PU demand particular characteristics of the adhesive – good initial tack and ease of repositioning, as well as a secure bond once the printing plate is in place. And easy de-mounting after use without residue or damage to the plate is essential.”

3M debuted in Europe its Cushion-Mount Plus E1020 mounting tape that uses patented technology to produce a micro structured liner claimed to prevent air entrapment. It can dramatically improve the consistency of print quality, adds the company. 3M also offered what is claimed to be the world’s first mounting tape with microreplicated liner, aimed at the labelling market. E1015 medium density tape will be stocked in 10, 12 and 18in widths, suitable for narrow web presses. And mid-year watch out for another exciting development that was shown to some converters in an inner sanctum on the company’s stand!