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Kodak spot-on for flexo

Emma Schlotthauer is head of global marketing for flexo plate products at Kodak. David Longfield spoke to her at the Packaging Innovations show in October, as the company launched new software targeting the flexo sector

At the end of September this year, Kodak announced the introduction of its new Spotless Flexographic Solution – a software package designed to work in conjunction with the Kodak Flexcel NX plate system.

The new system aims to increase production efficiency for flexographic trade service providers and printers by accurately predicting spot colours on press, and reducing press downtime.

The increased colour gamut of the Flexcel NX plates enables greater replication of spot colours with 4-colour process printing, at the same time maintaining impactful product package appearance, yet cutting costs through the reduced use of spot colours.

Speaking at the Easyfairs Packaging Innovations show, at the London Business Design Centre in early October, Emma Schlotthauer said that the drive for greater shelf impact can lead to more complexity in production, potential higher waste levels and a demand for ever larger presses. “In the packaging decoration/print area, there is an ever greater need for impact on the shelf,” she said. “But there is always a priority on greater efficiency.

“Customers are asking for great looking print, faster – and by the way, can it be sustainable as well. It’s got to look good, and look good all the time. “If you can reduce the amount of waste,be it substrate or ink, that can make a significant contribution to increasing sustainability.”

It has become essential, Schlotthauer said, for flexo printers to deliver profitable short runs, while at the same time ensuring a predictable process.

“Flexo can suffer from some variability,” she said. “This has tended to drive an increase in the use of spot colours, which leads to increased set-up time and waste, and maybe limits your flexibility.

“The goal for us is to turn flexo into a total manufacturing process. Flexo has always been a bit of an art, very reliant on the abilities of the person doing it. So we want to bring flexo up to the standard of everything else.”

According to the company, Kodak Spotless is designed to be user-friendly, intuitive and includes specific features for recipe generation that accommodate the unique minimum dot characteristics of flexo printing.

“Users enjoy the production benefits of replacing more spot colours with four-colour process printing than previously possible with flexography.

“The flexo plate technology is what enables us to look at eliminating some spot colours from the process. From an efficiency/cost viewpoint, we would rather have fewer spot colours.

“What Kodak has provided is the plate technology that opens the door, to enable customers to create their spot colours. Here, there may be a compromise to be made with a client’s customers, but [the time saving] may allow a printer to add another process in the same run, such as foil or varnish, that could not previously be achieved.”

Kodak, she added, are “pioneers of the new wave of platemaking technology”, having in 2008 introduced the Flexcel NX plate system, which produces plates that use a flat-top dot structure with a minimum dot size as small as 10 micron, providing consistent photographic quality at 175lpi on flexible substrates with 100% dependable repeatability on press.

It allows plates to run faster and last two to five times longer on press than traditional digital flexo plates; and achieves levels of print quality that would “normally be expected from gravure, offset or digital printing”. Its enhanced stability and consistency on the press, and wider colour gamut are: “Essential features for spot colour reduction”.

This is where the new Spotless software comes in, said Schlotthauer: “You need software to predict the requirements.” Reproflex3 – the UK-based packaging prepress company – invested in Flexcel NX in April 2010, and was the UK beta test site for the Spotless technology. Joint managing director Andrew Hamilton described the new software as a “game changer”.

“Flexographic print will never be the same,” he said, reporting a 20% greater colour density.

Joining the conversation, Kodak packaging segment manager graphic communications group EMEA David Croft said: “It’s removing cost, but adding value, too. You’ve got to give the brand owner/printer something different to offer. Brand owners are now looking for more for the same money.”

“You can only take so much cost out of a process before really affecting the whole look of a product,” added Schlotthauer. “If you get an efficient process, and add value at the same time, it’s a win-win for everybody.”

Emma Schlotthauer Emma Schlotthauer

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