Taking To the Next Level

Taking It to the Next Level

By: Chris Mc Loone
packagePRINTING // January 1, 2009Taking It to the Next Level

Flexographic printing quality has been approaching that of gravure for some time now. Although it has been attractive to printers due to its lower price point than gravure printing, one of flexo’s shortfalls has always been that its quality is not at the same level as gravure. Trisoft Graphics, Inc. (www.trisoftco.com)—a digital prepress and graphic design company serving the packaging industry since 1993—recently installed a new flexographic platemaking system it expects to use to produce flexographic printing plates that, when employed, will rival gravure’s quality.

Trisoft has more than 15 years experience specializing in flexography, prepress, and platemaking. According to Tristan Zafra, owner, the company designs for labels, folding cartons and flexible packaging industries for materials that include polypropylene, craft stock, and vinyl. The company is very hands-on in its approach to its customers, says Zafra. “We pride ourselves on innovation and always look at new -technologies,” he says. “We have a team of very experienced and knowledgeable people. We take a very hands-on approach to all of our customer needs.” For instance, to avoid communication mixups that might -hinder a customer’s project progress, the company connects customers directly to a graphic artist. The company’s staff works directly and closely with the customer during the entire project, every step of the way. Doing so helps the company remain true to its core operating philosophy,which, according to Zafra, is “to produce the best quality flexo plates and to offer the absolute best in customer service satisfaction.”

It is to this end that Trisoft recently added a KODAK FLEXCEL NX Digital Flexographic System.

Digital Flexographic Platemaking

The new system installed at Trisoft Graphics includes a KODAK TRENDSETTER NX Mid Imager and KODAK -FLEXCEL NX digital flexographic plates. The system joins the company’s existing KODAK THERMOFLEX narrow platesetter, and it plans to use both systems simultaneously.

According to Zafra, Trisoft has led the charge on the West Coast, employing technology innovations at its 6,000-sq.-ft. facility. In 2003, the company was the first service provider in the region to implement a THERMOFLEX platesetter. In 2004, it was the first service provider on the Coast to implement thermal processing for its plate processor. Zafra contends that with the installation of the FLEXCEL NX System, it is again leading the way on the West Coast.

“Our customers are more or less shocked by the initial results in quality. They are very enthusiastic since they can finally compete with gravure printing at flexographic prices.”

Key to Trisoft’s success with the new FLEXCEL NX system has been its repeatability across different presses and long runs. “We’ve been testing the plates produced by the FLEXCEL NX,” says Zafra. “During these blind tests, we processed very complex and demanding jobs, and the FLEXCEL NX digital flexographic plates repeatedly produced excellent results from a variety of presses and multiple customers.” He adds that the ability to use these plates on any press adds flexibility and productivity. “The quality improvements are enormous,” says Zafra. “Our customers are more or less shocked by the initial results in quality. They are very enthusiastic since they can finally compete with gravure printing at flexographic prices.”

“This system uses offset imaging technology, along with a revolutionary thermal imaging layer, to transfer the image from the digital file to the plate, and in doing so, produces a true representation of each pixel in the digital file,” says John Anderson, flexo plates product manager, Americas, Packaging Products, Kodak’s Graphic Communications Group (www.kodak.com). “This has allowed flexo printers to print with excellent repeatability and consistency at higher resolutions than traditional flexo, and achieve resolutions equal to that of offset or gravure class.” Another advantage to adding this system to its arsenal include increased resolution. “Before the FLEXCEL NX System, the available flexo plates out on the market could go as high as 220 lines per inch (lpi),” asserts Zafra. “With [these] plates we can actually print up to 300 lpi with conventional screening as small as 20 micron dots with staccato screening and print successfully.”

All of the plates Trisoft produces are made with a quality-control strip and a pass/fail mark to help ensure stability and repeatability on press and during prepress. Every plate is then measured and finally inspected for any flaws before the plates go out to its customers. Zafra says, “KODAK TRENDSETTER NX Platesetter is a very stable platform, and combined with the Kodak -FLEXCEL NX plates, our customers get one-to-one results from the one-bit tiff to the plates.” He adds that there is no dot sharpening and the system does not need a bump curve to hold the highlight dots.

“With the use of stable plate like the NX and our technique, it helps ensure stability and repeatability,” – Tristan Zafra, Trisoft CEO/President

Anderson adds, “By making the image transfer 1:1 from the digital file to the plate, with a full tonal range using all 256 grey levels, the FLEXCEL NX system simplifies the calibration of the plates while increasing their consistency. Producing plates with much higher consistency levels assists printers with known plate properties coming to press, and that increases on-press consistency and performance.” Taking it to the next level Trisoft Graphics has been at the forefront of flexographic platemaking innovation on the West Coast for several years. With this new addition, contends Zafra, Trisoft will be among the first to make flexo plates that rival the quality of offset and gravure printing. “When we switched to the digital plates in early 2000, it made us very successful. It revolutionized the quality of flexo printing comparable to offset print quality,” Zafra states. “Now, with the Kodak FLEXCEL NX system, it seems like what we experienced in early 2000 will be repeated all over again. This is the next level of flexo printing, and it can even rival the gravure print quality, which was unheard of in the past.” pP

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