Commentary & Analysis
ESKO: Driving Change in Flexo
At a pre-drupa briefing last month, duomedia hosted a large crowd of press and analysts from around the world to hear from eight different companies about their drupa plans and general strategies. This article includes links to other WhatTheyThink reporting on these announcements as well as a focus on the announcements made by the Danaher family of companies including Esko, Enfocus, X-Rite and Pantone. This included a flexo platemaking breakthrough announced by Esko that is set to create a shift in that market.
By Cary Sherburne
Published: April 13, 2016
Last month, I had the opportunity to attend the pre-drupa press briefing hosted by duomedia in Belgium. It included on-site visits to Xeikon and Agfa, as well as briefings from Asahi Photoproducts, CHILI publish, CERM, and the Danaher family of companies serving print and packaging – Esko (including MediaBeacon), Enfocus, X-Rite and Pantone.
It was interesting to see the interaction among many of the companies that participated in this briefing as well. For example, as WhatTheyThink contributor David Zwang pointed out, “I was very impressed with the level of integration CERM has introduced into its label-oriented MIS solution. By seamlessly implementing a two-way integration with Esko, CHILI publisher and Xeikon, CERM has added a significant amount of workflow automation for these companies’ mutual customers.”
CHILI publish announced a new PDF viewing and approval solution, CHILI rendro, including an integration with Enfocus Switch (Switch PDF Review Module) and the Enfocus PDF quality control and workflow solutions. CHILI publish also announced a new version of CHILI publisher (5.0) which will be on display at drupa.
Trillium ONE on Tap for drupa
At Xeikon, we were able to see the impressive Xeikon Trillium ONE liquid toner production press in action, and Zwang published a full report. Visitors to drupa are going to want to take a look. Visitors should also take the time to stop by Agfa’s stand, where a full range of new and existing solutions will be on display, as well as Asahi Photoproducts, who will be showcasing its flexo plate technologies, including its AWP plates that use its Pinning Technology for Clean Transfer, as well as some new plates it will be adding to the mix. More information can be found in the duomedia newsroom about all of these announcements.
It was also interesting to see more collaboration occurring among the Danaher companies. A key message from their session was the end-to-end offering the combined companies offer for print and packaging, including hardware, software and services. It’s really quite an impressive portfolio when you look at all of the offerings together. And it says a great deal that they will all be together in the same drupa stand in Hall 8a. The 900-square-meter stand will consist of six Inspiration Zones, with each zone featuring solutions and key innovations from the various companies. Pantone will occupy a dedicated zone to display and sell its Pantone Guides and other tools for inspiration and design, so a chance to get your copy of the new Extended Color Gamut Guide.
Reinventing Flexo Platemaking
Since these combined companies had so many announcements, that’s what the rest of this article will focus on, starting with a next-generation Esko CDI platemaker, the CDI Crystal 5080 XPS. WhatTheyThink Section Editor Pat Henry wrote about this very interesting announcement in detail. As he points out, run lengths are getting shorter as are cycle times in the world of flexo, a challenge our offset printing friends have been dealing with for some time. Just as offset did with CTP, flexo must rethink the platemaking process in order to stay competitive. The new Esko CDI platemaker does that by combining plate imaging and exposure into a single operation with simultaneous controlled UV main and UV back exposure using UV LEDs. Esko says this will reduce the number of manual handling steps by 50% compared to existing technologies, and reduce the time needed to produce a press-ready plate by almost 70%, a huge shift.
Perhaps one of the biggest outcomes of this new technology introduction will be the ability for flexo houses to more easily bring platemaking in-house. As happened in the world of offset, service bureaus (repro houses) whose primary business is making plates for flexo printing houses are likely to see business migrate away from them as more customers take advantage of the new process simplicity to bring platemaking in house, thus not only speeding up the platemaking process itself, but taking significant time out of the overall workflow with everything under one roof. This is especially important if a plate is damaged or otherwise needs to be replaced during a press run, eliminating the need to send to an off-site supplier for new plates.
What is likely to speed up this migration even more is Esko’s new Automation Engine Device Manager, that gives shops a view of all connected devices, making it easier and more efficient for them to monitor job status and control and drive flexo platemaking operations, including the ability to reorder the queues to accommodate rush jobs.
The Esko Automation Engine Device Manager is a module of Esko’s latest suite of software for print and packaging, now called the Esko Software Platform. With this release, the company has taken steps to integrate its platform even more, including the addition of an enhanced user experience across the platform and the availability of many of the modules in a Software as a Service (SaaS) model. The details can be found in the company’s press release here. The Esko Software Platform addresses most, if not all, of the packaging workflow, from design through production.
Restructured Kongsberg Product Portfolio
And in the spirit of streamlining and simplification, Esko has also streamlined its line of Kongsberg cutting tables. Over the years, that portfolio grew to several different families of tables, which likely caused a bit of confusion for customers trying to decide which one fit their needs best. Now there are only two families, Kongsberg X and Kongsberg C, each available in a variety of sizes and configurations. These devices are also accessible through the Automation Engine Device Manager. And Esko is also making available a new estimating tool for accurate quotes and production planning. Companies that are producing a higher volume of a limited variety of applications will be best served with the more functional Kongsberg X family, while shops that are creating a variety of different short-run applications will most likely choose from the Kongsberg C family. The tables will also feature a new Auto Tool Adjust that uses camera inspection and digital image processing to adjust the tool in the machine at the start of each job. When a new job requires a different tool, Auto Tool Adjust automates setting up that tool for the selected substrate. This makes job changeover easier and faster.
X-Rite Pantone presented the PantoneLIVE Private Cloud, a secure, cloud-based repository that allows packaging converters and commercial printers to easily store and share existing proprietary color libraries across the color supply chain. The new offering is part of the PantoneLIVE ecosystem designed to digitally communicate color, accurately between brand owners, designers, premedia, ink suppliers and printers. By digitally communicating color instead of relying solely on visual evaluation and physical references, user have access to the most current color information and everyone in the supply chain is using the same digital reference.
And speaking of color references, Pantone added 122 new colors to its Graphics Products, bringing the total number of colors to 1,867.
There’s an App for That
In addition to its integration with CHILI rendro, Enfocus announced an Appstore designed to connect, support and advance the Enfocus Switch community. As of this writing, less than a month after its launch, there are already 22 apps in the store from a variety of Switch partners, including Metrix, GMG, WeTransfer and ProofHQ. Switch is primarily used to create workflows that automate repetitive tasks and to integrate a variety of applications. This is definitely something drupa visitors will want to take a look at.
Are You Headed to drupa next month?
We hope we’ll see you in Düsseldorf for what promises to be one of the best drupa’s ever. And I encourage you to take the time to visit these outstanding companies while you are there. If you are not going, you can follow the action leading up to and during the show here.