ROCHESTER, N.Y., – Italian prepress service provider Flexograf is helping flexo printers compete with gravure and litho after investing in the KODAK FLEXCEL NX Flexographic System. The company began using the KODAK THERMOFLEX Platesetter to make digital flexo plates six years ago, and in September 2010 they upgraded to the latest technology, the FLEXCEL NX System, which has enabled their customers to enhance production and significantly improve print quality.
Headquartered in Sesto Fiorentino, Flexograf employs 20 people and has been involved in flexographic prepress since 1966. Much of the company's success can be attributed to its commitment to innovation and modernization, an ethos that has ensured it has remained competitive.
"Using the FLEXCEL NX System process for plate production has enabled us to make big strides forward in terms of efficiency and exceptional plate quality," explains Alberto Bramanti, Flexograf's CEO. "Once the graphic design is finalized, Kodak's technology ensures excellent repeatability and predictability of the printed result on any media."
Job-to-job print consistency
A crucial aspect of the FLEXCEL NX System is the lamination step, where direct contact between the imaging layer and the plate prevents contact with the air and protects against oxidation. The result is stable, full-amplitude, flat-top dots on the plate.
Alberto Bramanti believes the technology is a big step forward: "We chose the system to help differentiate ourselves from the competition and provide our customers with something truly novel."
"Jobs can be repeated with consistent print quality, from one print run to the next. The flat-top dots are more durable in printing and during cleaning.
Bramanti has also been impressed by the imaging system with KODAK SQUARESPOT Imaging Technology: "The system ensures dot uniformity and tonal stability of the screens, giving us high line screens. Our print customers particularly appreciate the reliability and consistency of the FLEXCEL NX Plates' quality, even on very long print runs."
FLEXCEL NX Plates offer a wider tone range than conventional digital plates, with higher density and brighter lights, and no shifts in tone. And the ability to have high-density prints while preserving subtle gradations allows a wider color gamut and simplifies prepress processing.
"In the past, we used to evaluate using special colors to support four-color printing-reds, greens, blues, or splitting black plates into line and tone work or using two white plates to reach the desired coverage," says Bramanti "In addition to the processing time, this required adding variables to the system, which certainly didn't help the repeatability and predictability of the final result.
"Today, everything is much simpler. And when we come across a special color, we tend to ask if we can print it in the basic four colors. Our customers immediately noticed the impact of printing with fewer plates while at the same time increasing the quality of the finished product."
The excellent quality guaranteed by the FLEXCEL NX System meant that Flexograf could compete on applications traditionally dominated by gravure printing, such as those in the food sector. Bramanti continues: "We're beginning to get the message across to flexo printers that things have changed-with this technology they no longer have to accept poor print quality and can set the bar higher than they thought possible."
Producing top-quality flexible packaging
Imball Center is one of Flexograf's long-standing customers. The print service provider, which specializes in producing flexible packaging for the global food and medical markets, is already enjoying the benefits of Kodak's technology.
Handling mostly flexographic printing, with two plants for eight-color flexo printing, Imball Center is renowned for its high quality standards and its use of cutting-edge technologies. The company's philosophy is to increase efficiency and reduce waste, not only to minimize costs, but also to limit the company's environmental impact. Using FLEXCEL NX Plates fits perfectly with this philosophy, as they enable rapid start-ups, reduced waste and less rework thanks to a longer life. And being able to use the four basic colors to print jobs that previously required seven or eight colors means significant cost savings.
Gianluca Dattili, Imball Center's Technical Manager, is pleased with the results obtained with the KODAK Plates: "The plates produced by Flexograf using the FLEXCEL NX System have helped us increase quality when printing thermal envelopes and films for food packaging. For example, we have printed images with screens up to 70 lines/cm (175 lpi), using only the four basic colors, plus white.
"Our customers are beginning to realize that flexo quality is fast approaching gravure printing, and can see that they're now able to reduce the number of print colors while at the same time increasing image quality. The benefits for customers are clear-we're helping them to reduce their start-up costs, save time and improve the quality of reprints."
Promising growth prospects
Flexograf and Imball Center are optimistic about the future of flexography. Bramanti adds: "Our investment in the FLEXCEL NX System is paying off and has a key role to play in our future growth. Kodak's technology will help flexo lose its reputation as a poor man's printing technology, and could even make inroads into the gravure printing market."
Growth of flexographic printing is assured for Flexograf, proof being the fact that they have ordered the Wide version of the FLEXCEL NX System, which gives a maximum plate size of 1,067 x 1,524 mm (42 x 60 inches).
Dattili concludes: "There is still plenty of room for development, because Kodak's technology is suitable for all kinds of applications. In the food industry especially, many people use gravure because they lack confidence in flexo. But with the advances Kodak has made, it's clear that flexo is catching up fast. Its flexibility, quality and the ability to handle smaller quantities make it a viable alternative to gravure printing."
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