EskoArtwork (www.esko.com), has revolutionized the flexographic printing industry with the introduction of HD Flexo two years ago. HD Flexo has brought to flexographic printing a quality level that could previously only be achieved with offset or rotogravure printing processes. HD Flexo today has evolved to be the new standard in flexography, functions with most digital flexo plates and is suited for applications including labels, flexible packaging and corrugated.
"Prior to HD Flexo, selling flexo shrink sleeves against rotogravure was a harder sell-the quality didn't quite match on the more intricate designs," says Sean Keeney, President & CEO of Walle Corporation, the first company in North America to install this technology. "So gravure was the preferred print method for customers, unless the upfront cylinder costs made it prohibitive or the sleeve design was more forgiving. We now have the best possible solution for shrink sleeve production, offering customers high-fidelity printing using HD Flexo technology to provide full coverage, 360-degree imaging, and premier graphics at a lower cost, faster and with increased flexibility."
HD Flexo: the new standard
HD Flexo combines 4000 dpi HD optics with unique screening technologies to take advantage of sharper and more accurate imaging. The result is outstanding print quality with a straightforward plate production process, with the high-resolution optics delivering more accurate, sharper imaging of text and line art, sharper images, smoother tints and a greater color gamut.
The aim of HD Flexo is to increase flexo printing quality and be a viable alternative to offset and gravure printing. In the past, gravure achieved smoother images, a wider tonal range and a higher color density when compared with flexo. With HD Flexo, the screen rulings in flexo can be increased, while at the same time reducing the size of the smallest printable dot.
Users of HD Flexo have also confirmed that they are able to reproduce the full tonal range of offset. In addition, they attest that it is possible to achieve greater run lengths and fewer washing cycles. With HD Flexo, the tonal range is greatly expanded, gradations are printed more cleanly, and the contrast is greater in the entire tonal range. Customers confirm that HD Flexo has improved the quality and consistency of their existing printing press equipment.
HD Flexo improves shadow performance
A key market driver behind the development was the demand from printers and converters to improve the shadow performance of their prints. The Microcell screening technology which is an integral part of HD Flexo improves ink transfer and performance of the plate in shadow and solid areas.
"It is not only about the dots," says Juergen Andresen, EskoArtwork Vice President, Flexo Business. "Printing is about the whole tonal range and over the past two years there has been a lot of interest in getting high performance in shadow areas where there's high color saturation, especially when using solvent based inks. Another benefit is that improving the performance of flexo in shadow and solid tones enables fewer printing plates to be used."
HD Flexo Certification program
Today, EskoArtwork has more than 382 installations of HD Flexo worldwide. EskoArtwork has established a stringent certification process to qualify excellent flexo print quality achieved with its technology. This has resulted in over 60 HD Flexo Certified customers, 33 HD Flexo Certified partners and four HD Flexo Certified vendors so far. Certified customers, printing partners and vendors get official certificate and can carry that quality stamp for their own promotion for the duration of 1 year after which they need to re-qualify.
More Choices for Brand Manager, Production House
"The impact on the label and packaging industry of HD Flexo cannot be underestimated," says Juergen Andresen. "Brand managers now have the option of producing shorter runs of packaging and labels more affordably, and in a more environmentally friendly manner, without any compromise in quality, giving them more freedom in terms of production technology. Our open systems approach enables a shift to this technology without the need for new hardware or limitations in sizes and productivity."
Quality Customer Support
To ensure trouble-free implementation, especially as HD Flexo adoption has grown rapidly, EskoArtwork has established a support network of HD Flexo experts worldwide to help with implementation of the technology.
At Labelexpo, EskoArtwork has built a gallery of real-life production examples chosen from warehouses around the world. These samples of labels, flexible packaging and shrink sleeves offer both brand managers and producers excellent ideas about what is possible with the state of the technology today.