Jessica Harkins: Packaging Priorites/State of the Industry Featured in FTA Flexo Magazine’s January Issue
Jessica Harkins – Technologies Manager
Anderson & Vreeland
December 28, 2012
Packaging Priorities/State of the Industry – FTA Flexo Magazine – January 2013
In 2013, a wide array of people will make up the flexographic industry. Everyone from business owners, design partners, creative brains, old-school fundamentalists, young techs, and everyone in between will work together to make our specialized industry strong. The products we produce are as diverse as our people, and each market segment meets different challenges on a daily basis. Many of these challenges relate to predictability throughout the process, matching color from proof to press, and determining when it’s time to replace antiquated equipment.
One product that has had an impact on all areas of the flexo industry is inkjet printing.
Watch for the growth of inkjet in the following four categories:
Proofing and Color Management: Inkjet – as we know – has made huge leaps and bounds in the proofing and color management arenas – becoming the most popular, consistent, and predictable way to generate color-managed and imposition proofs. Watch for more companies to add affordable inkjet solution to their portfolio. Inkjet manufacturers have also added silver & white inks in some devices, so proofs can be made with full color range and special inks.
Film Negatives & Positives: Inkjet has also been able to help those segments of our market that rely heavily on film solutions. The liquid corrugated platemaking, metal engraving, and screen-printing markets have adopted inkjet film to replace their costly imagesetter film. Making inkjet films allow those companies to remove the large equipment and chemicals associated with conventional film, and repurpose dark rooms as more usable workspaces.
High Speed Digital Printing: Currently available for small format digital printing, and soon to be available for wide format, a new head and engine technology has come to market containing a stationary inkjet head. Because the head of the unit does not move, these units allow for incredible output speed – 12 inches per second! These units also provide all the best features of digital print including variable data and roll-to-roll operation.
Digital Platemaking: Standard digital platemaking requires an ablation laser and plate material that comes complete with a mask applied to the surface of the plate material. A new approach, brought to North America this year, is the ability to inkjet a negative directly onto the surface of an analog plate material. The plate material is first laminated with a primer sheet – when specialty ink hits the primed plate material, the ink freezes into a solid and produces a negative on the surface of the plate.
Other noteworthy technologies to watch in 2013:
Direct UV lasers: Secure an image onto an analog plate directly with a UV curing laser. No ablation, no digital mask – just instant cure from a direct UV laser source. Today’s available UV expose materials include dry offset, metal decorating, and other specialty markets. Watch for available flexo materials in the near future.
Prototyping: More and more consumer product companies are looking for ways to generate pre-market prototypes of their products for design review, display, and marketing campaigns. Some prototypes are completed as virtual designs – specialty software allows the user to build from a wireframe, place graphics, and then display the prototype in a virtual store or home with lighting and shading effects. For the tangible need, devices are now available that can simulate embossing, cutting, and gloss, as well as provide UV ink laydown on nearly any substrate, including shrink films.
Pressroom Toys: The spectrophotometers of the future are here, and they look like iPods! With touchscreen panels, easy to set parameters, and Bluetooth syncing, the press operator may find just a bit more joy in process control.