When it comes to quality of flexographic printing and efficiency of a print run, one of the least considered but most important factors is plate-mounting tape, sometimes referred to as stickyback.
Double-sided plate mounting tape was first introduced in the 1970s. Since then, the variety of tapes and their complexity have grown significantly as flexographic printing has evolved. Increasingly complex plate technology and added demands from the flexo printing process, such as higher printing speeds, faster changeovers, and emphasis on cost reduction, have resulted in even more mounting tape offerings.
Plate mounting tapes consist of a compressible foam layer laminated to a film material to stabilize the construction, with adhesive on both sides and a release liner on one side.
One of the most underestimated factors in flexographic printing is the interplay between the flexographic printing plate and the adhesive tape. The tape’s adhesive must hold the plate firmly in place during the printing process, yet allow for easy removal after the job is printed. If the adhesive is too aggressive it will leave unwanted residue on the plate or cylinder requiring added clean-up time. If the adhesive is less than sufficient, plate edge lifting or bubbling may result in affecting printing performance.
As presses run at higher speeds, any interruption (job changeovers and downtime of presses) results in higher costs. Quick changeovers are also becoming more and more important due to the rising amount of short-runs, so plate-mounting tape must allow for fast and easy removal of plates and their adhesive.
In addition to printing efficiency, plate-mounting tape is a key determinant of overall print quality. The adhesive foam tape supports the printing plate to facilitate accurate transfer of the plate image to the substrate.
Plate mounting tapes are available in varying compressibility levels that result in different print results. The plate mounting tape cushions vibrations and mitigates print defects that result from vibration in print cylinders. Flexo printers must have a clear understanding that the hardness of the adhesive tape has a significant influence on dot gain and solid densities.
As flexo print quality continues to improve and compete with rotogravure, added demands are being placed on plate-mounting tapes. 3M offers the broadest range of foam densities, adhesives and tape thickness for more choices to provide high print quality as you increase speed and productivity in your print operation. These tapes maximize print quality with quick adhesion, bubble-free mounting, easy removal, and foam density options for halftone, process, and solids printing.
3M mounting tapes have unique features like their Easy Mount liner with micro channels that eliminate air bubbles that can cause print defects. Easy Mount virtually eliminates edge lifting while making tape application and removal easier without plate damage.
Plate-mounting tapes from 3M have been instrumental in meeting the ever-increasing demands of flexo printing, including more complex printing jobs, uncompromising quality requirements, and tighter time frames. Choosing the correct plate mounting tape can be a pivotal point for greater efficiency and quality.