In the quest for quality, until now the combination of smooth highlight printing and gravure-like solid ink densities for flexible packaging remained difficult. Esko, who significantly improved flexo platemaking with its HD Flexo technology, now provides a crucial answer by releasing Full HD Flexo for flexible packaging. First introduced at drupa 2012, Full HD Flexo today is a proven technology, implemented at more than twenty flexo tradeshops and converters worldwide - all of whom confirm the outstanding benefits of this technology.
"With Full HD Flexo, Esko once more raises the standard. Esko flexo customers are asking for the combination of the benefits of HD Flexo together with a gravure-like ink laydown and a fully digitally controlled platemaking workflow. This is what Full HD Flexo brings and it moves flexo to an unseen level of quality and consistency with no need for compromises. Our unique, patented technology stretches the possibilities of flexo printing, allowing it to perfectly match gravure and offset quality for flexible packaging," explains Jürgen Andresen, Esko Vice President, Flexo Business. "Since the introduction of HD Flexo, the high quality results achieved have created a growing demand for more packaging and labels to be printed in flexo. Also the proven sustainability and cost benefits contributed to the raising success of flexo printing. Now, Full HD Flexo will help to further accelerate this demand."
No need for compromises
HD Flexo quickly has set new standards thanks to the fine highlights, transitions to zero, sharp text and brilliant image details it produces. Full HD Flexo adds gravure-like solid ink laydown of the correct solid density, along with vibrant brand colors, supreme platemaking consistency and the only fully digitally controlled platemaking workflow available in industry.
The unique Full HD Flexo dot shape delivers a superior flexo plate suitable for the highlight, shadow and solid areas of a print job. "We went beyond the binary discussion of flat top or round top dots, and created the best possible combination of print dot structures on one plate. This enables to differentiate the ink laydown on the substrate for different parts of the artwork on one single plate. This is a giant step forward for flexible packaging converters as the result is high quality flexible packaging that stands out. In addition, users report better performance of the flexo plate on the press for print consistency and printing speeds," explains Jan Buchweitz, Senior Product Manager Digital Flexo at Esko.
Over 20 customers worldwide are running production using the new Full HD Flexo technology today. DFTA-Award winner Glatz Klischee (Austria), specialist in packaging prepress as well as plate production for flexo printing and plate assembly for corrugated board, is particularly positive about Full HD Flexo. "We've achieved a quantum leap forward in flexo printing," says Manfred Schrattenthaler, Managing Director at Glatz Klischee. "In the first printing tests using the new Full HD Flexo plates, we had the 'luxury problem' of solid densities over a density of 2.0," reports Holger Stier, Technology Manager at Glatz Klischee. "This was completely unexpected with the fine anilox rollers used. The tests proved that the option of combining flat top and round top dots technology on one printing form offers previously unheard opportunities in high-quality flexo printing."
Clicherlux, based in Valinhos near São Paulo (Brazil), is one of the largest tradeshops offering the most flexo plate services in Latin America. "I can say we have reached the quality of offset printing, with no gain, or bump-up curves. Full HD Flexo is really producing the full tonal range from highlights to shadows. An Esko CDI digital flexo imager along with Full HD Flexo is the best combination in the market," comments Luciano Trombeta, Gerente Técnico. "We're getting the flat top dots we wanted in the shadows, along with great screens in the highlights."
Fully digital platemaking workflow - the one and only
"Esko offers a plate imaging process that is truly, completely digital: one integrated workflow from prepress right to the finished flexo plate. A Full HD Flexo CDI in combination with our digital back exposure solution goes beyond the analog compromises platemaking departments must make today," states Buchweitz.
Unlike other processes that require intermediate analogue or manual exposure steps, this is the first and only fully digital platemaking workflow in the industry. Full HD plates are prepared completely within an Esko CDI imager and are immediately ready for processing after unloading.
How does Full HD Flexo work?
The CDI combines plate imaging with inline digital main exposure in one and the same device. The digital Inline UV2 exposes through an LED-array light source delivering the necessary UV power density to assure full control over the polymerization process during exposure. All UV exposure settings are digital controlled within the platemaking workflow. This guarantees platemaking consistency - long-term stable and repeatable quality well beyond what is achievable with conventional UV exposure frames.
Freedom to choose
Full HD Flexo works with all popular digital flexo plates and sleeves, giving users the freedom to choose whatever plate best fits their business needs. The technology can be achieved thanks to the quality of a broad range of commonly used digital flexo plates from different brands, including DuPont, Flint, MacDermid, Asahi and others. Esko continues to expand the portfolio of supported plates.
Full HD Flexo Certification
To support this new technology, Esko will initiate a Full HD Flexo certification program for customers, vendors and partners - similar to the one in place for HD Flexo. The Full HD Flexo Certified seal is only offered to those companies that have passed Esko's strenuous certification tests, a rigorous process that requires expert inspection of different print samples from five different customer production jobs that have been printed consistently. Full HD Flexo Certified companies are able to differentiate their solutions from their competition. The certification is a strong marketing asset, offering print buyers more confidence that its tradeshop and printer is among the best in its field, constantly innovating to offer the very best in flexo quality.
Understanding that Esko takes ownership for the end result of its Full HD Flexo solution, an Esko services program accompanies implementation of the entire solution from prepress to the printed results. Esko has the experience and the skills in house to successfully implement full HD Flexo within existing production environments.
Full HD Flexo for flexible packaging is available worldwide. Existing customers can upgrade their software, workflow and CDI equipment to Full HD Flexo. The Full HD Flexo application support for labels and corrugated printing will be available later this year.