Workflow in the flexography industry
AV Flexologic operates in the flexography industry which is a method of printing used in the industry for packaging commercial goods especially. This article will describe the workflow of a flexographic printing process in order to clarify the purpose of AV Flexologic’s machines in the market. This purpose is best described when elaborating on the market’s initial goal, a description of the entire procedure and a listing of the different types of equipment.
A print is always made with the basic colors of the CMYK color model. The letters stand for the four inks that are used in combination to combine all colors for any print. The first is Cyan, which is a type of blue. Magenta looks a little a bright pink. Yellow speaks for itself and then Key is basically black.
In order to create the perfect color it is very important that the CMYK colors are applied perfectly. Precision up to 0,005 micron is achieved to make sure that the basic colors are aligned exactly to the point where a picture is created. This is the goal of the machines that operate in the flexography industry that uses ink to produce the perfect image.
As mentioned above, the flexography printing process is often used for creating packaging for consumable goods such as cosmetic materials, food, drinks or really anything that you find in a supermarket. This process ends with a printing press of epic proportions, but starts with one person’s idea for a graphic design of a bag of chips. After this aspect is ready, the technical process takes place in three steps: platemaking, mounting and printing. Before a design can actually be printed it will have to go through some preparation after which a printing press can actually work with it.
First step is platemaking. A plate can be created in many ways and for the purpose of this explanation one of them will be highlighted: water-washable plates. A plate is essentially a stamp for the actual design. To create one print, multiple plates are needed because of the different colored layers. The flexo plates are made from photopolymer and companies can either invest in equipment themselves, or have the plates delivered to them with the patterns already included. When handling a plate you can see and feel one of the layers of the final print in the material. A water-washable machine is able to create the cut out through a mixture of warm water and 1% dishwasher soap. After this process is complete there should be several plates, each representing a different layer of the CMYK ink that will all be used to layer the eventual image.
After the plate-making process, the mounting step follows. Mounting is the process of placing a plate on a cylinder or sleeve. The circular shape is needed in order for the plate to function continuously in a printing press. A cylinder looks exactly as it sounds, but a sleeve is hollow and placed over a cylinder. There are different types of sleeves and the choice depends on the needed
end result and the preference of the printer in question.
A sleeve is then covered with tape in order to attach the plate to it. The mounting process continues with placing the plate on a sleeve in a mounting machine and this is where AV Flexologic’s specialty is at. The plate-mounting equipment is capable of placing a plate on the exact right location. This is important because when the different plates for each layer of ink used differ in placement, the end result will be far from perfect. One solution here is to use one of the semi or fully automatic mounting machines, to avoid manual errors. An advantage is that the process is much faster, which optimizes operator efficiency and minimizes errors in placement, which eliminates press downtime.
This means that the printing press will not have to be shut down due to an error in the mounting department. The error will only be discovered after the actual print has been made at the end of
the process. Shutting down a printing press costs a company a lot of money. This is why a successful mounting job is extremely important.
The last step finally is the printing itself. The sleeve with the mounted plate is loaded into the printing press. The print is achieved with different rollers and ink that are applied to the height difference of the plate. In order to avoid smudges the printer is able to exactly measure and divide the amount of ink through a number of rollers and blades. After this step, the print is mirrored in between the plate and another cylinder which transfers the image. Then a dryer or UV rays cure the ink and the print is finalized.
At AV Flexologic a lot of equipment is manufactured for the flexography industry. The water-washable plate-making equipment which is able to wash out photopolymer plates has already been described in the beginning of this article. The plate mounting equipment represents the largest share of AV Flexologic’s innovation. The level of automation differentiates the machines from each other as well as the specific industry the print will be made for. There are three different industries that are divided foremost by the width of the print and therefore the machine necessary.
The narrow-web industry mainly creates labels for soda bottles for example. The equipment for this industry has the smallest width of all three because the end product does not need to be as big as in the next two categories. The wide-web industry is somewhat in between of the others and an example here is the packaging of a bag of chips. The corrugated industry requires the largest equipment and differs from the other two in both size and material. It revolves around paper and can be divided in the preprint and postprint equipment. An example of a product made in the flexography corrugated industry is the ink on moving boxes.
AV Flexologic creates machines for all the categories described and offers different levels of automation in all of them. The motorized machines are efficient and require manual operation throughout the process. The semi-automatic machines are able to take over from the operator halfway when positioning the plate over the sleeve to find the perfect location. The fully automatic mounting machines only requires an operator that places the plate on the conveyor bet, the positioning and mounting is done automatically by the machine.