Workflow 4.0: The Solution to common industry trends in flexo
The flexographic industry is the fastest-growing printing method nowadays with a projected 2.3% annual growth through 2023 (Smithers).
As the flexo industry is evolving, we can identify 3 trends that shape the future of printing and packaging.
1. HIGHER QUALITY DEMANDS
The need for higher quality printing is increasing, thus accuracy is a key in achieving consistent fine printing and packaging. For that reason, the new trend in flexo is the use of expanded gamut (EG) print which minimizes plate and ink changeovers and reduces waste.
2. SHORTER AND MORE FREQUENT JOB RUNS
Printing jobs are becoming shorter and more frequent and as a result the related costs are increasing enormously while printers need to adapt in such a dynamic environment facing capacity issues and lack of human resources.
3. DIGITAL vs. FLEXO
Even though the new printing presses are using methods to minimize changeover times, the pre-press costs are still increasing as the lead times are dropping (Smithers). Flexo printers need to stay competitive against the digital ones that have less starting costs and waste.
Using cutting-edge technology, we created Workflow 4.0 which guarantees the best efficiency in the pre-press department enabling consistent, fast and high-quality printing. AV Flexologic produces the equipment needed during every step of the process.
1. RETRIEVE THE SLEEVES FROM THE SLEEVE STORAGE SYSTEM
The workflow starts with retrieving the Tech Sleeves from an automatic vertical Sleeve Storage System, which provides the optimal storage and protection for sleeves. All transport during the process is done easily and safely with a Tech Cart®.
Tech Sleeves are specially made for high pressure and with unique options that ensure the longevity of the sleeves, such as rubber edges, full inner metal ring, conductive sleeves, metal cutting line. With Tech Sleeves the pre-press are reduced significantly since there is no need to buy new sleeves because of damage and mishandling.
2. APPLY TAPE ONTO THE SLEEVES
The sleeves are transferred to the Tape Applicator/Demounter (TAD) for a safe, fast and consistent tape application. The precise depth adjustment of the cutting knife unit protects the sleeve from getting cut. The TAD can be used also as a Demounter for removing the plates from the sleeve/cylinder with the Teflon knife unit.
3. AUTOMATIC FLEXO PLATE MOUNTING
Following, the flexo plate mounting can be done without operator interaction and unmatched accuracy (5 microns), repeatability and speed with the automatic mounter SAMM 2.0 or the fully automatic mounter FAMM 2.0. In addition, the mounting process can be very time-consuming because of the registration of the mounting marks and the plate positioning. This is a crucial step before printing as the accuracy of the mounting will define the final print quality. Automatic mounting saves valuable time and costs by eliminating mounting mistakes and using the operator’s time in other preparatory tasks such as demounting other sleeves, applying tape, etc.
4. FLEXO PRINTING
The previous steps ensure that the well-maintained printing sleeves are mounted accurately and no press-downtime will be caused because of mismounted sleeves.
As explained before, the increasing quality demands in combination with the need for quick changeovers lead to a growing Expanded Gamut (EG) with more colors (8/10) comparing to the conventional 4-color jobs. The leading flexo printing presses like W&H, Uteco, Bobst provide solutions for speeding up the set-up process and decrease the starting costs. AV Flexologic provides also solutions like the EasyReg mark as an option to the MOM, SAMM and FAMM machines, which homes the sleeves in the zero position and it is ready to be used in the printing press. With these settings, the set-up is reduced significantly. By taking advantage of the Automatic Mounting, the pre-press workflow can be optimized with only one Automatic Mounter which can be used with the appropriate sleeve Adapters for multiple printing presses. That way, all printing presses are able to work 24/7 with a guaranteed mounting accuracy of 5 microns
5. DEMOUNT THE PRINTING SLEEVES
After the expected high-quality printing is achieved, the tape and plates can be demounted on a TAD or Demounter efficiently while taking maximum care to prevent damaging of the plates. Unnecessary costs from buying new plates can be eliminated by effectively removing them from the sleeve. The Demounter is equipped with a second pressure roller and optional cones for facilitating a tape application
6. CHECK THE QUALITY OF THE PRINTING SLEEVES
A complete 3D landscape of printing sleeves can be measured in the TIR measurement system that helps building up a record with exact sleeve conditions of each sleeve in stock and predict the necessary pressure for each sleeve needed in the press to get a good print quality and reduce the need to adjust the pressure of a sleeve during set up of the press. That way out-of-spec sleeves are not used in the press and press downtime is prevented. Optionally, the reports of the sleeves can be stored in a database with all the information of the sleeve such as print job, repeat size, length, etc.
7. STORE THE SLEEVES FOR LATER USE
The entire workflow ends by safely storing the sleeves back to the customized Sleeve Storage System, and the process can be followed all over again. The Sleeve Storage System is the solution for common problems such as sleeve swelling, distortion, and damaged edges. By storing the sleeves vertically the swelling is prevented and you save space. It is customizable to your needs and space limitations.
* The flexo printing sleeves are transferred throughout the whole process using the Tech Cart. With the Tech Cart transporting printing sleeves, anilox sleeves and/or bridges don’t require any extra physical effort. The sleeves are loaded and unloaded easily because of its horizontal structure.
Would you like to learn more about how to optimize your workflow? Contact us for consultation.