Cutting complexities in the flexo printing process allows printers to focus on what really matters, meeting shifting brand demands and boosting productivity
To stay competitive, producers of printed packaging are constantly challenged to ensure they can differentiate their product offerings. The exacting demands of brands are ever changing, and must be met while boosting capacity and maximizing profitability.
The many elements and processes involved in flexographic printing make it highly technical, and the lack of standardization can drive complexity. Removing some of the unnecessary day-to-day complexities in the production process gives printers room to focus on differentiation, increase capacity and improve profitability.
“Taking the complexity from standard daily operations allows printers to focus on what they really need to – being different, delivering value to clients, and growing their business.”
“By simplifying complex tasks, printers can reclaim time,” explains Emma Weston, Chief Marketing Officer at Miraclon. “And time is what makes money. If talented teams are wasting their time troubleshooting and looking for workarounds, it reduces profitability. Taking the complexity from standard daily operations allows printers to focus on what they really need to – being different, delivering value to clients, and growing their business.”
Thanks to major advancements over the past 15-plus years, flexographers have become adept at meeting the exacting graphic reproduction demands made by brands.
But those demands don’t stand still; they change over time and the need for compelling shelf impact doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Output from the press needs to be at the same, high standard – on repeat. That means that a core component of the printing process – the printing plate – needs to be highly predictable. Any plate remakes due to errors, imager guesswork and time-consuming troubleshooting have a negative compound effect.
The same is true in reverse. Consistent quality in output, and efficiency in platemaking and press set-up through more predictable, simplified processes compound to create more cost-effective print. And with growing sustainability demands, driven by brand requirements and changing regulation, printed packaging also needs to generate less waste while supporting sustainable inks and substrates.
Predictable, consistent plate performance is key to meeting all of these challenges.
“If you know how the plate is going to perform every single time you put it on press and can anticipate exactly how to set your press up, you’ll know how much uptime you’re going to have and how fast you can run your press,” says Weston.
“That’s going to drive efficiencies. And if you don’t have to stop the press to correct, to clean, or to compensate, that drives efficiencies further. It also reduces waste, so everything you do to simplify your process also contributes to your sustainability efforts.”
Start with simplified platemaking
Simplifying these process challenges starts with the plate. The plate affects the entire flexo process and by bringing together substrates, inks and anilox rollers, the plate technology has the power to define press capability and results.
The KODAK FLEXCEL NX Solution, for example, is a fully integrated technology solution, made up of a plate, imaging system, software that enhances print performance, and focused technical support, all of which work together to simplify the flexo process.
It delivers maximum control throughout flexo print production, eliminating the complexities outlined here. It was designed and engineered specifically to overcome limitations and challenges traditionally associated with flexo through a highly controlled process. This seeds predictability at the very start of the platemaking journey, and the benefits fan out from there.
“From Italy to Chile, flexographers have seen how platemaking technology can simplify their whole process.”
“The flexo process can have many variables, but the FLEXCEL NX System either eliminates them or makes managing them really simple,” says Shyam Sundar partner at NS Digital Flexo based in Hyderabad, India. “We’re totally confident we can provide customers with consistent, repeatable results. It also makes it easier to solve any print issues that arise.”
NS Digital is not alone. From Italy to Chile, flexographers have seen how platemaking technology can simplify their whole process, from the impact it has on reducing press setup time and coming up to color faster, to enabling lower volumes of ink usage and reducing press downtime.
“In a simplified packaging print process, people can be freed up to apply their talents to the high value tasks that will makes a business stand out and help drive growth.”
Giving flexographers space to add value
Plenty of workers across industries have built their careers around managing and overcoming the complexities of their profession. But simplifying the flexo process doesn’t reduce the importance of this skillset, which many flexographers have developed through working with the complexities of print production.
“Those people can become the most valuable in driving complexity out of a process, because they truly understand it,” says Weston.
In a simplified packaging print process, people can be freed up to apply their talents to the high value tasks that make a business stand out and help drive growth.
Doing more with less complexity
The right printing plate won’t just deliver high quality graphic reproduction. The right plate helps enable a simplified production process, which feeds predictability, efficiency and sustainability. The key for flexographic packaging printers lies in spotting the steps where complexity lies, from platemaking all the way to the printed package; and then identifying whether they have the technology to simplify it.
“Flexographic printers have proven they can deliver a quality product – across the gamut of packaging types and substrate materials – but now they need to do so while becoming more profitable, running the process with fewer skills, and maximizing the use of assets they already have on the production floor,” says Weston. “Success today is about running a consistent, predictable, highly efficient print process. Those complexities have to go.”