While flexography has always been a more efficient and cost-effective printing process, the challenge has been to close the quality gap between offset and gravure printing. Lately, another factor has come into play—the environmental impact of the product itself. A low product carbon footprint not only helps a company’s image—it also reduces energy consumption and its associated operating costs.
However, the challenge has been to create a more environmentally friendly plate without losing the benefits and advantages of quality or efficiency. Meeting that challenge, Asahi Photoproducts introduces a new flexo technology: the Asahi water washable Plate (AWP). The Asahi AWP plate is a revolution in photopolymer technology, not only by introducing a new environmentally compliant plate process, but one that exceeds the print quality of other technologies.
AWP technology has been designed from the start with a strong consideration for the environment, and a commitment to minimizing any possible waste of precious resources. For starters, the system is water-washable, rather than relying on harsh solvents.
But, because even water can be considered a scarce commodity, water is reused during the various steps of the wash out process. Clean water used for the plate processing is ultimately filtered and recycled. And, as a water-based system, it is free of any harmful volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions generated by solvent and thermal processes.
The entire plate developing process doesn’t generate any waste other than unexposed polymer residues, which are collected as dry ‘cake’ and safely disposed as combustible material.
Traditionally, water washable plate quality has been considered second-best when compared to solvent plates. The Asahi AWP plate does more than match traditional solvent photopolymer plates—it outperforms the best digital plates currently available for flexo. For the first time a digital photopolymer plate can hold extremely small stable dots— smaller than those of solvent processed plates—and its stability on press is superior to solvent plates.
In flexo, highlights usually cause two potential problems. The first is the highlight ‘breaking point’, which prevents a vignette from printing smoothly to zero. Because of dot gain, photopolymer flexo plates usually start printing highlights at 5 to 8%, in the best cases. This means that gradations in vignettes suddenly break at that level, producing a visual contrast with the substrate—a visible “breaking point” or line, well known if you print with flexo. Because of smaller dot size, low dot gain and high dot stability of the new AWP plate, the breaking point is virtually eliminated, especially if one uses any of the latest generation of screening technologies.