Asahi and Esko Unveil Breakthrough Automated Flexo Platemaking Solution

CrystalCleanConnect - The Future of Flexo Plate Making

Tokyo, Japan & Brussels, Belgium, April 21, 2021 – Asahi Photoproducts and Esko have showcased their breakthrough, fully automated flexo platemaking line CrystalCleanConnect at this year’s virtual.drupa event.

Click the button below to view a pdf slideshow of the the launch of the CrystalCleanConnect at DRUPA:

Asahi Photoproducts, a pioneer in flexographic photopolymer plate development, has collaborated with Esko, the global developer of integrated software and hardware solutions for the packaging and labels markets, on the innovative flexo platemaking solution. CrystalCleanConnect fully automates the entire flexo plate production, from imaging to plate cutting, reducing the number of steps in the flexo platemaking process from 12 to just one which equates to a reduction from 36 min operator plate making time to only 2.5 min.

“With CrystalCleanConnect we have brought together key hardware and software technologies from both organizations to deliver a number of breakthrough advantages from design to print,” said Pascal Thomas, Director of Flexo Business with Esko. “CrystalCleanConnect delivers a cleaner, more environmentally balanced operation that simplifies the flexo platemaking process, improves safety and boosts print quality consistency.”

According to Pascal, CrystalCleanConnect offers operational as well as environmental benefits to businesses. “With the removal of so many process steps, there’s an immediate 90% reduction in required operator time, which not only eliminates the potential for human error but also delivers immediate efficiency gains. Quality is assured through Asahi and Esko technologies working in complete harmony, and the combination of improved efficiency and quality delivers an average increase of 25% in press OEE.”

A holistic approach to connecting technologies

Dieter Niederstadt, Technical Marketing Manager for Asahi Photoproducts stated: “Flexo needs to simplify its processes while improving quality, consistency and profitability. In doing so, flexo can create new business opportunities and positively transform into a printing technology in balance with the environment”. “This breakthrough innovation is different in many ways to other solutions on the market,” Dieter said. “It is not just an assembly of available plate making processes delivered inline, but rather a holistic approach to connecting technologies, up and downstream of the prepress value chain, using an intelligent automation hub as the backbone and heart of the solution. CCC is truly pushing boundaries to the current scope of plate automation delivering a mount-ready plate as well as being the first automated production solution without the need of VOC based washout solvents in the plate making process.”

Pascal Thomas added: “At Esko, we have long been dedicated to improving the platemaking experience, in terms of quality, productivity and connectivity. Together with Asahi Photoproducts, we are taking the flexo platemaking process to a brand-new level, enabling our customers to be even more competitive while also ensuring they can meet today’s demands for flexible and sustainable supply. With CrystalCleanConnect, our ultimate objective is to improve our customers’ overall business performance and profitability.”

Visit www.asahi-photoproducts.com/en/CCC and www.esko.com for more information.

Miles Label of Tucson Increases Productivity With Asahi AWP

Miles Label Company, located in Tucson, AZ has been in business since the 1930’s, providing their Customers with high-end labels. Miles Label Co. is a very tightly run family business that has always had first rate quality and service in mind. They recently chose Correct-Touch Graphic Arts (CTGA) to be their “go to” for a new ESKO CDI and Asahi 2530 AA  all-in-one water wash equipment.

Per PJ Miles, Asahi AWP “blew away” all competitive plate materials that they had tested on their new 13″ and 17″ presses. PJ says that the “AWP plate runs cleaner with fewer press stops, allowing Miles Label’s to drastically improve their printability and product output.”

According to PJ, “CTGA continues to provide us with excellent technical expertise and support, which allows Miles Label to run smoothly and efficiently.” Furthermore, PJ states “from Asahi AWP to Esko’s CDI equipment, CTGA represents and supports the best products for all flexo applications.”

CTGA Asked Miles Label Company a few questions about their business and their experience using Asahi AWP:

Q: How many presses does Miles have? 
A: 2 presses from 17” to 13” 


Q: Why did you decide to go with the AWP system and plates?
A: We tested the Asahi AWP plate and were blown away on the quality.


Q: What print benefits have you noticed on press? 

A: They are cleaner running, less press stoppage.


Q: What plate processing benefits has you pre-press team noticed? 
A: No more chemicals…no VOC’s


Q: How would you describe your partnership with CTGA?
A:  CTGA has always been there for me. From Asahi to Esko equipment, these guys service and represent the best products for flexo applications.

Ranch & Coast Label Finds Success With Asahi AWP

Ranch & Coast Label is an up and coming high-end label printer and converter, located in San Diego, CA.  R & C recently chose Correct-Touch Graphic Arts (CTGA) to be their plate supplier, due to CTGA’s in depth knowledge and support of prepress, plate room and press room equipment and supplies.  Per Noel Tapia, R & C’s Production Manager, “We had tried several other plates, including thermal and chose the Asahi AWP water-processed plate for several reasons; No VOC’s (environmentally friendly), quick processing speeds, reduced downtime, and most importantly, amazing CleanPrint Technology keeps screens cleaner and densities improved.  Asahi AWP is a cut above everything we had tested.”

Noel went on to say “CTGA has treated us like a partner from day one, and with their excellent customer service, support and knowledge, we are now able to streamline our operation and provide our Customers with the very best attainable printing results possible.”

CTGA Asked Ranch & Coast a few questions about their business and their experience using Asahi AWP:

Q: How many presses does Ranch and Coast have? 
A: 5 presses from 7” to 13” 


Q: Why did you decide to go with the AWP system and plates?
A: Reduce downtime and the process is environmentally friendly 


Q: What print benefits have you noticed on press? 

A: CleanPrint Technology does keep screens cleaner and density improved. 


Q: What plate processing benefits has you pre-press team noticed? 
A: No chemicals to deal with and much quicker plate making processing 


Q: How would you describe your partnership with CTGA?
A:  Amazing, 2nd to none. Customer service is great. 

CrystalCleanConnect: The Big Reveal, Coming April 20, 2021!

Esko and Asahi to launch CrystalCleanConnect

The latest advance in the evolution of flexo platemaking.

Register online to experience Asahi’s next-generation, fully automated flexo platemaking line developed in collaboration with Esko.

CrystalCleanConnect offers a number of breakthrough advantages from design to print:

  • Reduces the platemaking process from 12 steps to 1
  • Delivers a 90% reduction in dedicated operator time
  • Secures excellence in print quality utilizing Asahi & Esko proprietary technologies
  • Achieves an average 25% increase in press OEE
  • Reduces ink usage by 20%
  • All delivered with a best-in-class environmental footprint!

We look forward to seeing you there!

About The Speakers

Dieter Niederstadt
Technical Marketing Manager @ Asahi Photoproducts

Dieter Niederstadt has 35 years experience in the printing industry. He started working in 2003 for Asahi Photoproducts where he’s picking up the role of Technical Marketing Manager since 2013. He’s member of the FTA and DFTA & past forum speaker and participant to various association working groups


Pascal Thomas
Director Flexo Business @ Esko

Pascal Thomas joined Esko (Barco Graphics) in 1996 and has held positions in customer service, product management and business development. He is currently Director of Esko’s Flexo Business, in which he leverages his technical and business knowledge to help determine the strategic direction for Esko’s flexo solutions to best meet the needs of flexo printers and plate-makers.

Welcome Charles Shofner To The CTGA Team

We're Excited To Welcome Charles To The Team

Bringing decades of expertise and knowledge to our Midwestern U.S. customers

CT Graphic Arts is very happy to welcome Charles Shofner to our Technical Sales Team.  Charles will be bringing his decades of expertise and knowledge in the printing industry to CTGA customers in the Midwest region.  He brings experience in nearly all facets of flexo printing through a very successful career as both a sales professional and company owner.  We are excited to have someone of Charles’ caliber representing our company and bringing our catalog of flexo plates, platemaking equipment, prepress and plateroom solutions and more to our customers.  Welcome to the CTGA team Charles!

Asahi OEE Reloaded. A Handy Video for the Flexo Printer

Improve your print production capacity by up to 1/3 by just changing your plate!

Asahi Photoproducts has published a brief, educational video that provides a simple but effective explanation of the value to a flexo plant of calculating, monitoring and managing the operation’s Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) percentage.

The video also links to a simple-to-use OEE calculator that allows owners and managers of flexo operations to calculate OEE using their own data.

Over the years, Asahi Photoproducts has published much information about OEE and the role our plates can play in improving a flexo operation’s OEE percentage,” says Dieter Niederstadt, Technical Marketing Manager of Asahi Photoproducts Europe. “Although not rocket science for many operations, the OEE concept has remained complicated and how to actually calculate it a bit obscure. There was no handy explanation for a quick and easy calculation of the OEE specific to flexography for a specific operation or press. With the release of this video and our easy-to-use OEE calculator, this all changes. Now, the meaning of OEE for flexo operations and how they can determine the operation’s OEE is no longer obscure or complicated.”

In Asahi’s experience, customers who simply switch to Asahi CleanPrint water-washable plates can improve their print production capacity by up to 1/3 with little requirement for change in the overall plant workflow. This was learned both from customers with long run jobs as well as customers with frequent job changes. As part of calculating the total cost of ownership (TCO) of prepress and the pressroom in a flexo plant, OEE is a significant factor. “Many operations limit their view by focusing mainly on the cost of flexo plates,” Niederstadt adds, “but once you examine the operation more holistically as you calculate your own OEE, you will note that the cost of plates is actually a significantly smaller percentage of the overall picture than you might have realized. The value gained by improving OEE boils down to the ability to increase throughput of sellable finished product while reducing waste, making it easier to meet the tighter production deadlines imposed by today’s brands, who are anxious to improve their time to market.”

To better understand how OEE applies to the flexo industry, how it is calculated, and the impact of improving it, view our educational video here. Then download the OEE calculator, and you’ll be on the road to improved overall performance and profitability!

Asahi Demonstrates Remote Smart Glass Machine Installation

FIRST-IN-HISTORY REMOTE SMART GLASS MACHINE INSTALLATION DEMONSTRATED BY ASAHI


Re-post of original article from asahi-photoproducts.com

The first AWP™ 4835-P water washable plate processor was put into operation at the Comexi Manel Xifra Boada Technology Center following innovative installation approach By Pedro Hernandez, Engineering Manager, Asahi Photoproducts

At Asahi Photoproducts, we were thrilled to see the Comexi Turnkey Project come to fruition. It was designed to demonstrate how simple and clean the flexo platemaking process can be, making it easier than ever for flexographic print houses to bring platemaking in house, gaining control over the process and saving valuable time.

To facilitate the project, an AWP™ 4835-P water-washable plate processor was installed at the Comexi Manel Xifra Boada Technology Center in Girona, Spain.

What was unique about the installation was the fact that it was the first-ever installation done remotely with Smart Glass support! This approach was driven by pandemic-imposed travel restrictions, forcing a decision to either delay the project or utilize alternative technologies to start up the system. The fact that Comexi had already experienced Smart Glass technology as part of their service offering significantly helped make the process smooth between both companies and resulted in defining our standard remote support operating procedures which can be used for future installations, saving time, eliminating the need for travel, and providing an overall more effective experience for the operators at the installation site.

“The Smart Glass installation was great! Everything was well prepared, and it went smoothly from the very beginning,” says Yago Lulin, Technical Consultant & Prepress Manager at Comexi. He continues by saying, “The installation was done in a few days, and the Comexi team was given a subsequent training on platemaking in detail. Smart Glass support for this type of activity is ideal as it provides flexibility regarding the installation date when it comes to any last minute changes, but it also saves 2-3 days of engineering travel time and costs”.

We see this approach as a major advance for the “next normal”. While Asahi Photoproducts’ expert technical team is always available to come on site to help with technical or training issues, being able to remotely do a full installation using modern communications technologies means a more cost-efficient and timely approach to many of the activities that normally would have required the time and travel cost associated with conventional technical support approaches. This was a great learning experience for both teams, and proof that it is a viable approach for the future.

Another important advantage noted by Yago Lulin was the fact that by its very nature, the process gave staff more hands-on experience with the equipment than they might have had during a normal on-site installation. He adds: “All members who participated in the installation were really motivated to learn how the processor works, both for operation and for future maintenance. This approach is ideal for this type of installation!”

Bringing Pre-Press Home: Closing the Gap in the Printed Package Value Chain

As digital technologies progressed in offset, the printing industry saw a rapid migration of plate making from outside resources to on-site production.

The same thing is positioned to occur in flexography, as technology has evolved to streamline and simplify the plate making process. Flexographic converters in the labels and packaging space are in a growth business. Still, they face a number of challenges in a highly competitive marketplace. At the same time, they confront challenges from alternative technologies such as offset and gravure printing. Customers are increasingly looking for shorter and more varied runs, faster delivery times, and, of course, a competitive cost structure. Plus, the interest in a more sustainable environmental footprint on the part of brands and consumers is growing.

There are a number of technological developments underway in flexography that will help flexographic printers meet these tests and retain existing customers while also acquiring new ones. One such development is being demonstrated through the Turnkey Project, hosted by Comexi, in which Asahi Photoproducts is a partner. The Turnkey Project is designed to demonstrate the value of bringing flexographic plate making in-house to flexible packaging converters. Today’s technology makes it easy.

For the flexographic printing operation, bringing plate making in-house is one way to improve operational efficiency by providing more control over the cost, scheduling and timeframes for making plates. It also makes it faster for replacement plates to be made when required, reducing press downtime and keeping jobs running through the plant more efficiently. But in the past, making high-quality flexographic plates could be tricky, deterring many printers from bringing the operation in-house. This project demonstrates how that is changing.

Beyond this project, our industry is focused on bringing even more automation and operational efficiency to the flexographic prepress process, adding to the contributions already made to improved quality, profitability and sustainability.

The faster and more efficiently a press-ready print form can be generated, the more flexibility a plant will have in what it can produce. But as always, quality is a key consideration and must be balanced with efficiency for a holistic approach to the process of producing press-ready print forms.

By removing even more manual touches from the flexographic plate making process, we will be able to deliver a more efficient and profitable prepress process, as well as a high level of standardization through automation, thereby reducing the skill level required for operators in an environment where skilled prepress operators are often hard to find.

Among the resulting benefits, the process speeds production times, allowing companies to produce more jobs in a day with the same or less labor, while simultaneously reducing the opportunity for costly errors along the way. That’s the vision the next generation of flexographic prepress solutions will be about.

Turnkey Project Details

An important milestone on the route toward this vision for Asahi and several other industry partners is our participation in the Comexi Turnkey Project at its Manel Xifra Boada Technology Center in Girona, Spain. The project features water wash equipment and water washable plates with CleanPrint technology. Water wash processors are generally considered to be more in harmony with the environment than conventional solvent systems. Many, in fact, credit them with producing plates that achieve the highest level of quality in flexographic printing.

In addition, the water wash process is much faster than solvent. While it may take up to two hours for solvent-based plates to dry, Asahi’s complete AWP plate making process, serving as one example, delivers a plate to the mounting department in less than one hour. That same example plate is specifically engineered to transfer all remaining ink to the printed substrate, reducing makeready time and press cleaning stops.

The Manel Xifra Boada Technology Center—Comexi CTec—specializes in training, advice and technical process support for the printing and converting sectors of the flexible packaging industry. It has incorporated into its portfolio this new service, whose objective is to help flexographic printing operations integrate the prepress process, from ground zero, into their own facilities.

The project culminates once the client independently completes the prepress process while adhering to all defined quality standards. The estimated time to complete the project is approximately six months.

Word on Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE)

In any industry, Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) is a measurement of the performance of a machine. It’s a calculation—OEE = Availability x Performance x Quality—that delivers a percentage. OEE is a fact-based way to measure the efficiency of your operation and identify ways to continuously improve it over time.

Print production inefficiencies can occur due to a combination of elements, such as printing shift length, press makeready time, press stop downtimes, actual press speed, run lengths and total material waste.

The OEE calculation provides focus and simplicity to decision making, in respect to availability, performance and quality produced. Having measured all three elements, a focus for improvement in the OEE percentage figure can be established. The higher the OEE percentage is, the more effective your printing shop becomes. The higher the OEE, the better the impact is to the bottom line. Plus, inherent in a higher OEE is an increase in customer satisfaction and retention.

Calculating OEE is not rocket science; it’s easy to understand and involves calculating press availability, performance and quality. For more information on the calculation of OEE, request an easy-to-use OEE calculator by contacting CTGA today.

Asahi Photoproducts and Esko Join Forces

Asahi Photoproducts and Esko Join Forces to Educate Chinese Market on Flexo Platemaking in Harmony with the Environment

Tokyo, Japan & Brussels, Belgium, November 20, 2020. Asahi Photoproducts, a pioneer in flexographic photopolymer plate development, today reported it extended its relationship with Esko through an agreement to install Esko plate imaging solutions in the Asahi Tech Center in Suzhou, near Shanghai. The agreement, which was entered into during All-in-Print China, will result in the installation of an Esko CDI Spark 4260 and an XPS Crystal 5080 in the Center.

These industry-leading plate imaging solutions are supported by an Asahi AWP 230W plate processor using Asahi AWPTM CleanPrint water-washable plates to complete the industry’s most balanced flexographic platemaking solution in harmony with the environment, delivering the highest possible quality for China’s demanding flexo customers.

“Asahi Photoproducts has worked together with Esko in China for a decade and this agreement takes the relationship to a new level in our ability to serve the rapidly evolving flexographic market in China,” said Yuji Suzuki, Asahi’s Senior Manager of Customer Technical Service.

Suzuki points out that high-end print quality is increasingly required in China, and many repro houses in the region still have difficulty making plates that deliver the best print quality. “One thing we will be doing in our Tech Center with the new equipment,” he says, “is creating test plates for potential customers so they can see for themselves that we can deliver the quality they need. We will also use the facility to do training and seminars for customers and potential customers.”

Esko will also have access to the Tech Center, offering the possibility to Asahi’s customers to learn more about how the Esko plate imaging system functions with Asahi’s AWPTM CleanPrint water-washable plates. “We are pleased to continue to grow our partnership with Asahi, especially in the highly competitive Chinese market,” said Rocky Zhou, General Manager for Esko in Shanghai. “The solutions being installed at the Asahi Tech Center will benefit both of our businesses as we work to continue to bring the latest state-of-the-art flexographic solutions to this region”.

FFP Packaging Wins Best in Show At the EFIA Awards 2020 Using Asahi AWP Flexo Plate Technology

Tokyo, Japan & Brussels, Belgium, 7 October, 2020 – Asahi Photoproducts, a pioneer in flexographic photopolymer plate development, is delighted to congratulate its customer FFP Packaging Solutions as winner of ‘Best in Show’ at the recent EFIA Awards 2020. FFP’s entry won Gold in the category ‘Flexo on Film – Reverse Print Wide’ using Asahi’s AWPTM-1.14 plates to achieve the high quality results. FFP’s entry ‘Juicy Meat Company, Large Beef, Easy Cook Pouch’ was acclaimed for superior design and excellent quality printing in CMYK, achieving exceptional density in the black areas alongside perfect soft highlights.

Paul Hesketh, Print Development Manager at FFP says, “Everyone at FFP is absolutely delighted to have won this year’s ‘Best in Show’ at the EFIA awards.”  As a leading flexible packaging innovator and converter with 50 years experience, FFP is unique in comparison to many other companies in their sector as they produce their plates in-house. Hesketh explains, “To take control of plate production we needed to find the best plate technology and a supplier and partner we could work with. Our relationship with Asahi supports our strategy to provide consistent high quality products. We purchased Asahi’s AWPTM 4835 water-wash plate processor around 5 years ago and Asahi supply us with the raw polymer so we can manufacture plates in-house. We decided to produce AWPTM-1.14 plates  after extensively researching the market, we found that Asahi plates gave us consistent and excellent quality results every time, with good ink lay-down and superior ink densities – perfect for very high quality work and challenging designs. The results we are able to achieve with this plate are so good, we offer them to our customers under our ‘Platinum Print’ brand.”

The print team at FFP Packaging Solutions quickly recognised the technical difficulty in achieving soft highlights and strong vibrant colors from the CMYK on challenging designs such as the winning entry.  The design on the Juicy Meat Company pack is predominately a dense black with contrasting lighter shades in the product images. To produce award winning designs FFP also has to focus carefully on its color management processes – they use IQC color management software and X-Rite spectrophotometers to measure digital tolerances.

Hesketh continues, “We have a great design and color management team at FFP but at the end of the day, high quality results are a lot to do with the plates and the way we set them up.  The success of the end product is down to achieving the correct balance with the plate, the ink system and the anilox and the key objective is to perfectly match the proof. We found the AWPTM 1.14 plate offers excellent quality and color consistency when used in conjunction with solvent based ink systems on our Windmöller & Hölscher high speed Miraflex Printing press.

All FFPs award entries are selected from the production Print that come off their presses on a daily basis. There is no special preparation made to produce an award winning piece of print. Hesketh explains, “I regularly see great print coming off the end of our presses and think – I’ll keep that.”  These samples build up throughout the year and when its time to send the entries for the awards, Hesketh and his  team review and select the best and the most appropriate print from the samples.  Hesketh works on the principle that everything they produce for their customers is top quality and good enough to win an award.

Hesketh concludes, “We take awards seriously.  Within our industry we regard EFIA as the most prestigious organisation.  We have been members for many years and won many awards but it was very satisfying indeed this year to receive their award for ‘Best in Show’.   Working in-house is fundamental to FFP maintaining the highest levels of quality products in a challenging and ever evolving market.  To do that we had to carefully consider our choice of technology partner.  We chose to partner with Asahi and use their AWPTM plate 5 years ago and we are still winning awards with it. We did look at other suppliers but we are very glad we went with Asahi as we believe their plate technology is top class.   We strive to be the best and use the best equipment available which is why we use Asahi’s AWPTM plates. Our competitors can’t compete.”

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