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”.
Tokyo, Japan & Brussels, Belgium, 7October, 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.”
Let’s face it, the “switch” is on! At Techkon, they live it, breath it, and sell it every day. Printers in all markets and of all sizes are making the switch from other color management devices and software to newer Techkon solutions. We could go on and on and explain all of the reasons like more innovative products, unlimited customer support, and dedicated customer support. However, that’s not what this blog is about. Instead, this blog is to explain how Techkon can help you make the “switch”. Printers are thrilled to learn about the advantages of Techkon products, but to some, making the “switch” sometimes seems like a daunting task. So, here are the 3 top reasons why some customers dread making the “switch” and how Techkon can make it far easier than you might have imagined.
Customer Worry #1 – Will those new Techkon devices measure the same way as my current color management devices?
Solution – It turns out that Techkon devices are manufactured to be traceable to the same industry standards as other popular color management devices. As a result, new SpectroDens instruments measure almost as close to a competing device as they do to each other. This is big news and this means you don’t have to worry any more about scenarios where (1) color standards were originally created with a competing device or (2) using a mixture of a competing device and SpectroDens instruments across your color production workflow.
Customer Worry #2 – What about all my instruments and software that already have all of my color standards loaded into them?
Solution – No worries! Techkon is here to help and can migrate all of your color standards for you. This is part of the service you can expect from Techkon when making the “switch”. Their color experts can export your color standards out of your current software systems and install them in your new Techkon hardware and software so you don’t have to worry about this one. In fact, if they can get your color standards ahead of time, and can even install them on any new instruments you purchase before it’s shipped out to you! How’s that for easy?
Customer Worry #3 – How am I going to train everyone on using new Techkon hardware and software products?
Solution – First, Techkon designs all of its’ products to be intuitive and easy to use. This is their first design principle and they strive for excellence here. Second, Techkon offers unlimited technical support on their products. Your satisfaction and delight using our products and services is truly their goal here. Techkon offers remote, live training services, video tutorials, and telephone support until your team is fully trained and you are comfortable waving goodbye to your old tools. That’s their promise to you.
The absolute best way to make flexographic printing a CLEANER technology (and more profitable!)
Tokyo/Brussels, 28 May 2019 – Asahi Photoproducts, a pioneer in flexographic photopolymer plate development, today reported it will be again exhibiting at Labelexpo Europe, scheduled for 24 to 27 September in Brussels. Asahi will be located on Stand 5a34 at the show and will be displaying its full array of flexographic plates. Featured at the show will be Asahi’s CleanPrint™, a technology which has evolved over time to become the industry benchmark for CLEAN flexographic printing.
“Since Asahi first brought to market its innovative flexographic plate technology, which enabled complete release of ink onto the substrate for a cleaner image and fewer press stops for plate cleaning, our thoughts about the value of the technology have evolved,” said Dr. Dieter Niederstadt, Asahi’s Technical Marketing Manager. “Not only do we continue to improve our plate quality and performance, but we have also learned from our customers that the value of the technology goes way beyond the quality and productivity benefits it enables. Not only does it eliminate the need for volatile solvents in the platemaking process, speed up the process to consume less energy and deliver the same high quality and press productivity (OEE) our customers have come to expect, but the technology reduces makeready times and waste as well as the amount of time the press needs to run. All of these benefits add up to a much cleaner platemaking and flexographic printing process than can be achieved with any other plates on the market.”
Attendees will learn how Asahi CleanPrint™ significantly improves Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) across the entire flexographic production process
Tokyo/Brussels, May 23, 2019 – Asahi Photoproducts, a pioneer in flexographic photopolymer plate development, today announced it is again attending and sponsoring EskoWorld 2019, scheduled for 24 to 26 June in Nashville, Tennessee. During the event, Asahi representatives will be speaking with attendees about the OEE advantages of Asahi AWP™ water-washable plates, as well as their effect on improved environmental sustainability.
“We began using Asahi AWPTM-DEF plates in 2010,” said Gene Martin, Plant Manager at The Robinette Company’s Bristol TN plant. “At the time, it was taking us three hours for the platemaking process with solvent plates. With the Asahi AWPTM-DEF plates, the first time out in the platemaking process was one hour, with each additional plate in 20 minutes, increasing our platemaking capacity by 33%.” Since Robinette only uses Asahi plates, this is a substantial time saving in the plate room.
We started this business with a simple goal, to supply our clients with the highest quality flexo plates, and help boost flexographic printing to the top of the printing industry.To accomplish this goal we partnered with Asahi, a company we saw having the foresight to innovate flexo plates and bring improved quality, productivity and sustainability to flexo.It was the best decision we could’ve ever made, as Asahi plates have taken Flexo by storm since then, and achieved a new level of success for our clients who use them.
The outstanding performance of Asahi Flexo Plates is the result of over 30 years of technological development in the field of photopolymer plates for flexo printing. In that time, Asahi has grown to become a leading manufacturer of digital and analog printing plates for the flexo market. They’ve achieved this by setting the highest standards in product development and manufacturing, while continually breaking new ground in advancing technologies to improve print quality, cost-effectiveness and environmental sustainability.
As the technology for flexographic printing continues to evolve, both quality and efficiency are improving. In order to remain competitive, flexographic printers must stay informed about the latest developments.
Once a sort of “halfway point” between offset and gravure, flexo has come into its own in recent years, in many cases taking volume that might otherwise have gone to one of those print processes, or even digital printing. This is due to its improved quality and ability to profitably produce the shorter runs the market often demands.
Another big change is around environmental sustainability issues, of increasing importance to many brands. Historically, most of the sustainability concerns revolved around the plate making process:
Was the process using water, solvent or thermal imaging?
How much solvent and energy were required to make plates?
What types of toxic chemicals were used?
What were the costs associated with managing, storing and disposing of them?
Recent customer experience takes the discussion in another direction: With the right plates, many environmental issues are minimized—not in plate making, but in the printing process. At the same time, quality goals can easily be met and press uptime can be significantly improved. This is important for several reasons:
With a higher uptime standard, a flexo press will deliver more throughput. More jobs and more volume through the press equates to more revenue and profit
When the press is down because plates need to be changed or cleaned, not only is more time consumed, but also more waste is generated as the press once again comes up to color
Less print production time translates to less energy usage, improving the environmental footprint of the print job and helping keep costs in line
Water-Washable Plate Benefits
The challenge for plate manufacturers has always been to create a more environmentally friendly plate without losing the benefits and advantages of quality and efficiency. Water-washable plates were developed to meet that challenge and to help printers and converters approach their operations from a much more holistic perspective. In addition to delivering excellent quality, these plates ensure a lower CO2 footprint in print production with a much higher press OEE (Overall Equipment Efficiency). Average improvement in OEE with water-washable plates is 33 percent.
In flexographic printing, highlights can usually cause two potential problems. The first is the highlight breaking point, which prevents a vignette from printing smoothly to zero. Photopolymer flexo plates usually start printing highlights at 5 percent to 8 percent due to dot gain, 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 recognized as a print fault in the industry.
This breaking point is virtually eliminated using water-wash technology due to its smaller dot size, low dot gain and high dot stability, especially when used in combination with the latest generation of screening technologies. Extensive plate trials and live production jobs have proven the plate’s ability to print down to 2 percent to 3 percent using classical round dot screening. With the latest screening technologies, the plate is able to reproduce a vignette fade to zero.
Noteworthy benefits listing out as improved press uptime and OEE, reduced waste, profitable production of short runs and faster time to market are making flexography more competitive against offset, gravure and digital print. Industry awards continue to bring the process validity and forge flexo’s recognition as packaging’s preferred print method.
Gateway Packaging: OEE Up 53%
Many now say plate making is the central focus of the bigger picture view of flexography’s environmental sustainability initiatives. Here is one story to illustrate the point.
Based in White House, TN, Gateway Packaging (who ProAmpac acquired in May 2018) is a high-end printer/packaging converter and the largest pet food packaging provider in North America. The company is continually seeking ways to improve products and solve problems for its customers. To meet that goal, Gateway recently completely revamped its flexo plate making process.
“With the variety of flexographic plates and plate making solutions available in the market, we wanted to do a thorough evaluation to ensure our investment decision was the best possible choice,” said Tharrin Akers, prepress manager. “With that in mind, we benchmarked solutions from the leading players, ultimately bringing our selection to two, including Asahi Photoproducts. As a final test, we ran several production jobs using plates to compare efficiency with our current process, and we were very pleased with the results.”
CTGA Client, Label Impressions, recently received the TLMI Annual “Excellence in Printing” award for an 8-color promotional label on static cling material. This TLMI (Tag and Label Manufacturers Institute) award is coveted by label printers nationwide. While many converters send in dozens of submissions in hopes of winning LII submitted just ONE and took home the trophy!
Static cling is notoriously difficult to maintain consistent color, fine dots, and crisp text. Label Impressions was able to achieve unprecedented results with our HD Flexo plates, advanced production equipment, and exceptional experience in flexographic printing. Our work on this and all of our process color labels rival Gravure and Offset traditionally known as ‘the’ go-to when top quality is an absolute must.
As the label industry’s leader in innovation and quality, Label Impressions adds this latest achievement to a number of unique accomplishments like plantable labels, clean release and window cards, various expanded content solutions, and truly green production.
A focus on quick, consistent and highest quality creation of plates with Asahi AWP™ flexographic plates
Tokyo/Brussels, August 2, 2018 – Asahi Photoproducts, a pioneer in flexographic photopolymer plate development, today announced it will be exhibiting at Labelexpo Americas 2018, scheduled for 25 to 27 September at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont, Illinois. Asahi will be located in Stand F6479 at the show. The company will be showing its AWP™ family of water-washable flexographic plate solutions featuring Clean Transfer Technology, including its new AWP™ -DEW plate with washout speeds 2.5 times faster than previous plates, making it ideal for on-demand platemaking and a more efficient flexographic operation in even the busiest plants.
“At the show, we will be showing flexographic print samples printed using AWP™ plates imaged on an Esko Crystal XPS system whose simultaneous UV main and back exposure produces highly consistent digital flexo plates,” said Makoto Nagata, Sales Manager Overseas for Asahi. “We are looking forward to welcoming visitors and sharing information about the possibilities created with the quick, consistent, and highest quality creation of plates using the Asahi AWP™ family of plates.”
Asahi experts will also be available to speak with visitors about the Overall Equipment Efficiency (OEE) benefits of Asahi AWP™ plates. “Printing operations stand to reap huge benefits from moving to AWP™ plates,” adds Mr. Nagata. “Companies like Czech-based Colognia Press are seeing press uptimes of more than 50%, up from 25% with their previous plates, and even report running a 22-hour job with one set of plates, no stops, and with very consistent quality from beginning to end. In our experience, AWP™ plates make these types of results very achievable for flexo printers.”
Tokyo, Japan & Brussels, Belgium, May 24, 2018 – Asahi Photoproducts, a pioneer in flexographic photopolymer plate development, today announced it will be attending EskoWorld for the first time. Asahi will be located in the Innovation Center at the show, scheduled for 5 to 7 June at the Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort and Spa in San Antonio, Texas.
“In our fast-paced and rapidly evolving industry, efficiency, waste reduction and speed to market are critical,” said Stephan Doppelhammer, Asahi Photoproducts Europe Business Development Manager. “By partnering with Esko, we bring together solutions from two world-class companies to create a faster, more efficient and more consistent workflow in flexographic platemaking. Esko Equinox is ideal for converting separations to fixed palette printing, while Esko’s Crystal technology reduces the number of platemaking steps required and is making the process more consistent. By adding Asahi’s AWP™ water washable plates with Clean Transfer Technology to the mix, Asahi and Esko customers can take OEE to a brand-new level of efficiency while boosting print quality and reducing their environmental footprint.”
Voice of the Customer
Gateway Packaging, a leading high-end printer/ packaging converter and the largest pet food packaging provider in North America, recently restructured its entire platemaking process with Asahi Photoproducts solutions as the core element. The company performed extensive testing that led up to the final decision. “When running the Asahi AWP™ Clean Transfer plates,” explained Tharrin Akers, the company’s Prepress Manager, “we were able to run the press at a 17% higher speed – 1,640 feet per minute (from 426 m / min. to 500 m / min) – and only had to stop for plate cleaning once. And that only required cleaning two plates, consuming 20 minutes. The result was a total production time of 7.2 hours instead of 11 hours in the past and an astonishing 53% improvement in Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) over our previous process.”
Clean Transfer Technology: The Details
A feature of many of Asahi’s flexographic printing plates, Clean Transfer Technology enables a clean ink transfer and prevents ink accumulating on the plate surfaces and shoulders in screen areas. This leads to fewer cleaning intervals and reduced press downtime, as well as significant quality improvements. Precise plate register achieved with Asahi AWP™ plates ensures very high quality process printing with a fixed color palette, minimizing the need to use and manage spot color inks.
Clean Transfer Technology allows a kiss-touch printing pressure setting. It makes use of low plate surface tension, made possible by a specially engineered Asahi polymer chemistry, to inhibit liquid flow. The ink forms a globule, with a large contact angle and high pinning point. This results in a cleaner and more homogeneous ink transfer from plate to substrate, helping flexographic printers meet the ever-increasing quality demands of their customers.