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.
Gateway operates three manufacturing locations serving the United States and Canada and produces packaging for consumer packaged goods manufacturers and industrial packaging for the food, agricultural, chemical and charcoal industries.
As a leading high-end printer/packaging converter and the largest pet food packaging provider in North America, Gateway Packaging is continually seeking ways to improve products and solve problems for its customers. By switching to Asahi AWP™ flexographic plates with Clean Transfer, the company has taken another step long its path of continuous improvement. Gateway also installed an Asahi AWP 1116 PD Processor as part of the revamping of its platemaking process.
“With the variety of flexographic plates and platemaking 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 the top two, including Asahi Photoproducts. As a final test, we ran a number of production jobs using plates generated by CTGA to compare efficiency with our current process, and we were very pleased with the results achieved using the Asahi solutions.”
The production test was run on an F&K 20six flexographic press using 40-pound coated white paper and solvent inks, with a run length of 675,000 feet (205,200 meters). The press ran at 1,400 feet per minute (427 m/min.). The run using competitive plates experienced a total
production time of 483 minutes or 11 hours with a total plate cleaning time of 177 minutes and a requirement to clean plates every 2.5 rolls of media at 32 minutes per time.
“When running the Asahi plates,” Akers explained, “we were able to run the press at a 17% higher speed – 1,640 feet per minute (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 432 minutes or 7.2 hours and an astonishing 53% improvement in Overall Equipment Efficiency (OEE).”
As a result of these tests, Gateway decided to make a significant investment in a new platemaking department, implementing Asahi Photoproducts AWP™ water-washable plates and adding a Kongsberg cutting table, a Glunz & Jensen Concept 401 ECLF Exposure Unit, and the Asahi Photoproducts AWP™ 1116 PD Processor. Gateway estimated a payback period of 10 months for this significant investment based on the productivity and quality gains it would deliver.
The result was a total production time of 432 minutes or 7.2 hours and an astonishing 53% improvement in Overall Equipment Efficiency (OEE).
Asahi AWP™ plates feature Clean Transfer Technology, which 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. It also ensures precise register and fewer press stops for cleaning or plate changes, increasing Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE).
Visit with Asahi Photoproducts at Labelexpo Europe 2017 and learn about all the exciting advancements in flexo plate material and equipment they’ve made this year. Asahi will be in Brussels at the Expo on September 25-28 at Stand: 5A34.
“We are looking forward to exhibiting at Labelexpo in Brussels in September, and we hope you will join us there. This is a special venue for us, since Asahi Photoproducts Europe began operations in Brussels, our home city, in 1974. During Labelexpo, we are planning some very exciting events for you and our distributors to add even more value to your Labelexpo attendance.”
Take the time to assess your operation and identify any gaps you find in operational efficiency, quality or the ability to produce jobs profitably. Document these gaps with as much quantification as possible. This will be the baseline against which you can measure the potential or actual improvements investments can deliver.
Make a list of the suppliers present at Labelexpo Europe who are likely to have solutions that can close these gaps. Map out a logical pathway through the show to ensure you are able to visit all of them.
At the same time, be sure to allow yourself time to explore new areas of opportunity you might not have considered. And don’t forget that this is a terrific opportunity to network with your peers to gain insight into how they have addressed moving their businesses forward.
Areas of Opportunity
There are several areas of opportunity that apply to most firms, even if they have taken significant steps to improve operations. It seems that there are always opportunities to do even more. Consider these:
Improve Overall Equipment Efficiency (OEE). Downtime is deadly. Take a page out of the Colognia Press book – the company went from about 20% uptime to more than 50% uptime by simply changing out its plates and platemaking system. “With the flexo plates we were using, we had excessive stop times to clean or replace plates,” says Bohdan Holona, Manager of Desktop Publishing. “For long-run jobs, this meant half of the time to produce the job was downtime. Now we can run a full 10 kilometer job without stopping. We even ran a 22-hour job with one set of plates, no stops, and very consistent quality from beginning to end. It’s been amazing!”
Consider implementing fixed color palette printing. By shifting to a process printing approach using up to seven ink colors, you can minimize the need for acquiring, managing and storing a large inventory of spot color inks. Using a fixed palette of inks means even more improvement in OEE, as makeready and job changeover times are significantly reduced, since there is no need to wash up the press between jobs. Plus, using a fixed ink palette also makes it easier to run combo jobs. Of course, process printing with up to seven colors requires plates that deliver precise registration and clean ink transfer to assure excellent quality in the highlights and midtones while still delivering required ink laydown for solid areas.
Find a partner willing to invest in you. Unfortunately, there are too many suppliers in the marketplace that consider a sale to be “one and done.” To truly transform your business, you need to find suppliers that have demonstrated they truly partner with their customers. This is where talking to your peers can be helpful. If you are interested in a particular supplier, ask for references, and then follow up with them. You’ll quickly find out whether customer experiences live up to expectations.
STOP BY THE CTGA BOOTH AND FIND OUT WHAT’S NEW!
We’re excited to see you all in Phoenix in a couple weeks for InfoFlex 2017. Make sure to stop by the CTGA booth and speak with one of our representatives about all the exciting new products, technologies and news in our lineup.
Judges praised tight register, successful combination of solids and screens on the same plate and more
Tokyo, Japan & Brussels, Belgium, February 23, 2017 – Asahi Photoproducts, a pioneer in flexographic photopolymer plate development, is pleased to announce that its customers claimed a total of 24 awards, including eight Gold awards, in the 2016 Flexographic Technical Association of South Africa awards competition.
The FTASA Print Excellence Awards have been held in South Africa since 1997; first under the auspices of the Institute of Packaging and later independently. This competition focuses on printing quality and not innovation, design or origination, although the printer’s skill in implementing these is taken into consideration.Judges in this competition apply very high standards in the judging process.
“We were extremely pleased with the performance of our customers in this prestigious awards competition and extend our congratulations to them,” said Dieter Niederstadt, Technical Marketing Manager for Asahi Photoproducts. “A common comment from the judges across many of the Asahi customers who were recognized with awards identified the tight register achieved with Asahi plates, as well as good solid ink laydown and very fine highlight dots, as key criteria in their analysis. In several cases, they also mentioned the ability to achieve fine dots and combined solids and halftones on the same plate. This feedback validates the efforts Asahi has made to bring best-in-class high-performance flexo plates to the market.”
Of particular note is the excellent performance of Golden Era Printers, who captured a total of 12 awards for New Era Labels, New Era Packaging and its Flexo Division, including four Gold awards. All Golden Era plates were made in-house, and the company used a variety of Asahi plates, demonstrating the value of the breadth of the Asahi product line in producing a wide range of quality applications.These included Asahi TOPTM, DSHTM and DSETM flexographic plates.
Other Asahi customer award winners included:
Taurus Packaging with four awards. Plates used included Asahi TOP and DSF, and plates were produced by Polyflex.
Constantia Afripack DLC for its Tiger Brands Symphony Hazelnut White Chocolate flexible packaging, achieving a Silver award using Asahi TOPTM plates produced by Polyflex.
DCB Plastics for its Gold Award for Bob Martin Complete Condition Meaty Chunks Lamb Flavor (Dog Food, 1.75 kg) flexible packaging using Asahi TOPTM plates produced by Polyflex. In granting the award, the judges declared, “This job leaves very little room for error.” The company also received a silver award for the 8 kg version of Bob Martin Complete Condition Lamb Flavor dog food.
ITB Manufacturing received three awards, two Gold and one Silver. The company used Asahi TOP plates produced by Polyflex.
Flexible Packaging Converters used Asahi TOPTM plates produced by Polyflex to achieve a Bronze award.
Amcor Flexibles was awarded a Gold for its Spar Instant Full Cream Milk Powder flexible packaging produce with Asahi TOPTM plates from Polygraphics.
“This outstanding performance by these companies demonstrates that flexographic printing is here to stay and continues to evolve. We are proud of their hard work and happy to be able to contribute to their success,” says Sachin Sukhlal, Technical Sales Manager at Decoflex in South Africa, one of Asahi’s most successful distributors. “As packaging design becomes more complex and increasingly graphical, the ability to deliver perfect register and clean white highlights with good ink density and laydown in the solid areas is critical. Also, Asahi plates are unique in their ability to produce fine dots and combined solids and halftones using a single plate. All of this adds up to higher flexographic quality and improved OEE for faster cycle times and profitability.”
Asahi’s solvent-washable AFPTM-TOP flexo plates embody a unique design that ensures the highest possible quality print with the least amount of press downtime. Its Pinning Technology for Clean Transfer ensures exceptional print performance and enhanced press profitability. Asahi’s AFPTM-TOP flexo plates were used in 18 of the 24 award-winning applications.