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 customer Label Impressions, Inc. remains one of the greenest label companies in the world today, and part of that is due to it’s use of Asahi’s AWP Water Washout Flexo Plates and Equipment. In their commitment to stay eco-friendly and sustainable, Label Impressions began working with AWP and never looked back. They immediately saw an increase in productivity, quality, profitability and sustainability with AWP.
But that’s not the only way Label Impressions has achieved the greenest label company status…
In addition to operating a 100% wind powered, carbon neutral facility, Label Impressions is the exclusive supplier for tree-free, stone paper labels. They also offer 100% Post Consumer Waste (PCW) recycled labels, biodegradable labels with biodegradable adhesives, and we even create our own drinking water from the humidity we reduce in our manufacturing area.
Label Impressions, Inc. is dedicated to keeping our environment healthy “one label at a time.” As an industry sustainability leader, Label Impressions has been instrumental in developing several green label materials and environmental standards. They are currently the ONLY label printer to be certified by the Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC) and to be awarded carbon neutral status through non-profit CarbonFund.org. Label Impressions’ president, Jeff Salisbury, is a contributor to the industry’s L.I.F.E. program (Label Initiative For the Environment) and a regular speaker on environmental packaging and manufacturing solutions.
Tokyo/Brussels, September 21, 2018 – Asahi Photoproducts, a pioneer in flexographic photopolymer plate development, today reported that Cartotecnica Postumia, a producer of square-bottom bags for the food industry, customized shopping bags, and printed paper rolls for use in automatic packaging machines, relies on Asahi AFP™-DSF digital flexographic plates for delivery of the highest quality to its global customer base demands. Cartotecnica Postumia, who recently celebrated its 50th year in business, has used Asahi plates for 25 years now, using nearby repro house Thema Studio for plate production.
“Thema Studio is an expert, perfecting its repro quality over the years,” says Managing Director Pierluigi Gava. “Great communication between our company and Thema Studio along with excellent Asahi plate technology is the secret to our success. Thema Studio tells us that, while they do test other plates from time to time, these do not perform as well as the Asahi plates, requiring press stoppages for cleaning during runs and exhibiting other quality issues. We trust their advice!”
In recognition of the quality the Asahi plates helped the company achieve, Cartotecnica Postumia was honoured with a 1stDiamond Award for narrow web flexo print on paper and labels by FTA Europe in its second edition of the FTA Europe Diamond Awards in May 2018. Cartotecnica Postumia’s entry was printed in seven colours plus water-based matt varnish with a UV gloss varnish overcoat. “I am not sure we could have produced this award-winning entry without the quality we achieved using Asahi DSF plates,” Gava adds. “The Asahi AFP™ DSF is the best plate in the market for high quality paper printing on substrates ranging from abrasive kraft paper to coated liner.”
Benefits of Asahi Plate Technology
Asahi’s AFP™-DSF digital medium hard plate elevates printing results to a new level of quality. It is designed for use with abrasive substrates for good highlights combined with excellent ink transfer. Its optimized balance of solid ink laydown and highlight dot printing produces incomparably good ink coverage with low dot gain in the mid tones and brilliant highlights at maximum printing speeds, with particular suitability for flexible packaging printing on film and paper with the water-based inks exclusively used by Cartotecnica Postumia.
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 29, 2018 – Asahi Photoproducts, a pioneer in flexographic photopolymer plate development, today announced it will be attending Gallus Innovation Days for the first time. The event takes place in St. Gallen, Switzerland, from 26 to 28 June 2018, the third Open House event hosted by the well-known Swiss manufacturer. Asahi Photoproducts will be showing its AWP™ DEF/DEW plate solutions featuring Clean Transfer Technology, exhibiting in Hall 1 as a Gallus partner.
“Gallus is without doubt a leading manufacturer of flexo presses for labels, continually broadening its portfolio,” says Dr. Dieter Niederstadt, Technical Marketing Manager at Asahi. “We believe there is great potential for synergies with Gallus in terms of innovation and quality. Our popular water washable AWP™ plates are industry leaders in UV flexo printing and are especially suitable for printing operations who wish to produce their plates in-house.”
Asahi’s Clean Transfer Technology has been developed with fixed colour palette printing in mind, delivering the quality and precise register this printing technique requires. All future Asahi plates will be equipped with Clean Transfer Technology, delivering the outstanding quality and overall equipment efficiency (OEE) demanded by leading converters in a highly competitive market.
Asahi’s AWP™ DEF/DEW plate technology provides a viable alternative to conventional flexo printing plates. Its water washable printing plate technology does not require high temperatures or VOC-based solvents. It provides high register accuracy, making it particularly suitable for printing with a fixed colour palette and enabling odourless production. In addition to saving time and money and reducing waste, it also supports energy savings, whilst assuring exceptional quality and brilliant prints.
Clean Transfer for real-life flexo applications
Colognia Press, based in the Czech Republic, has recently discovered how AWP™ plates with Clean Transfer Technology can lead to significantly higher productivity in flexo printing. The company uses Gallus presses and water washable flexo plates and was able to increase machine availability by 110%, simply by switching to an Asahi plate production system. The previous flexo printing plates had caused lengthy downtimes for plate cleaning and changing. The Asahi solution enables Colognia Press to print practically any job up to several kilometres long without having to stop the machine. Even a 22-hour job ran without interruption from start to finish, maintaining consistent quality with the same set of plates.
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.
Correct-Touch Graphic Arts recently helped industry leader Essel Propack with the purchase and installation of Asahi’s AWP 4835 Plate Processing unit and AWP water washable flexo plates. The use of Asahi’s AWP system brings improved quality and sustainability to Essel’s production and greatly improves their OEE (Overall Equipment Effectiveness) with less downtime, reduced waste and increased repeatability. This improvement has a great impact on their overall success and profitability.
“The investment in Asahi AWP brings an increased efficiency to our business that allows us to greatly improve output during production. The Asahi Plate processing unit along with the AWP plate material offers us maximum quality and control throughout the print process, and we’re excited for the overall benefit it brings to our company. Both Asahi and CTGA really helped steer us through the entire process from consultation through installation to ensure we got what we needed,” said Srikant Jindam, U.S. Graphics Manager at Essel Propack when discussing the choice to go with Asahi AWP.
ABOUT ESSEL PROPACK
Essel Propack, part of the USD 4.2 billion Essel Group, with FY17 turnover of over USD 368 million, is the largest specialty packaging global company, manufacturing laminated plastic tubes catering to the FMCG and Pharma space.
Employing over 2852 people representing 25 different nationalities, Essel Propack functions through 19 state of the art facilities and in eleven countries, selling circa 7 billion tubes and continuing to grow every year.
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. 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.
Sam Yamamoto of Asahi, said, “At the show, our experts will be helping the visitors better understand how Asahi AWP plates can improve environmental sustainability, overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) and organisational profitability without any compromise on quality.”
According to Asahi, Clean Transfer Technology is a technology which enables clean ink transfer and prevents ink accumulating on the plate surfaces and shoulders in screen areas and thus resulting in fewer cleaning intervals and reduced press downtime.
Asahi will also talk about fixed colour palette printing, which uses a up to seven inks and thereby eliminates the use of spot colours.
Yamamoto explained, “Because it uses a fixed set of inks, there is no wash-up required between jobs, and combo jobs are made easier. Also, there is significantly less waste in the printing process, improving throughput and productivity.”
“This is the future of flexography, especially in label printing where digital printing has made significant inroads; it favourably positions flexography to compete with digital printing for the short run jobs,” Yamamoto added.
Tokyo, Japan & Brussels, Belgium, March 20, 2018 – Asahi Photoproducts, a pioneer in flexographic photopolymer plate development, today reported it will be showing its AWP™ line of water-washable flexographic plate solutions featuring its Clean Transfer Technology at Labelexpo Southeast Asia 2018. The show is a brand-new event in the Labelexpo Global Series. Asahi will be located on Stand D36 at the show, scheduled for 10 to 12 May 2018 in Bitec, Bangkok. Joining Asahi at the event will be its important distributor, Nagase who supports Asahi in Southeast Asia market.
“Labelexpo events around the globe are an excellent platform for introducing labels & packaging converters and brands to new and innovative technologies, and we are delighted to be participating in the first ever Southeast Asian Labelexpo,” states Sam Yamamoto, Senior Sales Manager for Asahi Asia & Pacific Region. “It is especially good timing for us to introduce that region to our environmentally sustainable water-washable plate technologies since governments there are gearing up to increase environmental regulations. At the show, our experts will be on hand to help visitors better understand how Asahi AWP™ plates can improve environmental sustainability, overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) and organizational profitability without any compromise in quality. Visitors to our stand will also be able to see printed application examples and get advice from our experts about the best plates for their individual needs.”
Asahi experts will also be available to speak with visitors about the benefits of fixed colour palette printing, which uses a fixed palette of up to seven inks to virtually eliminate the need for spot colour inks. Because it uses a fixed set of inks, there is no wash-up required between jobs, and combo jobs are made easier. In addition, there is significantly less waste in the printing process, improving throughput and productivity. Asahi plates with Clean Transfer Technology deliver the precise plate-to-plate register required to implement this printing process successfully. “In our opinion,” adds Mr. Yamamoto, “this is the future of flexography, especially in label printing where digital printing has made significant inroads; it favourably positions flexography to compete with digital printing for all but the very shortest runs. This will be especially beneficial in Southeast Asia as the label market there continues to mature.”
At the show…
At Labelexpo Southeast Asia, Asahi Photoproducts will be showing the AWP™-DEW plate solution, incorporating the renowned quality properties of AWP™-DEF plates with the addition of a faster plate processing speed, making this plate ideal for labels and packaging operations with higher plate throughput who are looking to achieve significant quality and OEE benefits.
Voice of the Customer
Colognia Press is a Czech-based label converter and satisfied Asahi customer who needed to find a way to improve OEE. “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 that half of the time to produce the job was downtime. And even for shorter runs, we were not happy with the consistency from beginning to end of the job, often requiring press stops to clean plates or otherwise adjust quality.” After looking at several alternate solutions, Holona reports the company chose to implement the Asahi AWP™ platemaking system. “Now,” he says, “We can run a full 10-kilometre 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!”