Asahi Unveils AWP™ CleanFlat Flexo Plate At SINOFLEX

Water-washable FlatTop plate delivers high quality, consistency and improved ink laydown

Tokyo, Japan & Brussels, Belgium, July 19, 2021. Asahi Photoproducts, a pioneer in flexographic photopolymer plate development, today reported successful participation in SinoFlex, Asia’s leading trade platform focusing on flexible packaging. At the show, which was held in Shanghai from 14 to 16 July, Asahi unveiled its new AWP™ CleanFlat FlatTop out-of-the-box water-washable flexo plate with CleanPrint technology, and displayed its full range of CleanPrint plates, explaining to attendees how these plates not only deliver flexo printing in harmony with the environment, but also deliver improved quality and Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE). Asahi CleanPrint plates are available for a wide range of applications and substrates and have been specifically developed by our chemical engineers to transfer the remaining ink to the printed substrate, reducing press stops for plate cleaning while delivering exceptional consistent quality throughout the entire run.

“We were extremely pleased with the warm reception by attendees of our line of CleanPrint plates, especially the AWP™ CleanFlat water-washable FlatTop plate that made its worldwide debut at the show,” said Ryo Ichihashi, (Manager at ASEM China). “All across Asia, flexographic printing operations are looking for more sustainable platemaking processes as focus increases on reducing their carbon footprint. Asahi’s line of CleanPrint plates ticks all the boxes in this regard.”

The Asahi AWP™ CleanFlat FlatTop plate with CleanPrint technology is used out of the box with no special workflow or equipment required. CleanFlat plates are compatible with standard workflows including UV bank light tubes, UV LED or FULL HD exposure systems as well as modern microcell screening technologies to ensure the highest level of quality and consistency throughout the print run.

Other Asahi CleanPrint plates on display at the show included:

  • AWP™-DEW, ideal for the highest quality flexo applications, including flexible packaging and labels. Designed to move away from VOC washout solvent-based plate processing, offering a cleaner alternative to the flexo industry.
  • AFP™-BFTH, a high-quality solvent wash FlatTop plate solution with best-in-class printing press consistency. These plates deliver improved ink laydown on wide web flexible packaging film, paper and label substrates in combination with solid screening patterns and keeping highlight dots at perfect quality.
  • AFP™-Leggero, super soft plates specifically designed for printing with minimal kiss-touch pressure on corrugated transport boxes, delivering minimal washboarding and good ink coverage for the utmost in quality while eliminating board crush to better protect the packaged goods.
  • AFP™-TOP, a premium hard digital flexo plate that delivers a broad colour gamut and soft tonal shades fading out to zero. Kiss-touch printing pressure facilitates repeatable print quality and fewer cleaning press stops. Compatible with high definition screening and microcell patterning technologies.
  • AFP™-TSP, the perfect plate for sticky inks and for products like pet food packaging. It is the perfect plate solution for most sticky ink formulations, allowing fewer press cleaning stops and consistent print quality.
  • AFP™-APC/TPC are digital and analogue plates developed for the high-quality corrugated board display and signage printing market where image quality matters. On double flute coated liner board, the plate delivers with its CleanPrint technology ex­ceptional image printing performance with minimal dot gain flute marking.

Water-Based Flexographic Printing Steps Up To The Sustainability Challenge

Water-Based Flexographic Printing Steps Up To The Sustainability Challenge

By Takumi Saito, Printing Solutions Project, Asahi Kasei Corporation

The recent Leaders Summit on Climate, hosted by U.S. President Biden, demonstrates the growing commitment leaders of many countries have to addressing the climate crisis by reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) among other initiatives. This will likely translate into increased regulatory pressure on a variety of industries, including printing, to moderate their emissions of CO2 and other global warming gases such as CH4 and N2O. As a leading supplier to the flexographic printing industry, Asahi Photoproducts is dedicated to delivering flexographic solutions that are in harmony with the environment. In doing so, the company enables its customers to be proactive in contributing to the overall reduction of GHG emissions

Over the last half century, Asahi Photoproducts has worked hard to bring innovative solutions to flexography, and most recently with the Asahi AWP™ CleanPrint water-washable plates. This solvent-free process delivers more sustainable printing while at the same time improving Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) in the press room to the tune of 30% or more, which results in a significant increase in quality due to the precise register these plates deliver.

What that means for the printing industry is that flexography is now competitive with gravure for all except the longest print runs. To validate this assertion, Flexo Technical Association Japan (FTAJ) and Water-based Flexographic Printing Advancement Council partnered with the Sustainable Management Promotion Organization (SuMPO), a well-known Japanese association, to calculate GHG emissions during the entire printing process for each of these two technologies, using the Life Cycle Assessment method (Fig.1).

The results were enlightening. We found that when printing a job of 5,000 linear meters with water-based flexographic printing and comparing the result with the simulation of the same job with gravure printing, GHG emissions from water-based flexographic printing can be reduced by about 65% compared to gravure. We measured GHG emissions from the gravure life cycle at 668 kg, whereas emissions from water-based flexography were 231 kg.

The gravure printing simulation results from using electronic engraving of the cylinders and solvent-based inks, while water-based flexographic printing uses water-washable plates and water-based inks. The results are shown in the image below, broken down into 3 steps: platemaking/engraving, ink manufacturing, and printing.

<Fig.1>  Calculation result by SuMPO about GHG Emissions (kg-CO2e) at 5,000m printing.
(This result is calculated by the conditions of Ref.1 and not typical value of water-based flexo printing and solvent gravure printing)


The sustainability of the print can be further enhanced by using solvent-free laminating where lamination is required or desired, instead of dry lamination where the bonding agent is dissolved in solvent, applied, and then evaporated in a drying oven. With solvent-free lamination, a low viscosity adhesive is applied, requiring only a heated nip to mate it to the substrate. This creates an additional advantage of solvent-free lamination beyond the reduced GHG and VOC emissions since it does not require a drying component, further reducing energy consumption and increasing its sustainability as compared to the conventional dry lamination process. Thus, we recommend water-based flexographic printing technology combined with solvent-free lamination and water-washable flexographic printing plates as the most sustainable approach to producing packaging.

All of this demonstrates the significant progress that has been made towards reduction of the carbon footprint for flexographic printing as compared to gravure, and the fact that this approach to packaging printing has the potential to change the global packaging market. But we are not stopping here. The talented and innovative engineers at Asahi Photoproducts continue to seek new ways to reduce the environmental impact of flexographic printing processes even further, and we have full confidence that they will find even more ways to make flexographic printing more sustainable.

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.

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”.

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