Tuesday, July 16, 2019

M-System from MacDermid: The Art of Liquid


The Liquid Advantage

For nearly 40 years, MacDermid Graphics Solutions has invested in the development, application, and marketing of liquid photopolymers for flexographic printing applications. In this time, we have witnessed the introduction of digital platemaking and thermal processing, both of which have successfully competed with liquid platemaking. Despite the appearance of these new technologies, liquid technology remains alive and well, continuing to evolve while maintaining its ecological and economic strengths. Along with the digital revolution, an equally demanding sustainable revolution returned focus to the unique capabilities of liquid.



Figure 1: Liquid Workflow
The liquid platemaking workflow, with the Reclaim step, highlighted in green. The ability to reclaim uncured resin differentiates liquid platemaking from other processes. 


While obviously strong in liquid technology, MacDermid also has the unique vantage point of being a technology developer in multiple plate technologies such as analog and digital platemaking, as well as solvent and thermal processing techniques. It is therefore much easier for MacDermid to directly study the ecological and economic advantages of liquid photopolymers. In fact, several years ago MacDermid went so far as to develop the Environmental Footprint Calculator, a tool which allows for direct technology-to-technology comparisons based on Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) data compiled from each of the platemaking technologies of interest (from manufacturing to finished plate). The table below highlights the advantages of a water-based processing system combined with the ability to achieve mass yields per plate far greater than any other process. It is this unique ability to reclaim and recycle unexposed liquid resin that fundamentally and uniquely distinguishes liquid platemaking technology.  

  
Table 1: Environmental Footprint Calculator Summary
The table highlights the advantages of a liquid processing system combined with the ability to achieve mass yields per plate far greater than any other platemaking process.

Inputs

Baseline
Alternatives
Product
Liquid Photopolymer
Digital Solvent
Digital Thermal
Gauge (mils)
.067
.067
.067
Impact Categories


Alternatives
Energy Consumption

Increased by 390%
Increased by 242%
Water Consumption

Reduced by 29%
Reduced by 70%
Acidification of Water

Increased by 367%
Increased by 267%
Global Warming

Increased by 343%
Increased by 282%
Savings Comparison


Alternatives
Cars operating for 1 year

Increased by 347.3 cars
Increased by 285.9 cars
Homes powered for 1 day

Increased by 22.3 houses
Increased by 13.8 houses
Laundry washloads

Reduced by 744.2 loads
Reduced by 1829.1 loads


The aforementioned economic and ecological advantages are brought together through in-position platemaking technology, which is uniquely suited for use with liquid photopolymers. In-position plates are made by imaging one entire color in register as opposed to preparing individual copy pieces and mounting them. During plate exposure, only the areas with copy are cured. The result is a plate with islands of copy adhered to a thin and light polyester backing sheet.  When using in-position plate technology, as much as 70 percent of the original cast polymer can be reclaimed, minimizing waste and resulting in more environmentally responsible practices. In-position plates’ lighter weights reduce shipping costs and storage space requirements.  


Figure 2:  In-position plate
The use of liquid in-position plates can result in as much as 70 percent of the original cast polymer being reclaimed.


M-System:  What is it?

The evolution of liquid technology culminated in the launch of the M-System platform.  The M-System platform is based on the three core components of focus, leverage, and innovation. All three components are intertwined into a series of innovative technologies that are supported and guided by dedicated service, support, and research team – leveraging years of liquid photopolymer experience into a unified technology and service architecture. This new platform is based on the sum total of product chemistry, platemaking equipment, a quality production environment, our sales, service and support personnel, and our devotion to continuous improvement and innovation. 

Liquid Photopolymers

The heart of the M-System process is the photopolymer technology itself. Liquid photopolymer technology has grown from use in newspaper and master resins, to multiple print markets. M-System products cover the corrugated, multi-wall bag, and stamp industries in addition to more unique elements such as sand-casting, coating plates, and even multilayer plate capabilities. The full M-System product line is outlined below.

Corrugated

The top of the line product in the M-System line is LTL, which has proven to be the gold standard for liquid platemaking in the corrugated market, especially when used at 6.35-7 mm (.250-.280”) thickness in combination with in-position platemaking techniques. Its patented composition provides outstanding UV stability, low tack, and clean printing.   For those requiring a softer product for use with recycled board or board with thinner liners,  LTS is available at 25 durometer. For those with less stringent print demands, MRC is the newest corrugated product development from MacDermid available in 32 Shore A. This material is widely suited for multiple board types and plate thicknesses, with excellent UV stability and an extremely wide exposure latitude to cover the most demanding combination of process and line work.

Capping Technology

Capping technology allows for the use of a second layer of photopolymer on top of a soft or hard base photopolymer. In corrugated printing, capping not only increases the tonal range of the finished plate but also reduces fluting to an extent that rivals or surpasses that of the leading “flat-top dot” technologies in the industry. MacDermid offers two cap products, M Cap 45 and FC 55HR-R, which differ in their hardness values, offering highly tunable print performance benefits.

Multiwall Bag

Several high durometer, thin plate photopolymers round out the selection of products commonly used in the multiwall bag or paper sack printing segment. These photopolymers are built from the same patented technology used with LTL and LTT.  MWH is a high resolution, 50 durometer product capable of 175 ls imaging, highly competitive against the premium analog sheet plates on the market today. For less demanding resolution, a UV stable formulation is available in 50 durometer. MWB 50 has proven to be highly durable even on the most demanding paper stock, while still capable of 120 lpi imaging (especially when capped).

Stamp Photopolymers

Rounding out the major segments of the M-System product line are the stamp and molding photopolymers. The workhorse products are M Stamp 40 and M Stamp 50.  While used predominantly as hand stamps, these formulations are also used in more unique applications such as bronze/sandcasting, coating plates, and for printing on paper or envelope stock. Where clarity and colorfastness are required, such as hobby and craft applications, M Systems offers M Clear. M Clear produces an extremely colorfast stamp that is renowned for its high strength as well


Table 2:   Photopolymer Selection Guide

Product
Market Segment
Thickness
(mils)
Durometer
Tone Range Capability
LTL
Corrugated
.112- .280
32 Shore A
2-95%, 100 lpi
LTS
Corrugated
.112-.280
25 Shore A
3-95%, 85 lpi
MRC
Corrugated
.112-.280
32 Shore A
2-95%, 100 lpi
M Cap 45
Capping Resin
.004-.007
45 Shore A
2-95%, 120 lpi
FC-55HR-R
Capping Resin
.004-.007
55 Shore A
1-95%, 175 lpi
MWH
Wide Web
.045-.125
50 Shore A
1-95%, 175 lpi
MWB 50
Wide Web
.045-.125
50 shore A
3-95%, 120 lpi
M Stamp 40
Hand Stamp,Wide web, Bronze/ sandcasting
.067-.125
40 shore A
2-90%, 100 lpi
M Stamp 50
Hand Stamp, Wide web, Coating, bronze/ sandcasting
.067-.125
50 Shore A
2-90%, 85 lpi
M Clear
Hand Stamp
.067-.140
40 Shore A
n/a


Washouts

M-System offers a complete set of washout chemistry to process the photopolymers listed above.  This chemistry is fully optimized for all M-System products and provides crisp, clean images in combination with improved bath life and cleanliness. A three-component system is used; M Clean Detergent, M Clean Developer, and M Clean Defoamer. Formulation guidelines are available through the M-System Technical Tip series. However, since washout quality and effectiveness is directly linked with incoming water quality at each customer location, M-System Technical Service experts work directly with each customer to maximize system performance.

To complete the plate processing optimization, M Clean PX is added to the post-exposure bath to ensure thorough polymerization during this critical exposure step. M Clean PX enables better surface cure during the underwater post-exposure step, which greatly enhances the results of the final light finishing step, where required.

Ancillary Materials

M-System also offers a complete set of platemaking consumables used in the creation of your printing plate.

  • M Film Clear and M Film Matte are used during the platemaking process as a barrier between the liquid resin and film negative. M Film Matte offers a matte surface that can alter the surface roughness of the finished printing plate. M Film Clear offers greater imaging resolution in more demanding applications. 
  • M Strate is a coated polyester backing used as the support layer for M-System printing plates. Specifically designed for use with M-System resins, M Strate offers a combination of high photopolymer adhesion and anti-halation properties to maximize detail-holding in the printing plate. 
  • M Strate AB has a pressure-sensitive adhesive coating on the back for savings in plate mounting.



Table 3: Ancillary Material Selection Guide

Product
Description
M Clean Detergent
Surfactant
M Clean Developer
Developer
M Clean Defoamer
Defoamer
M Clean PX
Post-Exposure Salt
M Film Clear
Clear Coverfilm
M Film Matte
Matte Coverfilm
M Strate
Adhesive-coated substrate
M Strate AB
Adhesive-backed version of MStrate


Equipment

With liquid photopolymer, you are the plate manufacturer, so accurate, dependable platemaking equipment is critical to plate quality. MacDermid has pioneered many elements of liquid platemaking, such as in-position and multilayer platemaking, through the development of equipment. In addition, MacDermid platemaking systems are ideally suited for the increasing quality demands placed on platemakers today. Full production systems, complete with exposure unit, reclaim system, washout system, post-exposure, and light finisher, are available in sizes ranging from 30x40 all the way up to 52x80.  

Figure 3:  M System exposure unit
Industry-proven liquid exposure system, the M-System exposure, continues to set the mark in liquid platemaking production efficiency. 



Changes in the larger market for silver halide film have affected the availability of film processors and film negatives, and in response, MacDermid has developed an alternative to film processing known as M Jet. This latest generation inkjet technology offers improved resolution capability and color-to-color registration compared to previous options.  M Jet eliminates the need for film processing chemicals while allowing for the continued use of film-based platemaking technologies. In addition, MacDermid has partnered with Exile Technologies to market its Liberator thermal film product line offering customers another option for film negatives.


Figure 4:  M Jet
In response to changes in the availability of film processors and film negatives, MacDermid has developed an alternative to film processing known as M Jet. 



Quality

MacDermid’s M-System products are produced at two separate locations globally. A multi-million-pound facility in the United States is being utilized to produce high quality liquid photopolymer resins for the European, North and South American markets. This facility is ISO 9000:14001 certified, and the close relationship between the manufacturing staff and the M System development and support team enables quick and consistent communication on market and customer needs. A second production facility, also ISO 9000:14001 certified, is strategically situated to serve the Australian and Asia markets.  

Service & Support

The global service and support team are a core component of M-System. The team is comprised of specialists in liquid development, sales, and support, with a majority having more than a decade of experience developing and working on liquid photopolymer technology. MacDermid’s Bookend Strategy places significant emphasis on the dual elements of innovation and service. With this combined emphasis, one can expect a consultative relationship rather than merely a customer-supplier relationship; MacDermid strives to make our customers better

Continuous Innovation

The other element of the bookend strategy, innovation, is only truly successful when innovation is done with the customer in mind. The driving force behind the success of the M-System platform is that we understand the full span of relevant technologies - how chemistry affects photopolymer imaging, how photopolymer imaging affects dot shape, and how dot shape affects print results. We develop resins that image better so that they print better. We design and manufacture equipment that enables easier platemaking and more consistent plate uniformity. We develop methods that optimize reclaim efficiency to further enhance the economic and sustainability benefits of liquid. We make consumables that enhance resin imaging capabilities, delivering better print quality. We use product packaging that is more sustainable. These are examples of the types of innovation you have gotten from MacDermid for years, and you can expect more to come from the M-System team.

No system combines more expertise and leverages more printing experience than M-System. M-System is about focusing on liquid and its core benefits to the flexographic industry, leveraging our experience and core technologies, and innovating even further in order to meet market needs. Simply put: if it’s not M-System from MacDermid, it’s just Liquid.

Find out how M-System from MacDermid can improve your workflow, contact us today.


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