Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Screening Technology: Another Piece in the Platemaking Puzzle

Today printers have many options to enhance flexographic print quality. Whether using flat-top dots, hybrid presses, or screening technologies there is a maze of information that must be navigated when choosing flexo enhancing technologies. With new flexo technologies, we are able to expand flexo and move jobs from competing technologies such as offset, gravure, and digital.
With advancements in flexo photopolymer plate and platemaking technologies such as MacDermid’s LUX ITP™ product portfolio and UV LED curing, comes the ability to hold finer highlight dots. These fine highlight dots enable designers more flexibility in creating art that will pop off the shelf and catch the eye of the consumer, especially with fade to zero effects. Surface screening has improved the everlasting issue with ink transfer and solid ink coverage helping those vibrant and saturated brand colors to become more consistent across packaging platforms.

Selecting, Curing, and Screening
Just as selecting the right plate and curing the plate are important, screening selection is a vital piece to implementing high-quality flexo. Screening selection will be dependent on your process and needs to be optimized for each process. One of the most important pieces of the flexo puzzle is optimization and control of the process. The evolution of screening selection, plate selection, and cure of the plate have made this piece more easily attainable.

Advancements in screening technologies are key factors in the improvement of flexographic print quality. These screening technologies combined with plate technologies and cure technologies have opened the door to two major players in the screening world: highlight dots and surface screening. Screening is the translation from the continuous tone image to the printable image comprised of dots of various shapes and sizes. How we screen an image ultimately determines how faithfully that image is reproduced and how much of the original contrast, saturation, and detail is preserved. Screening and new screening technologies are at the heart of flexo platemaking today.
The top three screening advancements are Esko’s Crystal, Hamillroad’s Bellissima, and Thermoflexx’s Woodpecker Nano. This article will focus on these screening technologies. Join us as we look at:
  • What they do
  • How they work
  • How to maximize their use

Thermodflexx’s Woodpecker Nano
Thermoflexx recently introduced a new surface screening technology, Woodpecker Nano, for its flexo plate imagers which offers higher solid ink density and smoother laydown. This new technology also eradicates dot bridging and tonal jumps minimizing and eliminating halo effect in solid types and trailing edge or void effect. Ink savings are an addtional benefit in using this technology due to more efficient ink pick up and transfer from low volume anilox rollers allowing for lower pigmented inks.

Woodpecker Nano utilizes the high-resolution Thermoflexx optic usually used to output 5080 dpi image files. Careful and accurate laser beam control allows repeatable and stable image implementation of these fine screens. It has been established that an input file resolution of 2000 dpi gives an optimum surface microstructure output for this optical path, already in place in most large format Thermoflexx imagers.

Woodpecker Surface Micro Structures are applied at the imager output avoiding the need for costly RIP options. Woodpecker Nano patterns are perfectly symmetrical and the finest available for LAMs layer digital flexo plates. Structures are applied to the highest line screen ruling (dots) with no need for protection or border. Nano screening is not object or subject-based and requires no decisions at the RIP stage.

Hamillroad’s Bellissima
Bellissima DMS is described as a transformative screening technology for flexo, rivaling the quality of print typically associated with offset and gravure. Bellissima DMS fuses the best characteristics of AM, FM, XM, GS, and CS screening while avoiding their limitations and problems.  The software delivers high-fidelity image reproduction while addressing highlights and fades. The solution’s lower dot gain translates to vivid detail and consistent color. It dramatically enhances the reproduction fidelity and color stability of flexo presswork.

On press, Bellissima helps overcome fundamental printing press problems inherent in the flexographic printing process including:
  • Reduced implementation time for screens and curves
  • Simplification of day-to-day repro tasks—reduced file retouching
  • Improved printed highlights and overall tonal range
  • Cleaner printing on press leads to fewer pauses for plate cleaning
  • Reduced graininess in highlight areas due to smaller dots and more control over transition point

150 lpi AM Screening
Bellissima DMS

This screening technology is likened to producing high-definition versus standard images. Bellissima makes the best case for a stochastic screen for flexo. On the highlight end, each color has its own randomized pattern, so the dots don’t print on top of each other. The dots are smaller and they’re able to capture detail more effectively. This eliminates color shifts and reduces noise in flat tints.

MacDermid’s LUX plate technology has experienced excellent results with Bellissima screens. MacDermid’s LUX ITP 60 flat-top dot technology doesn’t require extra steps and sees exposure times down to 8-10 minutes. The plates are inherently less affected by oxygen than round-top dot plates, resulting in a smaller printed dot.

Esko’s Crystal Screening
Esko has different screening technologies to improve ink lay-down in solids for flexo. These techniques improve the density and opacity of the solid areas (the 100% tones) by adding texture on the surface of flexo plates. That way the ink holds better on the plate and transfers more uniformly on the substrate.

The latest screening technology from Esko is Crystal screens. Crystal comes in various versions, which can be tailored to each printer’s application, press configuration, and platemaking environment. Crystal screens require Esko’s XPS Crystal UV LED system (for more info about UV LED & Photopolymer Technology see our post on this subject). Crystal screening is based on WSI Screening and utilizes Esko’s boost technology. Crystal screens take advantage of flat-top dot plates to form smaller printable structures within the plate to further improve those benefits of cleaner vignettes and increased color gamut. This screening technology enables very clean printing screens without dot bridging, which improves plate and print consistency with dot uniformity and stability. 
Since producing custom screens and curves has traditionally been a manual and time-consuming process, Esko’s Print Control Wizard (PCW) has been developed to simplify this step for labels and flexible packaging. PCW simplifies the implementation of screens and curves for the flexo print process. The product quickly formulates data sets for screens and curves, creates print targets (mid-tone targets and highlight targets), maintains a Dot Gain Chart, and allows for the entry of various parameters like what plates are being used, thickness, ink set, anilox properties, and so on. The software is a non-technical wizard-based tool which according to flexo printers, “Dots just print cleaner and plates come up to color faster.”

When to Use Screening
The answer to this question depends on what markets you are in and what markets you want to be in.
Ask yourself:

  • What competitive forces are you facing?
  • How much ink transfer am I looking for? What value?
  • Am I looking to expand my tonal range? What screen ruling?
  • Is fade too zero important for me?
In summary, know your market. Adopting a technology doesn’t necessarily guarantee you market share but it does establish a base for you to provide options to your existing or potential client from which you can grow or at a minimum protect your existing market.

To learn more about screening technology and photopolymer plates email us today email us today.

Written By: Tony Dalleore, General Manager – MGS Australia

Tony Dalleore, General Manager of MacDermid Graphics Solutions – Australia, has been a valued MacDermid employee since 1999. Tony is an expert in both liquid and sheet photopolymer solutions. His dedication to MacDermid and expanding flexo in Australia and the Asia Pacific region has helped us become a leader in the market and region.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Insights to the Corrugated Market

Wait another blog about corrugated?! We’ve discussed the best practices for corrugated post-print on the press floor. We’ve taught you about our photopolymer products designed for corrugated post-print including LUX® ITP™ MELO, LTL, LTS, and Digital MAF…Now we will dive further into corrugated with a market outlook.

The worldwide corrugated market is expected to increase approximately 3.7% CAGR to reach over 170 million tons and approach $300 billion by 2023, per Smithers Pira (1). Despite a reduced growth rate compared to other periods, corrugated print packaging has the highest share of the global print packaging market due to its widespread use in displays, packaged consumer goods, and shipments, all continuing to grow. Surprisingly, the corrugated market segment will expand more on average in emerging markets than in developed markets. Let’s take a step back and discuss the key trends driving growth in corrugated print packaging…

Key Trends Driving Growth
  • Exports and shipments support demand in the corrugated market, hence export-oriented markets typically have large corrugated markets.
  • Though mature, the corrugated market is expected to grow at a moderate pace as e-commerce gains ground due to increasing accessibility through mobile devices, competitive prices, urbanization, and fast shipping. The growing e-commerce movement represents an enticing opportunity for corrugated packaging as items need to be protected during transportation and distribution.
  •  With the world’s largest e-commerce market, China has a large, steadily growing corrugated market. In 2015, online shopping accounted for 12.9% of total consumer goods retail sales. In the first five months of 2016, online sales slowed; however, the growth rate of the corrugated market remained at above 25%.
  • Like China, the Indian e-commerce market is growing strongly and it is expected to double in size in the upcoming years.
  • Corrugated products are effected by ‘light-weighting’ and ‘down gauging’. In layman’s terms, using less material to produce packages, to maintain pricing advantages against competitors, partially due to increasingly demanding environmental and sustainability requirements. Companies are making significant strides in their environmental protection and energy optimization programs, along with initiatives to reduce water consumption. Nevertheless, ‘right weighting’ is a new concept being introduced. ‘Right weighting’ suggests that while some markets are taking advantage of reduced transportation costs from the use of lightweight boards, other markets are adopting heavyweight cardboard products aimed to replace wooden packaging. This heavyweight corrugated brings a significant reduction in weight and the ability to overcome regulations regarding pest and insect damage common with wood.
  • The demand for environmentally friendly packaging has never been higher. Consumer and regulatory entities in numerous industries demand sustainable products and processes. Because corrugated cardboard can be made of recyclable material, many companies are recycling corrugated packages, and reclaiming the used fiber in the manufacture of new corrugated packages. It’s no surprise that almost 90% of corrugated packages are recycled every year.
  • Traditionally considered a low value-added market, corrugated has started making waves in higher value-added markets. Corrugated experts are introducing innovative, new technologies to print retail-ready packaging; including point of sale displays and merchandising units, enhanced graphics for improved shelf appeal, Quick Response (QR) codes on consumer boxes, and high-quality digital print images. Experts claim that these trends are on the rise, signaling growth potential within a higher value-added segment of the corrugated market.

Considering the key trends driving growth in the corrugated market, companies and their suppliers still face challenges to remain competitive in a market that is evolving and responding to new consumer preferences. At MacDermid, we understand that cost-effective solutions are critical for corrugated box producers, and that flexibility is crucial to meet production deadlines. We offer a broad portfolio of solutions ranging from liquid resins to digital and analog sheet photopolymer. Some of our most recent innovations include supersoft durometer products, which feature different absorption characteristics and allow excellent ink coverage, creating the ability to successfully print on recycled corrugated surfaces. Softer plate materials require less impression and better conform to flutes of corrugated board, in turn, stabilizing box integrity. To achieve high-end graphics, a well-designed plate material with inherently flat-top dot technology is essential to maintain dot gain control and hold the finest detail. The result is a print image with less fluting and very high graphic quality. The dot structure is fundamental to reduce ink build-up and increase press uptime. Flat-top dot technology is a win-win, even for corrugated printing.

MacDermid photopolymer plate technology, suited for corrugated, guarantees the quality print you want, delivered when you need it.

Want to learn more about the corrugated market and how MacDermid can provide customized solutions for your needs? Contact us today!

To learn more contact MacDermid Graphics Solutions. Email us today.

  1. Smithers Pira. Insight: Key Drivers and Trends in Corrugated Packaging.
  2. World Wide Market for Print 2.0: Global Opportunities in Packaging (2011 – 2020)

Written By: Ivan Rozo, Business Development Manager, MGS Latin America

Ivan Rozo is the Business Development Manager for Latin America. Ivan is a Chemical Engineer with a Master Degree in Business Administration with an emphasis in marketing. He has more than ten years of experience in the Flexographic industry working in roles of sales and technical support in which he has led optimization projects. Ivan's is responsible for attracting new business and consolidating strategic accounts at MacDermid in Latin America.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Regulatory Questions?

MGS has the answers

Our industry is constantly changing with increased quality output, faster time-to-market speeds, technology advancements and more. Regulations for the environment, health, and social images of the industry are also continuing to evolve and impact day-to-day operations. How do you keep up?

Well, MacDermid Graphics Solutions is here to help! We have created the Product Stewardship Consultation Line dedicated to answering our customer’s questions about industry regulations.

MacDermid Graphics Solutions Product Regulatory Department understands the importance of Product Stewardship. We are committed to offering safer products by understanding the health, safety, environmental and social impacts of our products throughout the supply chain. MacDermid is taking the leadership position in providing a dedicated consultation line answering customer’s questions about industry regulations and our products.  

Do you have questions about California Proposition 65, a product SDS, REACH or other industry regulations? With this consultation line, you can now get answers fast!

This new Product Stewardship Consultation Line is staffed by industry experts. For easy access to answers, call (908) 791-2336 Monday to Friday from 9:00 AM – 6:00 PM EST.

MacDermid cares about our customers, our employees, and the environment.

Screening Technology: Another Piece in the Platemaking Puzzle

Today printers have many options to enhance flexographic print quality. Whether using flat-top dots, hybrid presses, or screening technolo...