Liquid Photopolymer: A Seasoned Technology for Today's Corrugated Printing

How often can you say a technology from the 1960s remains competitive in nearly the same form today? One technology is liquid photopolymer for direct print corrugated applications in flexography. Over the past 50+ years, we have witnessed the introduction of digital platemaking and the continued evolution of water wash technology for sheet photopolymers. Each of these areas competes with liquid platemaking yet, despite these competitive pressures, liquid technology remains alive and well. While liquid continues to evolve through imaging innovations and enhanced processing equipment, it maintains its fundamental characteristics as well as its ecological and economic strengths. Along with the digital revolution, and the equally demanding sustainable revolution returned focus to liquid's unique capabilities.

Working for MacDermid Graphics Solutions, I have the unique vantage point of innovating in multiple plate technologies such as analog and digital platemaking, as well as solvent and thermal processing techniques. Therefore, it is much easier for us to directly study the ecological and economic advantages of liquid photopolymers. The table below highlights the benefits of a water-based processing system combined with the ability to achieve mass yields per plate, far greater than any other process. This unique ability to reclaim and recycle unexposed liquid resin fundamentally and uniquely distinguishes liquid platemaking technology.

The figure below shows the liquid platemaking workflow, with the Reclaim step highlighted in green. The ability to reclaim uncured resin differentiates liquid platemaking from other processes.

The economic and ecological advantages of liquid photopolymer are brought together through in-position platemaking technology, uniquely suited for use with liquid photopolymers. In-position plates are made by imaging one entire color in register instead of 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, 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.

The table below 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. Calculated by MacDermid Graphics Solutions' Environmental Footprint Calculator.

In the world of printing plates, we love to debate which plate is "BEST," but ultimately, it is the application, customer needs, and customer goals that determine THE best technology. When looking for the best plate for corrugated print, you must consider liquid photopolymer. Failure to do so does your customer, your bottom line, and the environment a disservice. Let me know your thoughts.

Ryan Vest, Global Director of Innovation - MacDermid Graphics Solutions

Ryan Vest, Global Director of Innovation, has been key in the development of industry-changing technologies such as LAVA® thermal plate processing and the LUX® Flat Top Dot technologies. He is widely known in the industry for his expertise in liquid photopolymer and corrugated plate technologies. Vest earned his Bachelor of Science in Chemistry from Berry College in 1995 and his Master of Science (M.S.) in Chemistry from North Carolina State University in 1998, joining MacDermid that very same year.


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