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Project partners develop a license-free, seven-color MP system

April 2, 2014

The project was launched at Labelexpo in Brussels last year.

At Labelexpo Europe 2013 in Brussels, a group of companies from the flexo printing industry presented a multi-color system which is aligned with narrow-web printing and can be used by printing operations without a license. The following four project partners had teamed up for a realization of this MP color system under the theme "Teamwork for Success“:
  • The anilox roller manufacturer Apex Europe B.V., AK Hapert, Netherlands
  • The repro company Athena Graphics NV, Roeselare, Belgium
  • The printing press manufacturer MPS Systems B.V., BA Didam, Netherlands
  • The printing ink manufacturer Zeller+Gmelin GmbH & Co. KG, Eislingen, Germany
Prior to last year’s Labelexpo, the partners jointly developed the fictitious product "Fruit Berry.“ The coloring of the four labels specially designed for this purpose was deliberately chosen knowing that they would require the use of special colors. Using the newly created seven-color MP-system, the labels with the four different designs could be printed in UV-flexo in one pass with just one set of printing plates. The printed samples on Fasson material (AM932 Global MDO White; Liner: S7000 PET23) which were presented during the exhibition vividly demonstrated that with this system those critical color shades could be achieved even without the use of special colors. The color reproduction is equal to the traditional production method with special colors, as could also be demonstrated by a comparative print of the same labels in four color printing with one special color per motif. However, four separate print productions were required for the conventional production of the labels, in each of which an individual special color from the Pantone Matching System (PMS) was used.

Compatible with digital toner printing
Due to its compatibility with digital printing, the seven-color MP-system offers the user another important advantage. This was achieved by an adaptation of the MP-system to the toner inks of the popular digital printing systems. The printing ink manufacturer Zeller+Gmelin has specifically developed a special ink series based on the UVAFLEX-series, whose individual colors have been exactly adjusted to the process colors (CMYK) and the additional colors orange, green and purple of digital printing. The inks use as a basis the well-known mono-pigmented mixing system of Zeller+Gmelin which allows for particularly pure colors and an intensive color reproduction in printing. They are also available as a low-migration version.

With the new seven-color MP-system, printers can spontaneously switch from digital printing to UV-flexo or UV-offset printing in case of longer print runs and thus take advantage of these conventional printing processes with respect to profitability and color stability with increasing volumes of orders. A prerequisite is a certain standardization of individual process parameters. As a result, users benefit thanks to lower downtimes. Because of the three additional colors, individual Pantone colors can be mixed already during the repro work, and thus the use of special colors including associated labor for changing colors and anilox rollers during printing can be eliminated. In addition to significantly saving time, the consumption of cleaning chemicals and the amount of ink residuals is also reduced.

Coordinated production parameters
In addition to the UV-flexo printing inks, even more parameters in the process chain have to be standardized in order to guarantee an accurate color reproduction in day-to-day production. Here, the project partners from the fields of pre-press and repro, as well as mechanical engineering and anilox rollers come into play. The company Athena contributed the design of the labels and the color separation. The production was carried out on a flexo press of type MPS EF 410 at a printing speed of 120 m/min. For the use of the MP-system press models are recommended which feature a high level of automation and very good registration accuracy, promoted by precision servo drives. The quartet is completed by anilox rollers that for such a print performance ensure an ink transfer rate which is to be as accurate and constant as possible over the entire production. Anilox rollers from Apex were used for the printed samples. In the case of the four process colors anilox rollers with a screen of 405 l/cm and a pick-up volume between 3.5 and 4.5 cm3/m2 were used, for the additional colors (OGP) 265 l/cm and 5.0 cm3/m2.

Informative event being planned
The partners are currently planning a seminar, which will be held on April 8 on the premises of the company Apex. It is aimed primarily at companies producing labels, tags or packaging on narrow-web UV-flexo or UV-offset printing machines. The seminar participants will be shown how the “Fruit Berry” project was developed and which prerequisites for the use of the MP-system are required. Furthermore, it will be explained in detail how the system can be integrated into the environment of a label or packaging printer. Some printing companies, who are interested in such an integration of the new multi-color system, are currently already in contact with the repro company Athena Graphics.

The seven-color MP-system developed in a project between four partners offers possibilities to extend the feasible color space in narrow web printing. Of particular interest here is the adaptation of the system to digital printing that has captured a growing market share in this market segment in recent years. In the foreseeable future, many label printers will use in parallel both digital printing systems and traditional procedures such as flexo and offset printing in order to be able to take advantage of their respective strengths for different print runs and applications. Especially with small volumes digital printing has advantages in terms of economy. The main reasons are the absence of printing plates, predominantly dispensing with individually mixed special colours and short delivery times. In the future, the conventional printing techniques can still score with their known success factors for medium and large print runs. Using the seven-color MP-system, printers can switch between these two processes without any obvious differences in quality or color of the label or packaging for the consumer.