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REVO team collaborates for 'Flexo Digital Revolution'

May 1, 2014

Seven suppliers have joined forces to digitalize the flexo process, making it consistent and more cost effective.

The "REVO Digital Flexo Revolution" is a new team of seven technology suppliers to the flexo industry whose goal is to digitalize the flexographic process and make it consistent and more cost effective. The team aims to strengthen the overall flexo business proposition in the labels and packaging industry. The team is made up of: Flint Group Narrow Web, Esko, DuPont, Apex, UPM Raflatac, Adare, and Nuova Gidue, who will officially introduce the project at an Open House at Gidue headquarters in Florence, Italy, June 10-12.

UV flexo, due to its high quality and consistency, is the preferred REVO printing technology. Extended color gamut/seven color separation is the preferred pre-press technology: 7 fixed colors (CMYK + Orange, Green, Violet or Reflex Blue) printed on top of each other, as very fine vignettes, are able to reproduce 90-95% of the PMS color palette. Next generation rollers provide ink transfer consistency due to the open slalom-designed surface. Digital automation removes the need to change anilox and ink to match PMS colors: print and diecutting cylinders are changed automatically without an operator, and also the press runs “digitally” without an operator. A list of substrates is provided for immediate production under REVO standards.

REVO members work together to define “off-the-shelf” protocols, hardware and software, immediately available to converters, who want to start producing in a digital flexo environment, without extra costs. A top-quality converter of labels and packaging is part of the REVO Teaam, and tests and validates the REVO standards on behalf of future REVO Converters.

REVO Digital Flexo standards will be available to the entire flexo industry six months after the official presentation of the REVO project. The partners have agreed to promote a move of flexo towards the full digitalization of the process, and agree to share at a later stage all the standards and the protocols defined for the best performance of the REVO Digital Flexo Revolution. The REVO project standards will be open to all the flexographic industry players, who are willing to share the REVO Digital Flexo objectives.

REVO Team Members suggest the following list of main advantages for companies joining the REVO Digital Flexo Revolution.

Cost reduction: Less substrate, inks, and time are wasted for color matching on press. 90-95% of PMS palette is reproduced with seven fixed colors. Less ink is needed to print solid colors as only vignettes are used to reproduce heavy solids. Less substrate is wasted during set-up due to automation and more up-time of the press is achieved due to downtime reduction for color matching, print and diecutting cylinder changes, press set-up, and press inconsistency during production.

Consistency: Most variables are digitalized during the whole “from pre-press to print” chain. PMS inks are substituted by seven fixed colors, operator skills are not required for color matching. UV flexo inks deliver consistent ink behavior on press. Anilox rollers and inks are optimized for consistent performances. Digital automation on press greatly reduces the variables caused by varying operator skills.

Quality: Seven colors separation-extended color gamut provide vibrant effects on pictures, with more natural and realistic images. 80 lines per cm screen count become standard, taking flexo to a higher print quality level.

Digital flexibility: The same file can be printed on a digital or a digital flexo press, with similar quality and costs. With limited waste and set-up times on the press, production flow can be similar to a digital press, with frequent job changes, job interruptions, high flexibility in job planning.

Graphic flexibility: a single job can show a virtually unlimited number of PMS colors, without additional print stations: Seven print stations are sufficient. Two or more jobs can be interlocked, for short-run production needs, on the same web, even if with several and different PMS colors. Still, seven coloors are sufficient.

Niklas Olsson of Flint Group Narrow Web discusses how UV flexo is the ideal process to become digital. "UV inks are inherently consistent as there is no VOC evaporation to 'disturb' the printing process. Furthermore, inks do not dry on the plates so waste is reduced and quality consistency increases. UV flexo inks printing quality is superior to water and solvent based flexo inks as less ink is transferred (ink is full solid, without VOCs). Dot gain is reduced and ink densities are higher. REVO process needs top printing quality and high color density to achieve the best performances. New generation low migration UV flexo inks support the REVO Digital Flexo Revolution with high pigmentation, consistent ink transfer, consistent density properties, giving to REVO projects a wide range of graphic possibilities, and excellent consistency performances," he says.

Federico d’Annunzio of Nuova Gidue adds: “Extensive Digital Automation in the printing press is needed to collect all the opportunities of the new REVO 'digital' flexo process. On the printing and converting sections, servo motors and digital HD Cameras substitute the eyes and the fingers of the operator with digital eyes and digital fingers. The new generation presses exchange the print and diecutting cylinders from 'old' to 'new' job fully automatically, without operator. Set up and production operations are digitally controlled, with very limited intervention from the operator, which becomes a production manager and a quality tutor on the press, as most of the operations are automated and digitally controlled.

"Digital Automation in flexo presses completes the REVO 'digital chain' from prepress, to plates, to inks, to anilox and finally to printing and converting, to achieve a full REVO digitalization of the flexo process," d’Annunzio says.

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