Eliminating the use of film, Esko's CDI Spark 2530 technology images directly onto photopolymer plate material, allowing Ideal to print four-color process labels in greater detail--up to 200 lpi and dots as fine as 1% in size, says Amar Kailas, vice president at Ideal Labels. CDI Spark 2350 images digital flexo plates up to 25 x30" (635 x 762mm) and an EasyClamp II drum for easier and faster plate loading. They are imaging on Toyobo Cosmolight water wash plate material, which is an environmentally responsible choice. Coupled with Esko imaging technology, the plates offer Ideal Labels a nice competitive edge they need in a very competitive market.
"Film did not offer much consistency, due to the ever changing chemistry and other variables such as laser intensity, film density and temperature," Kailas says. "Plates would come out differently within one job, and from job-to-job, depending on the state of the chemicals. Now, with the CDI we are consistent from job to job."
"We wanted to have a more competitive edge over the local print shops in our area and produce a final product to the best quality flexo printing would allow. That meant implementing Esko's CDI to our workflow to create highly detailed plates with accurate dots and easy repeatability from job to job," Kailas continues, reflecting on the reason for the CDI installation. "With films and chemistry, dots may vary in size and become smaller or larger, even lf you are imaging the same job. The CDI eliminates a majority of the variables associated with film and as a result the plates are always consistent, which means the jobs look the same. The settings also remain the same. In fact, nothing changes unless we change it ourselves."
The CDI also gives Ideal Labels the ability to image different line screens simultaneously. "I can image jobs of different line screens all at once on one large sheet of plate material," Kailas says. "We used to have to produce them one at a time. For instance, we had to image 100 lpi screen jobs separately from 133 lpi or 150 lpi screen jobs. Being able to gang up images with different line screens on the same sheet of plate material saves us time and allows us to begin prepress for other jobs while the CDI runs."
Ideal is able to devote the time it used to spend in prepress and platemaking to actual production. The CDI solution also gets plate material to the press faster. As part of its Esko technology solution, Ideal uses Esko's DeskPack modules, including trapping and preflighting. The DeskPack collection of packaging prepress plugins for Adobe® Illustrator® and Adobe® Photoshop® provide a full-fledged packaging prepress application for label providers.
"We were using Illustrator for a majority of the prepress and trapping, and Quark Xpress for the step and repeating," explains Kailas. "Before we had DeskPack, everything was done manually," he adds. "It was extremely cumbersome to set up a job. With DeskPack, we preset everything for automatic trapping, and, depending on the job, can have multiple presets. Previously, for every job, I had to take my time and meticulously examine each label to figure out what had to be trapped in order for the label to be printed as easily as possible. It was the same with step & repeat. With the Preflight, PowerLayout and Power Trapper modules, a job can be ready to go with a few clicks of a button in just minutes without any guesswork or the fear of mistakes being made." DeskPack allows Ideal to set multiple presets simultaneously, with rules and exceptions to trap the file according to each job's specifications.
"Because we aren't trapping manually, what used to take us up to six hours from start to finish for four or five complex jobs now barely takes any time at all," says Kailas. "Now, we are more capable of meeting the quick turnaround times of today's demanding customers who needed their order yesterday, which is the bulk of our work. Esko's software and CDI simplifies our work and doesn't compromise quality for speed."
Customers, too, are happy with the results. "We were only able to run 150 lpi, which was okay for their needs, says Kailas. "Now, our standard is 200 lpi, and they are more than happy with the quality. The color preproduction is excellent and the dot gain is very minimal for flexo printing, due to CDI's capability of creating very crisp lines and no distortion in the sizes of the dots. Distortion was an issue when we used film. Our plates are very accurate and can be reproduced very easily, from job-to-job."
Kailas, who runs Ideal Labels with his brother and father, trained for a week-and-a-half, learning the ins and outs about digital platemaking. At the shop, he takes care of prepress and platemaking, and his brother and father handle the bulk of the print and production. Kailas also works in the printing area, mostly for process color jobs.
Ideal Labels purchased its CDI and DeskPack Tools from Williamson Printing Materials Limited in Grimsby, Ontario. "Williamson has been very reliable and helped us every step of the way," Kailas comments. "They fingerprinted our presses and helped us set the dot gain curves. They were there to help when Esko came in to set up, making sure everything was okay."
Kailas notes both Esko and Williamson were very helpful. "Whenever they are in the area, their salesmen and field technicians double-check our system to see if it is running properly," remarks Kailas. "They just drop by to see how things are going."
Overall, using the Esko system and workflow has meant a much simpler process to get a job out. Going forward, Ideal Labels plans to look into new DeskPack modules that will help further maximize efficiency for its workflow.
As for its current Esko solution, says Kailas, "It's a lifesaver. Basically if you want to draw up more time for production, and want to ensure consistent jobs, invest in it. It will definitely improve the quality of the work you do and make it look more professional."
The best part of the Esko technology solution? "We aren't putting in unnecessary late hours to work on prepress and platemaking," Kailas says. And customers are getting a better product.