In 2003, Ken Pavett acquired Flexografix, and the rest, as the saying goes, “is history." Pavett quickly retooled the company, developing a highly skilled staff, and implementing advanced technology to ensure the company goals of providing stronger value, impeccable quality, and better service could be met—for printers or brand owners. The imperative has worked: since Pavett took over as CEO and President, sales revenues have increased considerably. Esko has been at Pavett’s side almost from the beginning, helping Flexografix realize its mission of delivering prepress solutions that increase customers’ profitability. “Our customers love that they can put our plates on press, and they consistently meet the expectations of the project with less effort. We engineer color separations and plates that are as easy as possible to print and match our proofs, while protecting the designer’s original intent,” says Pavett.
Esko prepress and workflow
The entire Flexografix flexo plate making workflow, from prepress to the finished plates, is provided by Esko tools—editing and workflow automation—which makes it so productive for them. This includes an Esko Automation Engine workflow server engine to automate prepress administrative tasks, DeskPack plug-ins for Adobe Illustrator, and PackEdge, a robust pre-production editor. They have also recently installed a Kongsberg XL24 finishing table as part of a Digital Flexo Suite solution.
Flexografix's customers were early to realize the quality benefits from the company's 2002 investment in Esko direct-to-plate technology. In 2011, they added a second Esko CDI imager, an Esko CDI 4260. They were using HD Flexo, particularly for higher quality narrow web printing customers to help them fade vignettes or drop shadows to zero. One customer comments, "I always had a lot of trouble with registration on type and smaller areas that required tight register. The plates that I received from Flexografix gave us the results that we were looking for on the very high end print projects we had to produce."
However, Flexografix was hoping to get an even better printing plate delivered to its customers—one that would increase the solid ink density (SID) and allow them to increase the vibrancy of the colors and fade to zero in the highlights, in an efficient, effective way. Basically, they wanted to create a product to help their customers print better and to help differentiate Flexografix in its marketplace.
"At the time, we were very close to investing in a different flexo plate imaging system. Fortunately for us, we ran a print test with Esko plates and those from two other systems. We used the same form for all three plate systems. We picked our highest quality packaging printer customer to do a test press run on a Saturday," remembers Pavett. "Full HD Flexo was significantly better than the results from the other systems." Flexografix installed Full HD Flexo during February 2015.
"We received great support from Esko. The Esko Flexo Implementation and Quality (FIQ) team gave us a lot of attention," notes Pavett. "We had high expectations for the performance of the technology, and Esko helped deliver on those expectations. They also gave us some advanced techniques to further improve the technology. They went above and beyond to make it successful from an application standpoint. We had some of the best minds in the business—five people, from Esko, Agfa/Pitman and DuPont, to focus on how to optimize the technology with the plate to get the most out of it."
Full HD Flexo has a more robust shoulder structure and the flat top at the surface works better for customers that are either wide web or do not have ideal printing conditions. Flexografix customers are getting extraordinary increases in SID. They are getting improvements in ink laydown, even on difficult substrates. They are experiencing highlight fades to zeros that are near offset quality.
"We have one customer that was pursuing packaging for a high quality pharmaceutical company. They were thoroughly impressed with the surface screening of Full HD and how it improved the ink laydown of UV inks on difficult film substrates. I didn't think it would enhance the laydown of UV inks," reports Pavett. "That brand owner was a very large, new opportunity for our customer. The print quality and customer's impressive facility complemented each other and captivated the brand owner. Certainly, the plates did not get the business on their own, but they made our customer a better printer. We looked at the competitors' printed samples and they couldn't hold a light to ours."
Flexografix started looking at expanded gamut printing in 2006, investing in Esko Equinox in 2009, which now benefits from the use of Full HD Flexo. "We have had success from customers that understand the vision and who are committed to implementing a process change. Expanded gamut has allowed them to successfully run and gang combination artwork forms with full printing efficiencies along with an increase in quality, with wider gamuts for photos. It requires some big thinking to be able to successfully integrate the process to make extended gamut work," explains Pavett. "That said, we have had printer and brand owner success, and are continuing to pursue other customers we feel could benefit from the efficiencies that it offers."
"Esko Full HD Flexo delivers industry-leading quality standard ink density more effectively while still offering attractive fades to zeros," concludes Pavett. "While the process is a bit more involved than traditional digital platemaking, it also strengthens the glue that creates the bond between our customers and us. They cannot get Full HD Flexo quality from anyone else. We continue to succeed to the betterment of our customers."