Federico d’Annunzio, Gidue president and CEO, displayed the M5 Line’s capabilities along with the six other members that comprise the flexo team. In addition to Gidue, Adare, Apex, AVT, DuPont, Esko and Flint Group have partnered to bring flexo into the digital world of printing and converting.
The Gidue M5 comes equipped with a series of servo motors and cameras that automates almost all aspects of the press through digital commands. The press of a button initiates the pre-press process.
The digitally-operated flexo press features UV inks in an expanded seven-color gamut (CMYKGOV). With these fixed colors, 90-95% of the PMS pallet is reproduced. According to d’Annunzio, this digital press is built upon consistency, quality and productivity.
“With digital flexo, you’re having a digitized process that allows you to control all the variables ... which help you to be able to repeat and predict the results better as if you had several digital operators on every print unit,” says d’Annunzio.
The human element
The human element has been significantly reduced in this equation, which leads to more vibrant and repeatable colors. With the press’ ability to mix virtually any color from the expanded color gamut, the operator saves in setup time, waste and running costs. All of this is accomplished with minimal physical operator intervention since the process has been automated.
Prior to this digitalization, there were two ways to obtain a desired color. First, the operator physically put the ink into the press. In order to get the ink, though, the operator needed to get the specific ink from the supplier. This involved the time required to go to the supplier, and the risk involved if there were a manmade error.
Upon receiving the ink, the press had to be stopped and the ink pan and anilox were taken away. The new anilox and ink pan were then replaced to try and match the desired color.
Second, some printers may have tried to manually mix the colors by trial and error. This increased time, waste, and decreased consistency and repeatability.
“You never change the ink, you never change the anilox (with digital flexo),” says d’Annunzio. “You just click a button and do the job change, click a button and do the die change; everything is automated. ... The color is made in prepress, not anymore on the press, so it’s a big change in the industry.”
The M5 digital workflow allows for 10 meters of waste and one minute for each job to change. The process utilizes Digital Flexo 4.0 to control quality at all speeds and DigiGap for digitally automated print and diecutting pressure.
“The setup time of the digital flexo press is equivalent to — if not lower than — a digital press, and the running costs are equivalent to — or lower than — digital presses,” adds d’Annunzio. “If you have your press, which is digitally controlled ... our digital cameras are reading inside the printing three times for every print revolution. That means that you don’t even have the time to make a mistake inside the printing because it will immediately be corrected. As soon as you increase the speed, you assure the press is going to control the quality and productivity, which means you don’t have differences in productivity between short runs, long runs, high speeds or low speeds.
“It’s a different technology.”
The operator must only manually load the pre-mounted plate cylinders for the next job. Both printers and converters marveled at the press’ simplicity.
“This allows people to get into the non-scary side of flexo,” says Tina Robertson, the Northeast technical representative for All Printing Resources. “This allows someone to learn the whole process. The only thing they’re not doing is making the plates, and I’m sure they could do that, too. I really see a lot of potential in this.”
Richard Black, director of digital solutions at All Printing Resources, adds: “You can run three jobs at the same time, and it pretty much runs itself.”
The machine also regulates for temperature density, ensuring that different printers can ascertain the same results, even if one conducts a run in January and the other in June.
Robertson believes that digital flexo is for “the next generation of printers.” As many printers in the industry start to retire, the automation will take care of the lack of experience that would have endured with traditional flexo methods.
Whereas traditional flexo operators had concerned themselves with the process of printing itself, the modern digital operator need only concentrate on the speed of the process and improved setup time. Since the printing will automatically take care of itself, technicians simply focus on the job’s preparation.
“The performance you will get out of this press, you will never be able to get out of any flexo press. It’s just simply not possible... We, with our traditional presses, would never be able to achieve the same amount of waste and same amount of time for a job changeover.”
The group has been working on this technology for the last 14 years, and d’Annunzio says that the difference in quality is vast compared to presses of even one and two years ago.
“The whole quality of the press, and everything that’s around the press, had to be lifted up to a level, which is significantly higher than presses that were delivered even one or two years ago.”
The American printing market features more water-based inks than UV curing. Digital flexo can affect this market, as well. REVO will partake in another event during June 2015 specifically for water-based inks.
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