Here, leading suppliers of these systems share details of their latest products for this market.
Anderson & Vreeland
Anderson & Vreeland, Bryan, OH, USA, a provider of flexo prepress products for the graphic arts industry, says it offers its customers a “systems” approach by evaluating their needs and offering the best equipment, materials, training, and technology tailored for each customer.
For the narrrow web label industry, Anderson & Vreeland offers AV Flexologic’s line of plate mounting and proofing machines ranging from 600 to 1100mm, from manual tabletop units to Semi-Automatic Mounting Machines (SAMM).
AV Flexologic SAMM systems, which the company describes as the most accurate mounting machines, appeal to customers requiring critical tolerances in accuracy and repeatability. SAMM workflow uses patented image recognition software that automatically positions the flexo plate onto sleeves. This automatic zero-position software can use manufacturers’ registration marks, such as Windmoller & Holschers’ Easy-Reg. The mounting table acts as a robotic manipulator that controls the positioning of the plate. The vacuum system that holds the bottom of the plate to the table during automatic positioning, together with the digital calibration of the high definition cameras, all contribute to achieving the highest accuracy of measurement and positioning: 0.003mm. An automatic quality check ensures all plates are mounted within specifications before they are forwarded to the press, and significantly reduces press downtime often incurred with manual mounting.
The SAMM has automatic moving cameras, rotation of the sleeve, and is equipped with a vertical cylinder lift. The cylinder moves vertically up to the fixed table depending on the repeat. Therefore there is no need to focus the camera as the distance from the camera lens to the table and thus the plate is always the same. The SAMM system works with interactive cameras that can measure the position of the mounting marks and the mounting table acts as a robotic manipulator that controls the positioning of the plate with high accuracy.
Key benefits of AV Flexologic systems like SAMM include minimum operator training required, extreme accuracy, fast return on investment, detailed quality control and reporting, decreased operator skill level and the elimination of press downtime due to human error.
Mark Andy, St. Louis, MO, USA, aims to be a “Total Solutions Partner” for the printing and converting industry, and as such, says it has made a point to completely understand the importance of accurate plate mounting and its effect on the entire workflow.
The Mark Andy PM100 is a mechanical, tabletop plate mounter offering high quality work at an appealing price point. Designed to be quick and easy-to-calibrate, this manual plate mounter accommodates a wide range of cylinder sizes, making it perfect for any print shop. Mounting cones are provided for even the latest in flexo print cylinder technologies. Far quicker and more accurate than hand mounting but without the cost of video mounting, the Mark Andy PM100 is designed to be a precise tool for quality-critical print runs.
The PM100 offers a plate cylinder width of 7-16 inches (178-406 mm) and a repeat length of 5.5-24 inches (140-610 mm). Its unit length is 27.75 inches (705 mm), width is 24 inches (610 mm) and height is 9.75 inches (248 mm).
Mark Andy calls its VPM400 “the most advanced in video plate mounting technology.” A standalone unit with adjustable mounting table, plate cylinder mounting rails, and a laser pointer for quick alignment, the VPM400 complements Lean Manufacturing initiatives by reducing waste, increasing productivity and focusing on quality. Recent updates to the VPM400 include new LED lighting mounted at the dual camera locations and ultra-high resolution flat screen monitors, for extremely high-quality video plate mounting technology.
The VPM400 features a plate cylinder width of 6-26 inches (152-660 mm) and a repeat length of 5.5-32 inches (140-810 mm). Its unit length is 54 inches (1372 mm), width is 26 inches (660 mm) and height is 72 inches (1830 mm). Air measurements are 50-125 psi at 0.5 scfm (3.5-8.5 bar at 14 lpm).
Equipment is not the only contributing factor to the accuracy of a mounted plate, Mark Andy says. Print jobs vary greatly based on color separations, substrates and screen counts, and it’s critical to choose the appropriate mounting tapes for optimal performance. The experts at Mark Andy Print Products say they are available to discuss job requirements and work with converters to determine the best fit for their business.
All Printing Resources (APR)
With its corporate headquarters in Glendale Heights, IL, USA, APR says it is a proven resource for products, services and technical expertise. The company’s TeamFlexo approach aims to assist customers in achieving their goals for total cost reduction and increased profitability. APR represents plate mounting manufacturers Systec and Leader Engineering Fabrication.
“By representing both Systec and Leader, we have the ability to offer our customers a full range of innovative and dependable solutions to meet their specific requirements and budgets,” says APR’s President David Neiman. “We are committed to standing behind this equipment by providing training, preventive maintenance and repair services to make sure that our customers achieve the productivity, quality and return-on-investment benefits expected.”
Systec Video mounters range in widths from 6 to 140 inches (and up) and come in both tabletop and floor models. They come standard with 17-inch color LCD screens, which have options such as touchscreen and, in wider models, the screens actually track the user and automatically move side-to-side in order to always be directly in front of the operator. They are equipped with auto-focus, high-res and high-definition color cameras and zoom from 1X to 270X. Using the touchscreens, controls can be accessed and targets generated on the screen for alignment range from lines, grids, circles, squares and parallel lines, all of which can change in color to best contrast against the color of the printing plate.
Job setups can be accomplished in one to two minutes, and camera positions can be saved and recalled for future mounts or remounts. A feature called “Virtual Image” saves an image of each mounted cylinder and also saves camera coordinates. If a plate is damaged or missing targets/microdots, the user can pull up a previous image and mount to it without having to replace the plate. The positioning of the cameras and Y-axis of the cylinder/sleeve can be done manually or automatically, simply by pressing a button, and the operator is shown when the camera has reached the correct position with bright red/green arrows on screen.
Automated plate tables that come in single-sided or split versions ensure plate contact is only made where users want it to occur, as a pneumatic laydown roller applies the printing plate to eliminate bubbles and offer consistent contact. This roller can also be ordered in a harder durometer to roll out stickyback. Systec’s line of fully automated mounters will begin release this fall and offer a “hands-off” approach to mounting. These mounters will include features like automatic de-mounting of plates on the mounter as well.
According to APR, one of the most appealing things about Systec video mounters is that they offer not only high-end technology, but that they have both certified technicians covering the US and remote diagnostic capabilities. Although the mounters are manufactured in Italy, APR says replacement components are most often available through Grainger, McMaster-Carr and All Printing Resources.
Leader Engineering Fabrication offers a fully automated mounting system designed to increase productivity and eliminate mounting errors. The Leader Vision system is capable of mounting almost every type of flexographic printing plate. The computer and its software take electronic data from the art department and send it directly to the mounter/proofer computer to mount the plate with only two clicks from the mounter operator. It utilizes a dual camera system with a large-view camera that locates microdots or reference points on a prepress table holding the plate to be mounted. The narrow-view camera then magnifies the microdots 70 times and pinpoints the exact center point for accurate registration. The plate is then positioned, and the Leader Vision system brings the plate up against the press cylinder with a pressure roller and applies the plate exactly to a corresponding microdot position on the press.
Operator variations are removed because the Leader Vision system does not require the operator to position the microdots. Excessive plate handling – which can damage plates – is eliminated, as is misalignment of plates due to parallax from positioning by the human eye. Vacuum grooves secure the plate to the prepress workstation, eliminating punch holes. The mounter verifies reference points are where they are supposed to be prior to mounting. Because all plates are not identical, the unit will automatically mount the center of the plate and split the deviation. The plate is held in place with a vacuum and the table adjusts to align the plate. The pressure roller comes down for a center mount on the crosshairs and mounts the plate without any air bubbles.
This technology then verifies and reports the accuracy of the mount by comparing reference points color-to-color up to the fourth decimal point, so the operator knows the job is ready to go when it leaves the mounter the first time.
Narrow web and wide web Leader mounting systems are manufactured in the US and are supported by both Leader and All Printing Resources Technicians.
In 2003, Tectonic International, based in Llwydcoed, UK, says it substantially improved the traditional method of the plate mounting process with the invention of its “hands-free” Flexico V5 Plate Mounting Machine for the narrow web industry. According to Tectonic, its patented design is a unique approach that provides smarter, quicker and totally accurate plate mounting.
“Our designers set out to invent a design to take the guesswork out of plate mounting,” comments Gavin Jones, director, Tectonic International. “Our goal was to provide a user-friendly, fully adjustable solution that would take the plate out of the operators hands, hold it in register and allow the plate to be infinitely moved in any direction and checked for accuracy throughout the mounting process to assure absolutely perfect registration for fast setup and improved profit margins. Because using the V5 registration of the plate can be checked at every stage of mounting, the operator is in full control throughout the mounting process and knows when the cylinders are introduced to the press and the job run. Because of that, registration will be perfect.”
Tectonics’ patented Flexico V5 Plate Mounting Machine provides a rise and fall, rotatable, multi-adjustable table on which the plate is placed and gently held in position by a holding bar. The two pre-set cameras are moved over the register marks and when the monitors display accurate register, fine adjustment of the position of the plate in any direction can be achieved by rotating the table for 100% accuracy of register before the plate is adhered to the cylinder or sleeve.
Once the plate is in register, a magnetic position block or blocks can be set in place to record the position of the first plate. This feature is extremely time-saving, Tectonic says, because it means that only the first plate in each new job requires set up. Every subsequent plate can be mounted using the first set position to save time. If a press has a pre-register system, the cylinder or sleeve can be set in line with the auto-register center in the cylinder.
Tectonic now has available the new Flexico V50 plate mounting machine for wide web presses, as well as additional features to its current narrow web Flexico V5 machine. These features include motorized table movement for plate alignment, motorized cylinder movement for auto focus and high definition (HD) widescreen cameras.
JM Heaford, headquartered in Altrincham, UK, has recently released its new plate mounting machine, the FTS Mounter. The company says it applied a “unique and inventive approach” to this machine, which has been designed to increase productivity and consistency while simplifying the mounting process.
Central to the FTS Mounter’s concept is the inverted cushion table. This development not only simplifies the plate alignment operation, but also provides uniform application of the plate to the adhesive tape in one rapid movement.
The company says it has made several notable advancements to the plate mounting process, including prepositioning of the plate central to the cylinder/sleeve, which is rapidly achieved with the use of laser alignment and localized LED illumination. Additionally, experienced handling of the plate to achieve accurate alignment is no longer necessary. The plate, laid inverted on the cushion table, allows small positional adjustments to be easily made without the operator having to hold the plate carefully in place. The cylinder/sleeve being held high above the cushion table during the plate positioning process eliminates the disruption caused by inadvertent plate tacking that slows the mounting process and distracts the operator. Once the plate is positioned, the cylinder/sleeve is brought down into contact with the plate by the mechanism of the machine. The action then of sliding the cushion table applies the plate around the cylinder under constant balanced force providing perfect uniform adhesion without the possibility of trapped air pockets that can occur with the time consuming practice of random hand rolling.
The FTS unit is the only mounter to reverse the usual position of the cameras and to mount the plate with the print surface facing downwards, the company says. The application of the plate to the adhesive layer on the FTS is hands-free and achieved without air pockets, so there is no need to rub or hand-roll the plate on to the plate mounting tape. If desired, the plate mounting tape can be applied to the plate roll in exactly the same manner as the plate.
According to JM Heaford, the learning curve is a matter of minutes and no specific skills are needed. Furthermore, the company adds, the method of mounting discourages the often-seen last-minute corrections that operators make to try and line up the bearer bars more accurately which do nothing to improve overall plate register and simply increase the risk of plate lift during the run.
The FTS unit requires only that the operator positions the plate centrally and lines up two horizontal bars on the video screen at an optical magnification of 56x. Compared to an automated mounting machine, the plates are mounted at least as accurately and significantly faster at a capital cost which is substantially less, the company says.
“While it is difficult to quantify cost savings arising from better mounting, it is a given that any remount costs downtime and wasted substrate and that remounted plates are more susceptible to subsequent plate lift during the run which in turn leads to further downtime and more wasted substrate,” the company says. “It is also a given that with run times getting shorter, the speed of plate mounting becomes a more important factor that costs money when presses sit idle waiting for mounted plates. An FTS user calculated that the time saved through reduction in waiting time paid for the investment on the new mounter in a few weeks. Consistently accurate fast plate mounting should be a key objective of any production plan. The FTS mounter meets this objective completely.”
Propheteer International, Lake Zurich, IL, USA, says it was the first to introduce a video plate mounting system in cooperation with its customers in 1984. The two-camera system magnifies plate register marks to 20X actual size and displays them on a video monitor.
“This is the most cost effective way to get from platemaker to press,” the company says. “Tight register plates can be mounted in minutes. The system can improve print quality and avoid downtime caused when users have to remount crooked plates.”
Propheteer International has just introduced its next generation of Video Plate Mounting Systems. Features include plate widths of 4-21 inches and cylinder widths to 22 inches, print cylinders repeat 6 to 24 inches, split screen digital video display with two video cameras and 100X magnification; positive fine adjustment for plate alignment; storage and unwinding shaft for stickyback mounting tape; and a small footprint. The unit, which the company says is very easy to operate, requires 120 volt 1 phase and minimum 60 psi compressed air.
This new system can mount flexo plates on the latest and newest presses/print cylinders including sleeves by other press manufactures, such as the “P” series from MarkAndy and the “FB” series from Nilpeter.