Pop Goes the Package
"Brand managers care deeply about shelf impact, but they are also thinking about turnaround times and the total cost of production," noted Emma Schlotthauer, marketing manager for packaging solutions for Eastman Kodak Co., Rochester, N.Y. "If converters are thinking only of image quality, they may think high-definition flexo doesn't apply to them or have a fit within their client base or business model."
That may be an incorrect assumption, because integration of the appropriate high-definition flexo system can significantly impact production efficiency and cost reduction. Tim Hirsch, owner of Pacificolor, Salt Lake City, uses a wide version of Kodak's Flexcel NX system to gain flexibility. "It helps us keep more customers in-house because we don't have to send out to process bigger plates. And the additional width helps meet increasing demand," he said. "In fact, our competitors admit that we have an edge on them, and sometimes come to us for plate output."
High-definition flexography can also pay dividends in terms of workflow and job turnaround. Joe Lydic, art director for Ampac, a Cincinnati-headquartered provider of retail, food, security and medical packaging, said Esko's HD Flexo has reduced the need to clean up Photoshop files to ensure images are ready to print. "This has leveled production artist skills throughout our staff," he explained. "Whether artists have a full skill-set doesn't matter as much as it once did. Now job output is more consistent, and it has allowed me to load balance and add capacity from the same-size staff."
Spot the Benefits
So, what can you expect when implementing a high-definition flexo plate system? First is that the introduction of any new plate system will require optimization. You don't necessarily need to buy new anilox rolls, especially if you are not increasing line screen, but you will need to pay attention to anilox selection, mounting tape and ink formulations. Test a number of files to learn of any potential challenges.