Flexible Packaging

Flexo printing – the right choice for printed flexible packaging

By Nilgun Turan, European marketing manager at Miraclon

Pre-press specialist U. Günther GmbH, has also highlighted the system’s quality and efficiency as a key benefit. Stefan Schnieder commented, “The KODAK FLEXCEL NX Ultra plates have a whole series of handling, quality and productivity benefits for packaging printers. Tests and initial production runs have confirmed that the plates deliver excellent print quality with high edge definition. There is much less ink build-up during print production, so printers benefit from longer cleaning intervals and less downtime”. With a market size of over 54% in

sector (Smithers-Pira forecast an annual growth of 2.3% until 2023). However, as a print process for flexible packaging, it is too often being unfairly ignored as the industry spotlight focuses on other technologies. While flexo technology has always been


recognised as a highly cost-effective method for printing on a wide variety of substrates using a range of inks, quality and consistency have often been seen as the preserve of litho, gravure and digital. But this is no longer true – in recent years, flexo technology has evolved to the point that it now matches the quality of other print processes. As a result, brands can exploit flexo’s many strengths without compromising the all-important quality and shelf impact and ensure they’re meeting clients’ demands for more frequent design changes, greater customisation and reduced time to market. The transformation is due to a decade of

concentrated technology development that has radically improved flexo’s performance in three key areas — quality, efficiency and automation, and environmental credentials. Advances in flexo plate technology have been critical to levelling the playing field for flexo and alternative processes and, since its launch in 2008, Miraclon’s FLEXCEL NX system has been recognised as having made a particularly strong contribution. The technology offers controlled ink transfer for optimised print performance, enhanced quality, brighter and cleaner colours,

lexographic print accounts for a large share of total print revenue and volume is growing in this thriving

smoother transitions, a wider tonal range and an expanded colour gamut (ECG). When you take customer branding, for

example, these benefits are vital for achieving bright, eye-catching and consistent colours. Australian flexible packaging producer, Amcor ANZ was faced with this challenge when tasked with the print for a potato chip rebrand. Pre-press manager Gary McQuiggan had to deliver a wide spread of colours without compromising the end product. Gary explained how flexo, with its quicker set- ups and faster print runs, had positive cost implications, “The results now go toe-to-toe with gravure, which is a vastly more expensive option in Australia. Thanks to an expanded colour gamut, we can do the same job in a 4-5 colour ink set at a market-leading cost. I really struggled on a conventional plate to get the print into a space the client was happy with, but using a CMYK ECG approach on a Miraclon plate, I had a much better density and gamut range.”

packaging and labelling, flexo is gaining an ever-larger share of the flexible packaging market and the confidence behind the process keeps growing. At Colombian flexible packaging converter Plastilene, confidence is sky-high. General Manager Belinda Duran commented: “I say to people, ‘Do you see something we can’t do with flexo? Because I don’t.’” With eight plants in South and Central

America, Plastilene is a major regional producer of flexible packaging, labels and wraparounds, so it is well-placed to gauge what’s happening in its markets. “Today’s packaging has to promote as much as protect, which has an impact on the supply chain,” says Duran. “Customisation and personalisation mean shorter runs and more frequent design changes, so that creates more prepress. The designs are more complex, so they need higher print quality.” Polishing its environmental credentials is also essential for flexo’s role in packaging, simply because consumers are demanding that brands develop sustainable packaging solutions. Here too there is good news, with new water-based inks coming to market to replace the solvent-based inks previously used in flexo. Other important developments include water-wash flexo plates such as Kodak’s FLEXCEL NX Ultra system. Combine such products with the new lighter substrates, lower waste and the reduced consumables of fixed colour palette (FCP) printing, and flexo printers are able to make more environmentally sound decisions about platemaking and printing. With the ongoing investments into flexo,

there’s concrete evidence of the new enthusiasm for the process in printing flexible packaging and a belief that flexo printers who take advantage of the cutting- edge technology in the market will be the printers who thrive. July/ August 2020 17

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