Labelexpo Europe 2023 - plates and platemaking

Advancements in waterwash flexo plate technology played a major role at Labelexpo Europe 2023, offering faster and more sustainable flexo plate production and banishing the negative quality perceptions of older generations of waterwash technology.

Fujifilm demonstrated its Flenex FW waterwash plate system. Utilizing a Luscher XPose 330L platesetter and CTouch processor, Flenex FW plates were produced in under 40 minutes to a 200lpi line screen at 4,400dpi resolution, achieving a 1 percent flat top dot.

Flenex FW photopolymer plates contain a rubberbased compound which minimizes the effect oxygen has on the dot shape and the complexity of the system to eliminate oxygen from the plate production process. The other advantages of a rubberbased plate material include reduced plate swell and a mild washout with just water and dishwasher soap.

Asahi Photoproducts promoted its waterwash plate system in a joint project with Hamillroad, whose Bellissima DMS screening printing on filmic label material showed the kind of impressive quality levels now achievable with waterwash plate technology.

Asahi launched an updated wastewater recycling unit for its AWPTM waterwash plate processing system. The unit’s proprietary filtering system uses hollow fiber membrane separation technology developed by parent company Asahi Kasei, which reduces waste water consumption by 75 percent and detergent usage by 40 percent. Asahi also announced that its AWPDEW CleanPrint flexographic plates have been certified Carbon Neutral by the Carbon Trust.

Another route to the elimination of solvents – and indeed all chemical processing – is direct laser exposure, and this technology was demonstrated by Swiss company Drop AG, founded by industry veteran Hans Lüscher. Drop DirectPoser is a direct exposure system for flexo plates based on EPDM materials, engraving plates directly with a fiber laser and without chemicals.

XSYS is a company with an interesting history. It was originally spun off as a separate division by Flint Group, combining Flint Group Flexographic and Xeikon Prepress portfolios. Last year Flint sold XSYS to private equity group Lone Star, which aims to make the company a powerhouse in the flexo platemaking space. At Labelexpo Europe, XSYS showed the ThermoFlexX TFxX30 and larger 48 model plate imager. The ThermoFlexX 48 was connected to the new CatenaE 48 LED exposure unit, imaging a nyloflex FTV flexo plate and demonstrating how automation is changing the platemaking process.


Another new entrant to the flexo platemaking sector and with an impressive pedigree behind it is ECO3. ECO3 was launched by the Aurelius private equity group following its acquisition of Agfa Offset Solutions, which had itself acquired some impressive prepress brands over a decadeslong history.

At Labelexpo Europe, ECO3 was showcasing a full range of systems for inhouse prepress and plate making for narrow and midweb flexo applications. These included the Amfortis PDF workflow, a range of screening technologies, Magis PEco waterwash flat top dot plates and the Magis DI digital imager, capable of imaging plates to a resolution of 4,800dpi.

Chinese suppliers are making an increasing impact in the plates and platemaking arena.

Strong Europe is a cooperative venture between Spain’s Abezeta Group and China’s Shanghai Strong State. The group was demonstrating the SFDFT digital flexo plate, a hard durometer digital printing plate featuring Strong’s builtin flattop dot technology. SFDFT offers near onetoone masktoplate imaging capability, eliminating the need for a bump curve, which helps printers expand the available color gamut and print a smaller dot.

Hangzhou Cron introduced the HDI920 highdefinition digital flexo Imager for polyesterbased letterpress plates, thermal offset plates, digital flexo plates, ablative film, and metalbased letterpress plates.

The HDI920 is equipped with Cron’s SMFO optical laser, imaging at up to 9600dpi. It is equipped with a fully automatic doubleplate clamping system as standard, eliminating the need for adhesive fixing tape.

Andy Thomas

  • Strategic director