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Labelexpo Americas: Plates and platemaking

Kodak previewed new water-wash NX plate technology

Water-wash flexo plates continued to build on their environmental advantages against solvent systems with advances in imaging quality and durability.

FujiFilm launched its Flenex FW-L2 platemaking technology with the C-Touch 2530 water-wash plate processor. These latest Flenex plates can image up to 200 line screens and hold 1 percent flat top dots, along with improved durability. 

Kodak demonstrated its Flexcel NX Ultra water-based system, claimed to deliver a press-ready plate in less than an hour. Chris Payne, president, flexographic packaging division and VP Kodak, claimed: ‘Our Ultra Clean technology has solved the fundamental challenge of inconsistency traditionally associated with aqueous processed flexo plates.’ 

The Flexcel NX Ultra 35 will be commercially available in Q1 2019 following an initial technology demonstration at drupa two years ago and extensive beta testing. Plates can be produced up to 35in x 48in (889mm x 1219.2mm). 

Dantex showcased its DigiWash range of water-wash processors featuring a new operator interface, detachable post-exposure sections, automatic replenishment, and automatic brush height adjustment for different thicknesses. Also on show was the Aquaflex combination system for photopolymer plate production, for use with Torelief, Aquaflex and Rapidoflex plates. 

Asahi showed examples of its new AWP-DEW water-wash plates imaged on an Esko Crystal XPS system with simultaneous UV main and back exposure. 

Solvent system developments were also represented at the show. Glunz & Jensen introduced the FlexPro 360, a 36x47in format flexo plate processor/washer featuring advances in solvent distribution, rotating and oscillating brush mechanics, and a rinse/ wiping section optimizing production quality, including for flat-top dot and micro-screening applications. FlexPro 360 features a dedicated black mask wash section, isolating the carbon laden solvent from the primary washout solvent. 

CtP devices 
Automation was a key feature of the plate imaging systems launched at the show. Esko focused on the narrow- to mid-web market with its XPS Crystal 4835 UV exposure unit and CDI Crystal 4835 imaging unit. The automated process is supported by Esko’s new Print Control Wizard software. Automated flexo platemaking has also been integrated into the Esko Automation Engine workflow from RIPped plate files to the exposed plate on the Esko CDI.

Xeikon Prepress showed the ThermoFlexX 48-S flexo plate imager with fully automatic plate loading and unloading, giving a claimed productivity up to 6sqm/hr along with a choice of imaging resolutions up to 5080 DPI. Depending on the substrate, there is a choice between single and multipixel surface screening patterns, offering a smoother ink lay-down and increased solid ink density.

MacDermid showcased its new Lava NW-M thermal plate processing system with the latest Lux In-The-Plate (ITP) flat top dot product line. Lava NW-M is specifically designed for narrow web to mid web applications with a smaller footprint and ability to output press-ready plates in less than an hour. The Lux ITP Epic plate offers a micro-rough surface for enhanced ink transfer. 

Flint Group Flexographic Division demonstrated its nyloflex Xpress thermal processor with the new nyloflex XVH Digital hard durometer plate with an ‘inherently flat top surface’, suitable for narrow web print applications on all types of substrates. It can be further tailored with surface screening to provide enhanced detail. 

Flint also showed its latest rotec ECO Bridge sleeve adapter, which uses a breathable metal ring to create an air ‘pillow’ around the circumference of the adapter to allow for easier mounting of sleeves. The design greatly reduces compressed air volume, resulting in significant noise reduction.

Turning to plate mounting, JM Heaford demonstrated its Label AutoMounter, with options including pre-register compatibility, plate and tape cutters and a sleeve exchange unit. Also on display was the FTS plate mounter with a plate cutter option, which allows savings on continuous print sleeves.


Andy Thomas is strategic director of Labels & Labeling.

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