Nowadays, the buzz in the printing industry is all about digital and hybrid printing technologies. But fact remains, flexo is still the leading technology in the narrow web market. While a lot of people in our industry predict that digital technology will completely replace flexo in the future, I wonder: is that true?
In this blog, I’ll provide 3 reasons why I believe a mature technology like flexo will remain relevant to create a future-proof printing process
Flexo quality meets the standards of offset and gravure printing, due to ongoing developments of the printing plates, inks, aniloxes and the accuracy of the press. Thanks to new technologies such as cameras with automatic register control, servo technology, digitally modulated screens for plates, high resolution aniloxes and more precise settings, the printing result in flexo is of impressive quality.
The quality of offset and gravure printing has always been somewhat envied by flexo, but with high-definition (HD) flexo the gap is closed, bringing increased print quality.
If you'd like to learn more about the flexo printing technology, I can recommend my colleague Leopold's blog 'What is flexo? The printing technique explained'.
2. Faster change-overs
Thanks to technology like Job Memory and an open ink system, change-over times have reduced dramatically in recent years. On an MPS press, it’s possible to do a complete change-over of a six colour job in less than 10 minutes.
The video below shows the benefits of the slide-out ink drawer:
Especially on longer print runs, flexo is the technology to use. Digital or hybrid presses are ideal for short runs or to apply variable data, but for longer runs you need a flexo workhorse. After all, it’s all about costs per 1,000 labels!
Higher productivity and lower costs, that’s what you can achieve with a flexo press.
3. Compatible to connectivity
Because a flexo press is more automated, it is more comparable to a digital press for the operator. In fact, as we often say at MPS, a flexo press is a digital press with printing plates. With our job memory and working with a fixed pallet colour system, like digital presses do, the operator can load all pre-settings in the press, which means they only need to insert the plates and push the start button.
Since many servo-drives are built into our flexo press, it can save data. This advantage here is that for repeat jobs it is possible to obtain the pre-settings out of job memory, which means that press set-up takes less time and material. For new jobs, it is also possible to recall information from other comparable jobs.
Additionally, we can send information from the MIS system to the press, to make sure all relevant information like job name, colour sequence, aniloxes and material thickness is already loaded into the press. The operator doesn’t need to enter the information manually into the machine. Again: time savings!
Finally, real-time information is available from the press. The operator can see what the speed is, amount of waste, how many meters are left to run, and more. A production planner can react much faster because they have a dashboard of all presses.
Management can also see the performance overview of the press and compare this with other presses or plants.
Future for flexo operators
When a flexo press is connected to other systems on the print shop floor using connectivity, the process is more automated and therefore ready for the future. There is less need for operator intervention, which is a big advantage when considering the shortage of skilled operators. In the future, it will only become harder to find and keep good operators, so an automated press is the right investment for the future.
So, even though I don’t have a time machine or a crystal ball, from my experience I can make a good guess of what the future looks like. And I see flexo technology still being a big part of it!
Hans Poortinga is Printing Technology Expert at MPS since 2015. He knows all about printing technology, the total printing process and is a specialist in connectivity within the printing industry.