In August this year, MPS Systems North America became the first flexographic inline press manufacturer to print USA postal stamps on a UV flexo press. As a technical coordinator at Imageworx, I have been closely involved with this project in the art development, imaging, and plate production stages.
In this blog, I would like to share some of my experiences with this special postal stamps project, and I will tell you more about the SERO HDM hybrid screening technique.
First US postal stamps printed on a flexo press
It’s an honor to be part of such a special project, where MPS was the first flexo press manufacturer to print official US postal stamps.
This project is a special edition stamp sheet released by the United States Postal Service on August 7th 2018 in Las Vegas. The stamp sheet features three identical stamps that mimic the classic illusion of a rabbit appearing out of a hat from thin air. By rotating each stamp you can see a white rabbit rising out of a black hat.
This project was special and innovative for many reasons. Typical stamp production is run offset, but to meet the high resolution imaging requirements for the effect artwork, flexo was the preferred option. The optical lens on the surface of the stamp sheet diverts your eyes to a particular point of the printed imaging sequence beneath the lens, blocking off sections and only allowing you to view the appropriate frame.
We combined the excellent print quality of the MPS EF 430 multi-substrate demo press at the MPS Technology & Expertise Center in Green Bay, WI, and the prepress know-how from Imageworx in order to achieve this special result.
The stamps are sold exclusively through the United States Postal Service. To purchase the product, click here.
3D Label design technique
We used artwork of a traditional rabbit in the hat magic trick, and transformed it into an animated multi-frame sequence, using our proprietary 3D label design techniques, high resolution imaging technologies, Kodak Flexcel NX plates, and micro optical array lens film.
Micro lens films allow for a wide array of effects including; 3D, animated, moiré, depth, hidden images, and motion.
With the development of an ultra-thin, 4.5 mil lens array film, optical array effects can now be produced economically for traditional label applications. Imageworx is the leading provider in the world, and the only company currently supplying the complete package of design, prepress, ultra-high resolution plates, and the film required to achieve optimal results for flexo printers.
Imageworx has several advantages beginning with our ability to achieve flexographic plate resolutions up to 9600 with enhanced high resolution optics. Variable Main Scan (VMR) options are available for matching DPI exactly to the lens LPI. Through our proprietary software and file preparation techniques, we have the unique ability to achieve a true linear 1:1 pixel to line resolution on Kodak NX plates. We combine these capabilities with exceptional knowledge of the flexographic printing process and offer our customers a complete solution from concept to successful print.
Sero HDM (Smooth-Zero) (High Definition Modular) is a new hybrid screening technique, developed by Imageworx and printed to perfection using the MPS EF 430 Flexo press.
Sero HDM screening was developed to broaden the printed color gamut for flexo printers by delivering a smoother breakdown of highlight dots. By utilizing a carefully engineered minimum dot structure, Sero is able to balance highlight tints in a way that allows gradients to fade away completely without a visible edge. The unique combination of high resolution imaging, Kodak Flexcel NX plates, and finely tuned microscopic dot structures now offers flexo printers a viable and economic solution to overcome the most difficult process and screen tint issues.
Imageworx has developed two versions of Sero HDM screening. The first version is effective for narrow web converters seeking to produce photo quality process separations and smoother screen tints. The second version is similarly engineered, yet modified, for high speed wide web machines using a courser dot structure for maximum shoulder stability.
Sero HDM can be set to 4 LPI rulings for optimal results: 128, 154, 170, and 192 LPI.
In addition to the Sero HDM screening technology, the piece below features several original security functions for flexo printers. These can be pointed out in the image below.
- We have featured text sizes at 0.25, 0.5, 0.75, and 1 point.
- Micro lines set to 5, 10, 15, 20, 30, 40, 50, and 60 microns in thickness.
- A security screening built from the Imageworx logo. This is meant to replicate a 100 LPI dot at a 7 degree and 20% coverage, using the Imageworx logo in place of the conventional AM dots.
- The snowflake a concentric stroke pattern that is built completely of 5 micron lines.
- Inside the light blue background near the snowflake contains 55 hidden embedded Imageworx logos that are highlighted in red.
Imageworx & MPS North America
Dilip Shah and I have been working together closely in the research and development of these projects. It’s great to have such a reliable partner, to be able to use each other’s knowledge and experience (which is a lot, in Dilip’s case!), in order to achieve the best result possible.
If you have any questions, or would like to request printed samples, please feel free to reach out and contact me via email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Jeff Toepfer is a Graphic Production Artist and Technical Coordinator at Imageworx, based in Levittown, PA, USA. Starting at Imageworx at the age of 14 in the plate department, he has been familiar with flexographic plate making and prepress practices from a young age. He graduated from the Rochester Institute of Technology with a bachelor’s degree in Print Media and Imaging Sciences in 2010. He currently works on developing new technologies to enhance printing capabilities for flexo converters.Tags: Flexo printing, Printing Technology