OSHKOSH, WI--OEC Graphics, a leading flexographic prepress supplier to converters and consumer packaging companies, is diverting business from gravure and offset following the January 2010 installation of its EskoArtwork CDI Advance 1750 with EskoArtwork HD Flexo version 2.0 and inline UV capability. Nine months after the installation, OEC combined two revolutionary technologies: EskoArtwork HD Flexo paired with in-the-round (ITR) sleeve production for with high-definition flexo imaging and screening of sleeves. The first solution of its kind in North America, the use of HD Flexo and ITR is the result of combing two leading edge technologies: EskoArtwork's HD Flexo version 2.0 with Seamex, OEC's proprietary seamless photopolymer sleeve solution.
Being on the cutting-edge is nothing new for OEC, which has continually sought out innovative prepress solutions for its customers. Now closing in on 100 years of operation, OEC's 220 employees provide digital platemaking, press-side consulting, expanded gamut separations, digital and analog color management, wide-format graphics, prepress facilities management, and digital asset management. Always the pioneer, it installed one of the first CTP devices in 1997, developed a digital ITR sleeve nearly 20 years ago, and was one of the first EskoArtwork HD Flexo version installations in the U.S. "We were the first to have digital in-the-round and the first to use it with HD Flexo," notes Brad Vette, corporate managing director. "We installed the CDI 1750 with HD Flexo version 2.0 because we were looking to meet our customers' demand for higher line screens and increased gamut. Our goal is to create ITR solutions that are equal or better than flat plates. We were the first to win an FTA (Flexographic Technical Association) award with HD Flexo flat plates, and we want to replicate that quality level throughout ITR sleeve production."
Although both EskoArtwork HD Flexo and the CDI 1750 can be used for flat plates as well as sleeves, OEC uses the imager primarily for ITR sleeve production. With a total of 11 flexo CtP devices, 10 of which are EskoArtwork CDI units (4 HD), OEC has a "platform where we can take a digital plate in any plant that we have and replicate it everywhere," says Vette.
EskoArtwork HD Flexo and ITR are helping to promote flexography to traditional gravure and offset users, allowing flexographers to print continuous images on a broad range of substrates. They deliver up to 4,000-dpi screening for sharper images, an expanded gamut throughout the highlight areas, higher line screens--up to 200 lpi, a minimum dot (0.4 percent), an increased tonal range, smoother shadows and tints for easier printing, and sharper copy. In-the-round technology, and in particular their proprietary Seamex sleeves, provides continuous design capability, accurate registration, zero plate mounting, and no plate lift.
"Flexo did not have an answer to the quality demands of our customers, who often went rotogravure or offset...until now," says Vette. "The quality of the dot created by HD Flexo 2 is exceptional. It lets us hold less than a 1 percent dot--something we can't do with a traditional digital process. With HD Flexo, we can exceed the resolution and print quality of rotogravure and match offset. It gives us substantial improvement in quality, with more consistent and better resolution imaging. HD Flexo 2 allows us to deliver the some of the highest ink density transfer on the market."
Adds Vette, "Without HD Flexo, we would have never have landed awards for 7-color 200 lpi imaging. Easier printing and consistent results with CDI plates and sleeves make the printers happy, too." Consistency is also improved with in-line UV, which cures sleeves on the fly, inside the imager. "Inline UV, for us, is all about exposure control," says Vette. "The CDIs with inline UV gives us imaging control, as opposed to a light table which may present problems with the integrity of the lamps."
With EskoArtwork HD Flexo and ITR, OEC is expanding its business, taking on jobs previously done in offset or gravure. "There is a large opportunity in the beverage carton industry, for example, to replace rotogravure," asserts Vette. "In fact, we have also taken business from roto, penetrating traditional gravure printing in folding carton, flexible packaging and labels."