YPRES, Belgium—With a nod to the past, an appreciation of history, an appetite for the future and the revelations it will bring, Xeikon Prepress welcomed a 10 member cadre of international journalists on July 2 to its factory. There they were briefed on technological breakthroughs, recorded in the past two years, culminating in the launch of what executives deemed, “the fastest flexo imager in the world.” Equally important, the machine received billing as, “the highest resolution flexo imager in the world.”
Christophe Lievens, director of sales and marketing for ThermoFlexX, unveiled the new product line and offered a guided tour of the 150,000 sq. ft. operation that employs 80, has a production capacity of 400 engines and utilizes three Lean manufacturing lines. Its flexo computer to plate line can produce up to 300 units annually. Growth of 10 percent is forecast. Production should top 400 units in 2018.
He explained, “We’ve pushed forward the boundaries of what can be achieved in imager technology and now provide a flexo imager to meet the requirements of almost any printer or trade house. This six model line—TFxX 18, TFxX 20, TFxX 30, TFxX 48, TFxX 60, TFxX 80—rivals anything on the market.” Plate sizes accommodated range from 508-mm./20-in. x 420-mm./16.5-in., up to 1,270-mm./50-in. x 2,032-mm./80-in.
The new ThermoFlexX 80, demonstrated live at the event, stands as the first completely in house designed and manufactured model in the company’s imager range since Xeikon acquired FlexoLaser in 2012 and incorporates a level of innovation not previously seen in a flexo imager, according to Lievens. A dual head imaging feature enables output speeds of 12 square meters/129 sq. ft. an hour at 2,400 dpi, making the ThermoFlexX 80 the fastest flexo imager in the world.
ThermoFlexX provides a greater choice of resolutions than any other flexo imager in the world, with the ability to have all five options on one machine—2,400 dpi, 2,540 dpi, 4,000 dpi, 4,800 dpi and 5,080 dpi. The latter resolution allows halftone screens of 250 lpi, suitable for intricate, high quality printing. Depending on the job being sent by the workflow, the ThermoFlexX 80 will automatically select the correct resolution and alter the optics accordingly.
Flexible design allows straightforward replacement of any one of the three modules—motor, laser and optic—thus simplifying service and future hardware upgrades. The maximum resolution of 5,080 dpi is the highest on the market.
“Our engineers and development teams have incorporated a high degree of automation into the ThermoFlexX 80, from the automatic calibration system that guarantees jobs are always imaged under optimum conditions, to the ability for the operator to load and unload plates at the touch of a button,” Lievens noted. “We have examined how to keep waste to a minimum at all times and this latest imager is fitted with a sensor that will automatically check that the thickness and size of the plate on the drum is correct for the job about to be exposed.
“To overcome the need to handle plates manually—one of the main causes of plate damage—we have created the Flextray,” he continued. “This mobile table can be adjusted easily to transport and feed plates into the innovative guiding system, which ensures that even plates as thick as 6.35-mm./0.25-in. can be seamlessly mounted on the drum.”
All ThermoFlexX imagers utilize IPG fibre lasers operating at 1,064-nm., which combine low energy consumption with high reliability. The imagers will expose any plate with a LAM layer such as flexo, letterpress and dry offset, as well as digital screen and ablative film. They can handle any thickness from a 0.18-mm. /0.007-in. ablative film to a 6.35-mm./0.25-in. flexo plate, and support all relevant technologies such as flat top dots. “This means that if a printer uses plates from any leading supplier—Flint, DuPont, Asahi, MacDermid, Toyobo, Toray etc.—it can continue without changing its normal working practices,” Lievens observed.
ThermoFlexX imagers accept 1 bit TIFF files generated by any workflow, RIP or front end and will handle any innovative screens such as hybrid or surface screens. The screened 1 bit TIFF could be a single job file, which can be assembled on a template, or it could be an already assembled 1 bit TIFF plate. The devices can be integrated seamlessly into existing workflows such as those from Esko Graphics, Hybrid Software, Kodak and Agfa.
“We have incorporated a host of features within our Multiplate software to make processing digital data easy—basic step and repeat functionality, the ability to simply drag and drop files into templates, plate cropping and job organization, file archiving, TIFF viewing, etc.,” Lievens reported.
He also offered one final bit of news: “Toward the end of 2014 we will launch Multiplate 4.0 software which will incorporate a new, very intuitive user interface,” Lievens revealed. “Features will include the ability to support multiple imposition sheets plus different resolutions on the same sheet, while the new database will provide job tracking, filter, search and improved archive functions. There will be the ability to integrate with workflows and ERP systems as well as external equipment such as cutting tables and mounting devices.
“Xeikon Prepress is totally committed to the flexo industry,” he said in conclusion. “Our aim at ThermoFlexX is to one day have the standing in the flexo sector that Xeikon currently has in the digital press market.”
Looking Back at Local History
With business addressed, Xeikon executives paused to commemorate the 100th anniversary of World War I, as heavy fighting took place in the area surrounding the factory. The moving tribute included a tour of the nearby Flanders Fields Museum, where actual battle gear and artillery was on display side by side with printed historical recaps of the hardships the troops endured.
Visiting journalists and others in attendance stood silent as they took in the enormity of the world situation in 1914. They later stood in somber and respectful formation as they toured Tyne Cot Cemetery, where 11,954 soldiers in “The Great War,” were laid to rest.