One of South Asia’s largest manufacturers of digital flexographic plates, Creative Graphics headquartered in Noida in the Delhi National Capital Region, is investing in its fifth Flexcel NX System from Miraclon. It is the latest stage in an investment program that has also recently seen Creative Graphics install PureFlexo Printing and the Flexcel NX Central software automated plate layout solution from Miraclon.
Explaining the background to the investments, founder and CEO Deepanshu Goel says, “Our new Flexcel NX Wide 5080 imager will increase our capacity substantially. In recent years we have been very successful in demonstrating to converters and brands that flexo can match, and even exceed, gravure for quality as well as meeting their needs for a more sustainable and flexible production process. Today, this is widely accepted — something that I could only dream of when I started Creative Graphics, but which technology developments have made a reality. In particular, Flexcel NX technology has been transformational for us, enhanced by a steady stream of advances that extend flexo’s capabilities.”
In the right place at the right time
Deepanshu Goel embarked on what he describes as “quite a journey” in 2001. “Looking back, I think we were in the right place at the right time, just as flexo was shedding its reputation as a relatively unsophisticated process best suited to products like corrugated packaging.” Two decades later, Creative Graphics has eight production sites across India, 425 employees and over 800 customers, including many best-in-class packaging producers.
Deepanshu estimates that the company caters to over 50% of India’s wide web CI flexo presses, stack presses and woven sack presses. It is, says Goel, “A very competitive market, so it’s important to squeeze as much efficiency and productivity as possible from our systems. Hence the investment in the Flexcel NX Central software, which streamlines the platemaking process, reducing manual plate layout time and improves plate utilization by around 6%. Valuable additional benefits include reduced solvent usage and energy consumption, and higher productivity by completing more jobs, faster, and at lower cost.”
Gravure-to-flexo conversions are an important driver of a CAGR close to 30%. Goel modestly adds, “Once again, I think we’re in the right place at the right time. Changing market demands are fueling a latent demand for flexo from converters and brands. Several factors are driving this. More sustainable production is a top priority, encouraged by the Indian government’s Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) mandate on targets for recycling of plastic packaging waste, reuse of rigid plastic packaging and use of recycled plastic content. But so too is the additional agility flexo gives to brands — the ability to modify designs quickly in response to changing market dynamics, to produce shorter runs of more SKUs. Flexo plates also take up a lot less space than gravure cylinders.”
CG Premedia — a single-source solution
Goel’s chosen vehicle for tapping that latent demand is CG Premedia, which he founded in 2021 as an end-to-end provider of premedia services. He explains the rationale behind the venture, “We knew there are converters and brands ready to switch from gravure to flexo, but they couldn’t find anyone to advise and guide them. There was a clear need for a single-source solution. At CG Premedia we take responsibility for the whole process of taking packaging into the flexo space, from initial design through prepress to final production. And we don’t sit back and wait to be approached – we like to be proactive, showing clients how existing gravure designs can be converted to flexo, with the same shelf impact and vibrant color reproduction they demand.”
Superior performance in key areas
Deepanshu says the all-important technology foundation for the company’s success is Flexcel NX technology from Miraclon. Creative Graphics installed its first imager, a Flexcel NX Wide 4260, in 2016 at its Delhi-NCR (Noida) headquarters. After trials it demonstrated the technology’s superior performance in a number of key areas. “Compared to the LAMS technology we had at the time, Flexcel NX plates delivered better ink densities, cleaner graphics and sharper, smoother vignettes. It was also very simple to use.”
He adds that while successful gravure-to-flexo conversion depends on matching gravure for quality, the Flexcel NX technology also offers significant advantages on the press. “The predictable, consistent printed results with Flexcel NX plates mean converters not only come up to color faster but also have fewer unscheduled press stops. Reduced ink consumption and substrate wastage means lower costs, so the technology delivers in all the important areas — productivity, efficiency and sustainability.”
PureFlexo printing – a key contributor to conversions
A key contributor to Creative Graphics’ success in gravure to flexo conversion is the excellent ink transfer possible with the advanced plate surface patterning on Flexcel NX plates, recently enhanced with the introduction of PureFlexo printing. Accessed through the Kodak Flexcel NX Print Suite for flexible packaging, PureFlexo utilizes patented advanced plate surface patterns designed to control ink flow during printing to overcome the tendency of ink to spread or build up in unwanted areas, at start-up and throughout the run. The result is a wider operational window to produce predictable stable color and visibly cleaner print.
Says Goel, “PureFlexo printing takes flexo into another league. Converters who have used it on practical, commercial jobs tell us they value the benefits of the wider operating latitude — the faster press speeds, fewer interruptions to clean the press, less waste, and so on. So, it’s now our ‘industry-standard’ technology. We implement it with every new client to show what’s possible with flexo.”
PureFlexo printing has also opened up new opportunities for Creative Graphics, including exploring the potential for ECG (Extended Color Gamut) printing. It significantly enhances the performance of the Flexcel NX technology with ECG printing by making the process more stable by delivering excellent color addressability. This means that when an operator dials colors in at the beginning of the run, she can be confident the colors will not shift during the print run.
Goel concludes, “Brands have issued suppliers with a clear mandate to strive for sustainable production, and reducing spot colors obviously reduces ink consumption. For converters, it removes the time, machine capacity and makeready waste spent preparing and matching spot colors, and cuts down ink storage inventory. It’s early days at the moment, and brands are particular about their special colors, but we’re confident they will become more flexible in adopting these new technologies.”
Based on a press release, this article has been edited by Naresh Khanna