Zecher the German manufacturer of anilox rollers for the printing and coating industry recently completed a project to demonstrate how consistent, high-quality results can be achieved with a variety of packaging applications that are produced on flexo using CMYK process colors and advanced technologies. The project, executed in cooperation with a range of partners, including Miraclon that provided the plates, aimed to prove that uniform color and image reproduction on a range of different substrates can be achieved using flexo. Repro quality and consistency of the packaging reinforce a brand’s identity and enhance consumers’ shopping experience.
An ambitious undertaking
To maximize the practical relevance, complex images typically found on packaging for foods, coffee, tobacco, cosmetics, and animal food were chosen. Subtle gradients in the highlights and fine details in the high tonal ranges were features shared by all the designs. A subject rich in contrast and showing a woman’s face completely covered in gold make-up proved to be a particular challenge for CMYK flexo printing. It was this subject that also inspired the motto for the project – ‘Together for Golden Results.’
Three applications were produced – flexible packaging (printed on BOPP film), corrugated preprint on 135 gsm paper fully coated on one side, and a paper carrier bag made from 100 GSM white-coated kraft paper.
Zecher anilox rollers equipped with Zecher’s SteppedHex engraving technology were used to print all three applications. This innovative engraving method is characterized by a unique, specially staggered cell geometry that helps optimize print quality.
Three applications, one Flexcel NX plate technology
All three applications were produced using Flexcel NX plates, made with Kodak Maxtone SX screening – which is optimized for the Flexcel NX system – and a 60 lines per centimeter (152 lpi) screen. “We selected Flexcel NX Plate technology based on its strong presence in the flexo market and the controlled ink transfer it delivers,” explains Jörg Rohde, head of Application Technology at Zecher.
The technical resources for producing the flexible packaging application were made available by machinery and systems manufacturer Windmöller & Hölscher (W&H) at its Printing Technology Center in Lengerich, Germany. And, as the facility houses a Flexcel NX Ultra Solution from Miraclon, the flexo plates could be made on the spot.
The corrugated preprint application was produced at Christiansen Print in Ilsenburg, Germany, using Flexcel NX plates from Schawk Goslar, while the paper carrier bag was printed at Stenqvist Austria with Flexcel NX Plates from Flex-Punkt Druckformen.
‘Golden results’ convince in every aspect
There were delays executing the project owing to the Covid-19 pandemic. However, there was no denying the brilliance of the results once it was completed. Everyone involved was excited – not only by the color consistency with remarkably close tolerances across all substrates but also by the outstanding image quality in the gradients and fine details. The striking reproduction of the golden face using just the capabilities of CMYK flexo printing with no additional spot colors was similarly impressive.
“We succeeded in demonstrating the high color consistency and comparable results that are achievable across a range of products and substrates with flexo printing today,” says Rohde. “The project confirmed that our Zecher SteppedHex anilox roller engraving technology facilitates the highest levels of color consistency in different flexo applications, and the Flexcel NX plate technology from Miraclon helped us do that. Provided all process parameters are precisely matched, ‘golden results’ like these are entirely feasible under real production conditions.”
“We are delighted to be part of a project that pushes the boundaries of flexo printing,” adds Nilgun Turan, marketing manager, Europe at Miraclon. “With their unmatched stability, optimized ink transfer and the wide tonal range it delivers, Flexcel NX plates enable the large color gamut that is a condition of applications like gold in CMYK – every time. The results of this project are clear evidence that innovation will continue driving flexo’s growing success in the market.”