Kodak Flexcel NX points NS Digital Flexo toward flexo prepress success

Making flexo a modern, standardized and industrial process

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NS Digital Hyderabad, Flexcel NX
Shyam Sundar partner, NS Digital Flexo in Hyderabad with the Flexcel NX system Photo Miraclon

For Shyam Sundar, partner at Hyderabad-based flexo prepress specialist NS Digital Flexo, meeting the challenges — and helping customers reap the benefits — started in March 2020, when the company opted for a new Kodak Flexcel NX System, supplied and supported by Miraclon. “I think flexo is both the most challenging industry and the most rewarding. The more you put in, the greater the benefits,” says Shyam Sundar.

NS Digital Flexo is part-owned by Mumbai-based prepress pioneer and solutions provider, Numex Blocks, who also provide technical expertise to the Hyderabad plate supplier. Sundar describes NS Digital’s service offering as “All things flexo — wide web, labels, folding cartons, corrugated.”  A notable feature of the company’s philosophy is the effort and time it puts into building relationships with customers and showing them the potential of the Flexcel NX System. Explains Sundar, “We really engage with each customer, so that we can see things from their perspective, and truly understand their current capabilities and practices. Then we show them how simple adjustments to their production practices — fingerprinting the press, for example — can improve efficiency without additional investments or press set-ups. If we can work with the available resources, we save customers time and money.

“Next, we explain the further improvements and enhanced benefits achievable with Flexcel NX plates — how we can change anilox rollers and inks, reduce impression and generally introduce better control into the press environment.”

Reducing the variables

With the Flexcel NX System, it’s relatively easy for NS Digital to help customers become more efficient, Sundar continues. “The biggest benefit for us is the simplicity of making Flexcel NX plates. The flexo process can have many variables, but the Flexcel NX technology either eliminates them or makes managing them simple, which yields substantial savings throughout the whole packaging printing process. So as a service provider, we can be confident we can provide customers with consistent, repeatable results. It also makes it easier to solve any print issues that arise because we can eliminate the plates as a cause straightaway. With other solutions, the investigation is more complex — is it the file, or the software, or processing, or exposure, or the press?”

Flexcel NX plates Photo Miraclon
Flexcel NX plates Photo Miraclon

He describes a reverse-print flexible packaging job as an example of a customer who benefited from the NS Digital approach and Flexcel NX. “We discussed how Flexcel NX plates could improve the overall print quality, especially on the whites. Then we worked with Miraclon on the fingerprinting — always supportive at all stages and a delight to work with. This approach gave the customer the confidence to proceed — and the 20% reduction in ink consumption was very persuasive too!” He adds that customers report faster makereadies across all types of work, lower white ink consumption, reduced start-up waste — down from 50 meters to 20 meters, in some cases — and varnish savings as high as 20% on many jobs.

Mohan Rao, Sundar’s partner at NS Digital Flexo, singles out two features of the Flexcel NX technology as especially valuable. “The Kodak TIFF Assembler Plus software — TAP 5.0 — is a fantastic product that makes our life easier, from layout optimization to automating job settings. And the Digicap NX patterning is also a huge advantage. We can use it to create a ‘micro anilox’ on the plate, which produces efficient ink transfer and overcomes the usual challenges of maintaining ink density and controlling dot gain. Used in conjunction with press fingerprinting, it makes it easy to select the best pattern for each job.”

The offset-to-flexo transition is ‘booming’

Asked what NS Digital regards as the most noticeable trends in flexo at present, Sundar answers, “Gravure-to-flexo conversion, of course, but there’s also an ample opportunity for flexo to take label work from offset. It is booming already, and there’s more growth to come, with more offset label players looking to have at least one flexo label press. For a trade shop like us, this is good news on two fronts. First, there’s the challenge of helping many small label players produce complex jobs, which will keep the market engaged and growing.

“And second, there’s the demand for faster turnarounds, which is only possible with the Flexcel NX System. Put these capabilities together, and by providing high-quality service and products, we’re in a good position to respond to the price pressures that are common in the packaging printing space.”

Towards an industrial and modern process

Looking ahead, Shyam Sundar speaks eloquently of his expectations for NS Digital and the flexo industry in general. “It’s great to be part of a journey that’s transforming flexo into a modern, standardized manufacturing process through technology such as Flexcel NX. This will always be my passion — to work with the latest, most advanced technologies and to continue to push the boundaries of what’s possible with flexo.”

The Covid-19 pandemic led to the country-wide lockdown on 25 March 2020. It will be two years tomorrow as I write this. What have we learned in this time? Maybe the meaning of resilience since small companies like us have had to rely on our resources and the forbearance of our employees as we have struggled to produce our trade platforms.

The print and packaging industries have been fortunate, although the commercial printing industry is still to recover. We have learned more about the digital transformation that affects commercial printing and packaging. Ultimately digital will help print grow in a country where we are still far behind in our paper and print consumption and where digital is a leapfrog technology that will only increase the demand for print in the foreseeable future.

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As the economy approaches real growth with unevenness and shortages a given, we are looking forward to the PrintPack India exhibition in Greater Noida. We are again appointed to produce the Show Daily on all five days of the show from 26 to 30 May 2022.

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