Shanghai Hengze Printing Company to install Asahi CrystalCleanConnect

Hengze aims to improve its position in the Chinese market

Shanghai Hengze Printing Company to install Asahi CrystalCleanConnect
L-R Zhou Rocky from Esko China, Li Xiaocheng from Shanghai Hengze Printing Company, and Ryo Ichihashi from Asahi at the signing of CrystalCleanConnect installation agreement

Asahi Photoproducts, a pioneer in flexographic photopolymer plate development, reported that Shanghai Hengze Printing Company is in the process of installing a brand-new CrystalCleanConnect flexographic platemaking line. This Chinese label manufacturer had already adopted Asahi AWP-DEF water-washable plates to boost quality and improve its competitive positioning. 

The addition of the CrystalCleanConnect line and a switch to Asahi AWP-DEW water-washable plates optimized for use with CrystalCleanConnect will take the company’s productivity and efficiency, and sustainability to the next level, positioning it even more favorably in the highly competitive Chinese market. 

The company was founded in 2001 as a letterpress shop producing labels for products in daily use among the Chinese population. Shanghai Hengze offers complete end-to-end services under one roof, from product design and prepress to the finished product, enabling a high level of customization and personalized service for its customers.

Asahi has helped Hengze in improving their product quality

“Over the last two years, since we implemented the Asahi AWP CleanPrint water-washable plates, we have seen excellent quality improvement results,” said Li Xiaocheng, founder of Hengze. “When we learned about the added value CrystalCleanConnect could bring to our operation, we could hardly wait to get started. We are also very pleased to be an early adopter of this unique, highly productive, and innovative solution.”

CrystalCleanConnect, the first automatic platemaking system including inline cutting in balance with the environment
CrystalCleanConnect, the first automatic platemaking system including inline cutting in balance with the environment

CrystalCleanConnect was developed as a result of a collaboration among Asahi Photoproducts, Esko, and Kongsberg. It brings together key hardware and software technologies from all organizations to deliver a highly efficient and sustainable mount-ready water-washable flexo plate for the packaging industry, bringing a new level of standardization to flexographic printing. CrystalCleanConnect offers many breakthrough advantages, from design to print, including – 

  • A fully automated and connected process begins with the operator loading plate material and pressing a button to initiate the process. Plates are then imaged, developed, and cut inline in a single integrated process, delivering mount-ready plates at the back end.
  • Significantly reduced total cost of ownership. By reducing steps from 12 to 1, minimizing the need for operator intervention, and automating the entire workflow, not only are labor costs reduced, but there is less wastage and reduced opportunity for error. Plates are also produced faster than other methods, increasing throughput and decreasing time to market for flexo printed products.
  • Excellence in print quality consistency. Automation of a proven platemaking process delivers more consistent plates, ultimately making the pressroom more efficient and cost-effective.
  • A best-in-class environmental footprint includes less waste, elimination of VOC-based washout chemicals associated with solvent-based platemaking, and reduced energy use.

CleanPrint plates from Asahi Photoproducts, such as its AWP-DEW plates optimized for use with CrystalCleanConnect, have been specifically engineered to transfer all remaining ink to the printed substrate. This is due to the plate’s lower surface energy. CleanPrint technology plates do not need to be cleaned as often as conventional digital solvent plates. Reduction of plate cleaning stops creates a significant productivity improvement and more consistent quality.


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.

Web analytics show that we now have readership in North America and Europe amongst the 90 countries where our five platforms reach. Our traffic which more than doubled in 2020, has at times gone up by another 50% in 2021. And advertising which had fallen to pieces in 2020 and 2021, has started its return since January 2022.

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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