But what does this mean in practice? What’s the story behind these names?
According to MacDermid’s promotional material, the easy-to-use LUX platemaking method produces flat-top dots on current digital flexo printing plates. This new dot shape enables printers to improve their TM print quality and consistency, making flexo competitive with gravure and offset printing. This simple process, the literature continues, is easy to integrate into existing platemaking workflows, is compatible with all MacDermid’s digital plates, does not require modification to current platemaking equipment, and can be used with all digital flexo plate imaging units, including those equipped with EskoArtwork’s latest HD Flexo imaging technology (for more on this latter topic turn to page 28).
However, we don’t have to take MacDermid’s word for these claimed advantages. The undoubted success of the system has been independently underlined by the US Flexographic Technical Association (FTA), which honoured this process with its Technical Innovation Award in 2011. MacDermid also went on to win the Flexographic PrePress Platemakers Association Technology Award.
Print like never before
The LUX system has been print-proven on a variety of substrates – including paper, flexible film, foil, paperboard, labelstock and corrugated and has met with great success, with more than 50 installations worldwide. And now South Africa has joined the growing list of countries that have adopted this award-winning platemaking method to improve flexographic printing, thanks to its recent implementation by Cape Town’s Syreline Process. The LUX system at Syreline was installed and commissioned by PrinTech.
‘LUX technology is improving flexo printing across the globe and now we can offer flat-top dots to South Africa’s flexo printers, helping them to improves quality and consistency. This is the next leap in flexo,’ asserts Derek Murison, Syreline’s MD (and coincidentally current president of the FTASA).
According to Derek, LUX platemaking technology allows platemakers and printers to achieve higher quality, consistency and versatility in their operations, while enhancing the value of their investments in digital flexo hardware and software.
Derek’s partner and co-director, Gavin Jones, takes up the story: ‘MacDermid’s LUX technology increases ink density by some 10%, so we can use four-colour (CMYK) to produce any Pantone colour … until now flexo printing has relied mainly on six- to eight-colour printing to achieve the necessary colour gamut. Now we can print in four colours and challenge the traditional boundaries of gravure or offset printing.’
The trio from Syreline Process – Derek Murison, Gavin Jones and Paul Schweizer – have been together since 1975 when they first decided to enter the business of manufacturing photopolymer plates. Since then, Syreline has been a trail-blazer for new technology, and has become known as a plate supplier of note, instrumental in helping many local companies to attain their award-winning status as world-class flexographic printers.
PrinTech has supplied Syreline with polymer plates for the last 17 years, and looks forward to assisting Syreline with its leap into the future to achieve its new goal of supplying ‘perfect plates’ to the South African flexographic printing industry.
PrinTech has offices in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban and, besides supplying MacDermid flexographic plates, it also offers a range of offset plates and blankets.
[Ed’s note: Proving the success of the flat-top-dot concept, in the US the cover of the October 2011 issue of Flexo magazine (the FTA’s official journal) was printed flexographically, including special effects such as embossing, cold foiling and tactile varnishing. The result was a top-quality print job, minimal waste, quick setup and operating efficiency. Watch for PPM’s April edition when we hope to repeat the experiment as a first in South Africa’s trade publishing arena, when our covers will be flexographically printed instead of offset!]
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How does it work?
The process really amounts to controlled engineering of dot shapes and capitalises on coverage afforded by flat-top dots. The technology entails lamination of a membrane over the top of an already image-ablated digital flexo plate, followed by standard UV exposure of the photopolymer through the membrane, and subsequent removal of the membrane prior to processing.
The LUX platemaking process offers benefits to printers and platemakers.
For printers it provides better highlight detail (LUX highlight dots print much smaller than those of standard digital plates); smoother vignettes (smaller dots result in reduced hard edges); accommodation of higher line screens; and reduced dot gain (LUX reduces dot gain caused by plate wear owing to shape of flat-top dot).
For platemakers, the benefits are improved consistency (1:1 mask:plate imaging eliminates the traditional digital bump curve, which is a ‘fix’ for the oxygen inhibition inherent in the standard digital plate workflow); format versatility (LUX can be used with plates from 1,14mm to 6,35mm thickness and any plate size); and wide plate compatibility (LUX can be used with any MacDermid digital plate).