This time last year we were presented with the all-new ThermoFlexX 80, the first completely in-house designed and manufactured model in the company’s imager range since Xeikon acquired FlexoLaser in 2012.
This year the spotlight was on the completely redesigned ThermoFlexX 60 digital flexo plate imager. Based on ground-breaking developments, it’s being promoted as ‘the most advanced 1067 x 1 524mm flexo imager on the market’.
‘Our commitment to the flexo industry and our determination to push forward the boundaries of what can be achieved in the field of plate imaging has resulted in several breakthroughs that position ThermoFlexX as a leading manufacturer in this sector,’ Christophe Lievens told journalists. ‘In addition to advancements in technology, we’ve established a growing network of dealers and distributors, and our customer base has expanded considerably.’
ThermoFlexX 80 models are now in full production at AtoutFlex, a leading service bureau in France; and at Miller Graphics’ new 800m2 factory in Algeria (PPM, May 2015). A third ThermoFlexX 80 has since been installed in Egypt and further orders are expected in the near future.
All the technology incorporated in the ThermoFlexX 80 is available on the new ThermoFlexX 60, including the ability to fit a dual-head imaging system to enable output speeds of 12m2/hour at 2 400dpi, making these two models the fastest flexo imagers in the world.
A state-of-the-art imaging concept consists of three independent modules – motor, laser and optics – while a flexible design means that replacing any of these modules is straightforward, simplifying service and hardware upgrades and providing the possibility for remote optical fine-tuning.
The newly-designed optical system improves imaging quality even further, while the maximum resolution of 5 080dpi is the highest on the market, allowing production of halftone screens of 250 lpi, suitable for intricate, high-quality work. The ThermoFlexX 60 automatically selects the correct resolution, depending on the job being sent by the workflow, and alters the optics accordingly.
‘We listen to what customers say they want from a plate imaging device and this feedback steers much of our development work,’ Christophe went on to explain. This is why we dedicate so much research effort into output quality and why we recently developed the ability to change resolution on-the-fly on the ThermoFlexX 80 and 60 models.’
According to Christophe, ThermoFlexX provides the widest choice of resolutions on a flexo imager, from 2 400 to 5 080dpi; and being able to swap instantly between outputs means jobs with different resolutions can be produced on the same plate. ‘This offers huge potential for huge savings in time and materials. Users no longer have to wait for jobs that require output at the same resolution in order to bundle them on the same plate,’ he explained.
Keeping wastage to a minimum is a key aim at every stage of the imaging process and ThermoFlexX has incorporated a high level of automation, from the automatic calibration system that guarantees jobs are always imaged under optimum conditions, to loading and unloading plates at the touch of a button.
To overcome the need to handle large plates manually, a main cause of plate damage, the company created a mobile table called the Flextray. This unit, now available for the ThermoFlexX 60 as well as the ThermoFlexX 80, can be adjusted easily to transport and feed plates into the guiding system on the imager. The advanced automatic clamping system, combined with the slow drum rotation feature, ensures that plate mounting is straightforward and accurate.
The creation of a hybrid drum that enables plates to be held by either vacuum or magnets means that customers can expose standard polymer flexo plates or steel-backed letterpress plates. A vacuum slider facility allows the operator to cut off vacuum to areas of the drum not mounted, simply by moving a slider to the edge of the plate. This automated function eliminates the need to apply special tape or cutting plates to fit the unused part of the drum, and means printers can easily fit and expose (at full speed) plate off-cuts that would otherwise be discarded.
All ThermoFlexX imagers utilise IPG fibre lasers operating at 1 064nm, which combine low energy consumption with high reliability. The imagers will expose any plate with a LAM layer such as flexo, letterpress and dry offset, as well as Gallus Screeny (digital screen) and ablative film.
They can handle any thickness from a 0.18mm ablative film to a 6.35mm flexo plate, and support all relevant technologies such as flat top dots. This means that if printers use plates from any leading supplier, such as Flint, DuPont, Asahi, MacDermid or Toray, they can continue without changing normal working practices.
ThermoFlexX imagers accept 1-bit TIFF files generated by any workflow, RIP or front-end and handle any innovative screens such as hybrid or surface screens. A philosophy of ‘openness’ means that ThermoFlexX imagers can be integrated seamlessly into existing workflows such as those from Esko Graphics, Hybrid Software, Kodak and Agfa.
‘We completed 2014 with the installation of the first ThermoFlexX 80 models and this year has continued to be extremely successful, with imager sales coming from around the world, including the UK, Algeria, Egypt, India, Poland, Mexico and Peru. We expect interest to remain high, with a peak around Labelexpo in September when we will be showing some exciting new developments!’ were Christophe’s closing remarks.
Worldwide launch of Cloudflow RIP
At the same event, Hybrid Software announced a major addition to its Cloudflow suite of software for the packaging and label markets following the development of the Cloudflow RIP. At the press conference, the RIP was demonstrated interfaced with ThermoFlexX digital flexo plate imagers.
Hybrid Software’s Cloudflow RIP supports native PDF 1.6 files and is available in two modes, either standalone or in a Cloudflow workflow. In the standalone version the RIP is supplied with its own HTML UI, allowing the user to set up presets and then run jobs. A built-in TIFF viewer is provided to inspect output. In a Cloudflow environment the RIP runs as part of an operating workflow, handling functions such as routing files based on metadata and obtaining information from other systems. It can easily be combined with other Hybrid Software products eg Proofscope and PACKZFlow.
‘Being an integral part of our comprehensive Cloudflow suite of products, the RIP can take full advantage of the distributed architecture of Cloudflow to achieve extremely efficient productivity,’ explained Hybrid chairman, Guido van der Schueren. ‘As with all of our Cloudflow products the new RIP runs on the server and the user can control it via a web browser.’
Cloudflow is predominantly used in the packaging and label markets and Hybrid Software has ensured its products meet the specific requirements of the flexo industry. The new Cloudflow RIP supports flexo platemaking, providing sophisticated screening and calibration control facilities. In addition to regular AM and FM screening, the RIP also supports object-based screening, enabling users to have full control over the ripping process.
Journalists learnt that Hybrid’s HXM screening technology ensures excellent quality hybrid AM/FM screening output. The comprehensive calibration feature gives full control when applying both press and print curves enabling, for example, precise application of bump-ups in both highlights and shadows when handling press curves. These curves can be assigned per separation.
Hybrid Software also used the ThermoFlexX open house to demonstrate a range of new features offered by the latest version of PACKZ, its professional PDF editor for packaging and label workflows. The software can be fully integrated within the Cloudflow environment.
ThermoFlexX marries litho and flexo
The name ThermoFlexX first burst upon the scene at drupa 2012. Earlier that year, Xeikon had purchased FlexoLaser, a manufacturer of computer-to-plate (CtP) devices for flexographic and letterpress printing, and had also acquired the rights to Kodak’s redundant Thermoflex trademark.
Thus ThermoFlexX (with an extra X!) was born, and found its home within Xeikon Prepress – already a producer of CtP devices for lithographic printing.
Being better known for its line of digital presses for label and packaging printing, Xeikon’s foray into the business of producing imagers for flexographic and letterpress printing plates caused a few raised eyebrows. However, by expanding its CtP business into these markets, Xeikon has reinforced its commitment to the label and packaging markets – in a way marrying the two printing processes.