Building on its automation experience in the offset sector, Xeikon Prepress set about developing a modular system that allows step-by-step investment to reach the point of fully-automatic plate processing, while supporting existing plate processing systems and allowing the use of data from various software prepress suppliers without loss of quality.
Recently launched, the ThermoFlexX Catena+ line fulfils these requirements by bringing together the flexo platemaking chain – from the ThermoFlexX imager to the Catena-E (UV LED exposure unit), Catena-W (solvent wash-out unit), and Catena-DLS (dryer, light finisher and plate stacker combination).
Once the operator has removed the cover sheet, the plate is automatically loaded into the imager and completely processed and fully finished with no further human intervention.
‘In combination with ThermoFlexX Woodpecker surface screening software and Flint’s best-in-class flexographic plates, this line enables printers to respond to increasing demands for faster cycle times and shorter run lengths, producing plates at the lowest total cost for every application,’ explains Xeikon Prepress sales director, Christophe Lievens.
Designed as an open system, Catena+ allows easy loading of plates from any imager into the Catena-E LED exposure unit. Plates from other exposure frames can also be loaded to take advantage of the washer, dryer, light finisher and plate stacker functions.
Connectivity: next-level, proactive support
All the modules are connected with Catena Cockpit and Catena ProServX software. Catena Cockpit software allows connection to existing prepress software workflows, and a link to management information systems via defined APIs. This enables real-time reporting on processing progress and expected time of completion.
ProServX monitors the modules’ ‘health status’, and, according to Christophe, facilitates a new level of proactive support and maintenance that minimises the need for physical service intervention.
An AI-based analysis of machine data from all installations worldwide can be performed, allowing for minimal deviations from the norm to be detected and analysed in real-time, and enabling predictive service actions to be initiated on-site.
This latest technology provides the possibility of using VR glasses with a virtual section through the modules to visualise any errors. Supported by videos or direct connection to service technicians, it’s also possible for in-house staff to carry out complex maintenance directly and immediately with only minimal training.
‘At the best of times, no-one appreciates unscheduled downtime or the expense of a service visit. During the Covid-19 crisis, where packaging plants are designated as essential services, such remote support technology becomes priceless,’ Christophe maintains.
‘With extensive automation, diverse options for software integration and an unprecedented level of operational security, the Catena+ “zero-touch” line, in conjunction with ThermoFlexX imagers, ensures that flexographic printing remains competitive in a difficult business environment,’ he concludes.
In the quest to improve flexographic plate processing efficiency rates and eliminate damage caused by manual plate handling, Xeikon has introduced the fully-automated and integrated ThermoFlexX Catena+ ‘zero-touch’ line. Catena means ‘connected chain’ in Latin. Pictured here is the Catena-WDLS module, which has ten drying units, seven stacking positions and a light finisher. Robotic movement ensures plates are fully finished with no operator intervention after loading into the washer.