ThermoFlexX 80 sets new standards

The new ThermoFlexX 80 is the first completely in-house designed and manufactured model in the company’s imager range since Xeikon acquired FlexoLaser in 2012 and incorporates a level of innovation that has not previously been seen in a flexo imager. A dual-head imaging feature, available from August, will enable output speeds of 12 sq metres an hour at 2,400 dpi, making the ThermoFlexX 80 the fastest flexo imager in the world.

This latest model, equipped with a state-of-the-art imaging concept, consists of three independent modules - the motor, laser and optics. The flexible design allows straightforward replacement of any of these modules, thus simplifying service and future hardware upgrades, while providing the possibility for remote optical fine-tuning. The newly designed optical system has improved imaging quality, while the maximum resolution of 5,080 dpi is the highest on the market.

“Our engineers and development teams have incorporated a high degree of automation into the ThermoFlexX 80, from the automatic calibration system that guarantees jobs are always imaged under optimum conditions, to the ability for the operator to load and unload plates at the touch of a button,” says Christophe Lievens, director sales and marketing for basysPrint and ThermoFlexX. “We have examined how to keep wastage to a minimum at all times and this latest imager is fitted with a sensor that will automatically check that the thickness and size of the plate on the drum is correct for the job about to be exposed.

“To overcome the need to handle plates manually, one of the main causes of plate damage, we have created the Flextray. This mobile table can be adjusted easily to transport and feed plates into the innovative guiding system, which ensures that even plates as thick as 6.35 mm can be seamlessly mounted on the drum.”

All ThermoFlexX imagers utilise IPG fibre lasers operating at 1,064 nm, 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 0.18 mm ablative film to a 6.35 mm flexo plate, and support all relevant technologies such as flat top dots. This means that if a printer uses plates from any leading supplier e.g. Flint, DuPont, Asahi, MacDermid, Toyobo, Toray etc., they can continue without changing their normal working practices.

ThermoFlexX imagers accept 1-bit TIFF files generated by any workflow, RIP or front-end and will handle any innovative screens such as hybrid or surface screens. The screened 1-bit TIFF file could be a single job file, which can be assembled on a template, or it could be an already assembled 1-bit TIFF plate. 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 have incorporated a host of features within our Multiplate software to make processing digital data easy – basic step and repeat functionality, the ability to simply drag and drop files into templates, plate cropping and job organisation, file archiving, TIFF viewing etc.

“Towards the end of 2014 we will launch Multiplate 4.0 software which will incorporate a new, and very intuitive, user interface. Features will include the ability to support multiple imposition sheets plus different resolutions on the same sheet, while the new database will provide job tracking, filter, search and improved archive functions. There will be the ability to integrate with workflows and ERP systems as well as external equipment such as cutting tables and mounting devices.”

There are six ThermoFlexX imagers in the range, the smallest - the ThermoFlexX 18 - handling a maximum plate size of 508 x 420 mm, while the ThermoFlexX 80 can be used with plates up to 1,270 x 2,032 mm.Many of the unique features that have been developed at the Ypres factory are available across all six models.

This includes the vacuum slider facility that 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 function is automated on the new ThermoFlexX 80). Eliminating the need to apply special tape, or cutting plates to fit the unused part of the drum, means that customers can easily fit and expose (at full speed) plate off-cuts that would otherwise normally be thrown away.

ThermoFlexX provides a greater choice of resolutions than any other flexo imager in the world, with the ability to have all five options on one machine – 2,400, 2,540, 4,000, 4,800 and 5,080 dpi. The latter resolution allows halftone screens of 250 lpi, suitable for intricate, high quality

printing. Depending upon the job being sent by the workflow the ThermoFlexX 80 will automatically select the correct resolution and alter the optics accordingly, another feature unique to this imager.

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. There is an advanced automatic clamping system and, combined with the slow drum rotation feature, this ensures that plate mounting is straightforward and accurate. Automatic plate clamping is available on the larger models.

“Keeping control of costs is vital to any graphic arts business, and at every single stage we have examined how best to provide efficiency, low wastage, ease of use and high productivity,” says Christophe Lievens. “To achieve this we’ve utilised the highest quality of components. For instance, on the larger models we drive the drum directly as this eliminates friction and heat generation and ensures a constant speed without fluctuations.

“Innovation is an integral part of our philosophy and all of the industry-leading features that we have incorporated into the ThermoFlexX 80 such as the modular design of the imaging solution, with three independent modules, and the high level of automation, will be built into the ThermoFlexX 60, which is being redesigned during the summer for a product launch in the autumn. This will include a new Flextray unit suitable for that size of imager.

“It’s obvious from the investment we are making and the breakthroughs we are achieving that Xeikon Prepress is totally committed to the flexo industry. Our aim at ThermoFlexX is to one day have the standing in the flexo sector that Xeikon currently has in the digital press market. For the moment, it’s a case of watch this space!”