Changing from analogue film-setting to CTP for digital flexo plates is one of the most daunting moves for any printer. Mission Labels made it all seem easy with help from the UK's first ThermoFlexX imager.
Mission Labels has installed the UK's first ThermoFlexX imager as part of a £100,000 investment in pre-press facilities that has resulted in the West Sussex printer moving from traditional film setting to CTP production. In addition to the imager, the recent expansion includes front-end systems, AV Flexologic exposure equipment and a new pre-press department containing an art and design studio.
'Our technical knowledge allows us to specialise in the high quality label market, producing work for customers throughout the UK in sectors ranging from food and pharmaceuticals to cosmetics and general packaging,' said technical director Dave Humphrey. 'We had reached the point where we needed to make the leap from film-setting to the latest digital platemaking technology. Making the right decision was vital so we carried out a great deal of research into the latest developments.
'The flexo imager manufacturer that constantly came out ahead of everyone else in terms of providing the best package of productivity, quality, service and price was ThermoFlexX. Even though there were no ThermoFlexX imagers in the UK we felt confident, having had several meetings, that we would be given excellent training and after-sales support. Our faith was well founded. The imager was delivered during December along with a RIP and the necessary software, and by Christmas we were in full production. It was pretty seamless.'
Mission Labels chose the ThermoFlexX 30 because the 635 x 762 mm format meets the plate requirements of its 330 mm wide Nilpeter FB3300 eight colour presses, and provides the capability of outputting plates for larger presses in the future. The company had already been operating water-based inks and waterwash plate chemistry and used the changeover to switch to Toyobo Cosmolight plates, which provide compatibility with water-based, solvent and UV inks.
'The results have been astounding. Not only has the quality of the image on the plate taken a huge jump forward, we are able to turn work around much more quickly, while makeready and start-up waste on the presses has also been reduced significantly. By employing our own highly experienced designers, we are now able to take receipt of a PDF file and get the job on the press in less than an hour, often despatching the completed order within a couple of hours of receiving the digital file.'
ThermoFlexX manufactures the only flexo imagers on the market that offer five separate output resolutions and Mission Labels chose to have 2540 dpi and 5080 dpi on its machine. The company has already produced labels using 5080 dpi, which is the highest resolution available on a flexo imager, allowing screen rulings of 250 lpi for fine detailed work including demanding vignettes.
The imagers utilise IPG fibre lasers operating at 1064 nm, which combine low energy consumption with high reliability. They can expose any plate with a LAM layer such as flexo, letterpress and dry offset, as well as Gallus Screeny (digital screen) and ablative film. The 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. They also support all relevant technologies such as flat top dots.
'One of the many extremely useful features on the imager is the vacuum slider, which lets us cut off vacuum to areas of the drum not required,' said Dave Humphrey. 'This enables the operator to easily fit and expose plate off-cuts that would previously have been discarded.'
And there is more to come at Mission Labels. Mr Humphrey concluded, 'This latest investment has laid the foundations for an even greater expansion programme at our Rustington factory, which will include the installation during 2015 of a new flexo press. As part of this growth, we intend to increase staff from 18 to 29 over the next year. Our business combines a great family-feel with total professionalism and commitment to customers. We've already won BRC accreditation for packaging and packaging materials and our current plans make this a tremendously exciting time for Mission Labels.'