Retriever Sports Limited has to have one of the more unusual flexo applications around. Formed in 1978 and based in Slough, UK, the company produces Darts. Yes, that’s the game you may associate with the quintessential British pub. However, you may be surprised to learn that modern Darts, promoted by the PDC (Professional Darts Corporation), attracts millions of spectators and is broadcast by main stream TV and sports channels throughout the World
Retriever make all aspects of the Dart, the
barrels, shafts and even boxes and cases to put them in. Of course it’s the
Dart ‘flights’ that are flexo printed. Flexo is normally associated with
high-volume printing, you may think this is over-kill for such a small
(physical size) product. Even more impressive when you learn that they also own
a Xeikon 3300 digital press. So, enough volume for flexo? Well the company
produces a staggering 4 million ‘sets’ of flights a year! In-case you haven’t
been to the pub lately a ‘set’ is 3 flights. They use a special Polyester
substrate, prepared in-house to their own specification to print flights both
digitally (on the Xeikon) or on a Mark Andy flexo label press using UV inks.
Earlier this year (2018) the company called
time on their conventional (film) flexo plate making and replaced their
film-setter with a ThermoFlexX 20 digital imager from Xeikon Pre-Press (based
in Ypres, Belgium). Their existing BASF solvent plate processor was given a
thorough service and now they’re making excellent quality Flint ACE D digital
flexo plates. Although, inspired by the easy and environmentally friendly step
forward in eliminating the film-setter, they plan to look at water or thermally
processed plates in the future.
Retriever report that in addition to a
distinctly sharper image quality from the ThermoFlexX imaged flexo plates,
there are far less press rejects (formerly largely due to dust during film
contact) and much less general plate waste. Plate production times are much
reduced (faster turnaround) and the process has been simplified considerably.
In such a busy manufacturing environment, space is at a premium. In addition to ‘winning’ a room that previously housed the film-setter and processing chemicals, the ThermoFlexX 20’s small footprint has proved very useful. The ThermoFlexX 20 is fully self-contained, needing only a standard electrical mains supply. In this case it fits neatly into the corner of a room that’s also used for plate making and multiple other inspection and assembly functions. The ThermoFlexX has also been equipped to make PAD plates using Flint DLE plates for printing on cases etc.