In the not-so-distant past, flexographic package printing took a back seat to the high-quality, high-volume capabilities of gravure and offset. That was then. Over the years, as volumes shrank and marketing strategies began to embrace smaller, regional promotions, flexo—with its quicker set-up times and ability to handle limited run lengths economically on a generous variety of substrates—began to be viewed as a viable alternative to both gravure and offset. While these print technologies afforded a high degree of control over color, image, and ink transfer over the long run, flexo struggled with issues related to dot gain, color consistency, registration, resolution, and contrast, among others.
The subsequent introduction of hybrid screening, photopolymer plates, direct-to-plate technology, and sleeve-based, servo-driven presses went a long way toward ameliorating many of these problems and moving flexo closer to the benchmarks previously set by gravure and offset. Most recently, so-called high-definition solutions such as Kodak’s Flexcel NX System for digital platemaking, EskoArtwork’s new HD Flexo system, and MacDermid’s LUX™ plate processing technology have extended the opportunity for flexographic printers and their prepress service providers to become even more efficient, as well as to improve quality and reduce costs.
Taking it to the pressroom
One such service provider is Autumn Graphics in London, Ontario, Canada, an independent, privately owned company employing a staff of 38 and providing premedia production and graphics management services.
“We’ve been focused on packaging since day one, and have experienced steady growth over the years,” says company President Ben Abray. “We have consumer product, and packaging converter and printer customers, and we have some relationships where we represent both.” In addition to premedia production, “We get involved in press profiling and supplier qualification on behalf of our consumer product customers.”
On the converter side, he adds, “We take it much further, getting into the pressroom with process optimization, helping them take time and material out of their existing workflows. We work hard to push their quality to the highest possible level with the tools they have.”