Tomorrow is Right Around the Corner
It's a very exciting time, as we are finally on the brink of having large-capacity manufacturing and a distribution system for sleeves, making the technology truly practical.
pP: What doCTS capabilities allow companies to do that they weren't able to do in the past?
Hole: All things being equal, a perfect sleeve is better than a perfect flat plate because it is imaged, exposed, and processed in its final printing shape, while a flat plate is shaped for the press at the mounting stage. Sleeve-to-sleeve registration is very accurate, and elements such as open reverses of the image have already taken on the angle of curvature of the sleeve. There is no post-exposure print cylinder distortion—no plate stretch; it's already worked out of the process. This produces the ultimate, accurate image.
One of the most significant advantages of sleeve technology is that it allows flexographers to print continuous images. This creates a great opportunity for flexo in the flexible packaging arena. Flexo can now seriously compete with gravure for printing snack foods, pouches, and frozen food bags that typically have continuous images and only require a single cut prior to packing and sealing. For the same reasons, we also expect to see economic benefits in the wet glue, cut-n-stack label arena.
Sleeves eliminate a number of press variables and makeready considerations. Printers save mounting time. Setup and changeover is faster, and printers report they get to sellable color faster with less waste.
The future of computer-to-sleeve
pP: How have customers and end users responded to the new CTS capabilities? Are they aware of the benefits, or is it something that companies find themselves proposing to clients?
Hole: Print buyers are vitally interested in any new technology that holds promise for getting their products to the consumer faster. The snack food industry and other high-volume consumer product segments that utilize high-volume, wide web printing are particularly paying attention.