In December, FlexoGlobal had the opportunity to visit MRI Flexible Packaging in Newtown, Pennsylvania, and Imageworx in Levittown, Pennsylvania, to learn more about their operations and the incorporation of the Kodak Flexcel NX system into their workflows.
MRI Meets the Gravure Challenge with Kodak’s Flexcel NX Plates
MRI Flexible Packaging was founded in 1986 by two brothers and prides itself on delivering packaging with shelf impact for its customers. In the early 1990s, they decided to expand the business to 360-degree stretch-sleeve labels.
“Rotogravure has always been our biggest competitor, and we continue to receive three calls a week from gravure customers that want to switch to flexo,” said MRI’s Managing Director and Co-owner, Rich Speeney. “In the past, the biggest challenge was sacrificing print quality to achieve cost savings. With the Flexcel NX system, MRI can now meet and even surpass roto’s quality while offering the economics print buyers are looking for.”
Starting the Move to a New Flexo Plate System
Nestle Water had a vignette issue that started MRI looking for new flexo plates. With the old plates on a long run, the vignette started looking muddy at 250,000 feet. Today, with the new plate system they are getting three times that run length and holding quality.
Miller Coors was the final big push to the Flexcel NX system. MRI went to an outside trade shop, saw the possibilities with the system, and it opened their eyes. They had a 20-year relationship with their incumbent plate supplier that they didn’t want to end, but unfortunately their product could not match the quality and consistency that the Flexcel NX system produced. Every test with their previous supplier was different—no consistency. This forced MRI to make the switch because without the Flexcel NX system the company couldn’t up their quality. The new print results had the “pop” that other competitors just couldn’t match.
New Bobst F&K 20SIX Press
MRI is the first purchaser of a Bobst F&K 20SIX in the United States. A GPS system takes a topographical map of the flexo plate and saves the information to a chip. The press then reads the chip on the cylinder and knows how to set pressure and register. The result—no more eye-balling register at startups. The plate mounter now has to keep up with the press.
On their new Bobst F&K 20SIX press, MRI had an unplanned comparison—two impressions across—their long-time supplier on one side and the Kodak plate on the other. They had to stop the job because there was a significant quality difference between the two plates. The product couldn’t be shipped because of the disparity in the quality. Unfortunately, their old supplier was the loser.
Bill Harlan, MRI’s plant manager and oversees prepress, explained, “We doubted the Kodak plates at first. For a trial, we took their plates and our old supplier’s plates to the new press in Germany for a test run. The results spoke for themselves— the Kodak plate was outstanding.”
There used to be 1,000 feet of waste at startups in the past. Today, jobs are now in register once they run the length of the rollers. With runs on the old presses, MIR dealt with one million pounds of film in the trash. Today, the minimal amount of film is recycled, and waste is dramatically reduced.
Kodak is not yet recycling the plates because there isn’t the volume yet. It’s environmentally important to recycle, but recent plate changes have produced other reduced costs and environmental efficiencies—materials, drying costs, etc. Some customers recycle the plated themselves. As they are a hydrocarbon product, incineration produces a value.
MRI bought the Kodak Flexcel NX system for three reasons:
- Solid ink density (the primary reason)
- Higher line screens
- Plate life longevity
Higher line screens are now possible. They started production at 133, moved to 150, and now can output 175. Moving to a screen higher than 175 is not viewed as being necessary as customers can’t really see the difference without a loop.
“With the higher line screens, we’re able to have the strong densities, the higher line screens and produce colors that make our customers’ products jump off the shelf, said Wilfredo Vasquez, Senior Project Manager.
“With the Kodak plates, we’ve been able to maintain consistency across print runs,” Vasquez continued. “It has allowed us to convert jobs from using all spot colors to four-color process. The customers have been happy with both the quality and cost savings.”
An average MRI press run length is 17,000 feet, and jobs are run on average two times a month. The new plates have a higher durometer and have proven to be more reliable run to run. The average plate life span is one million feet. Although they rarely run that much, they do have plates that are a year old and are still running well.
The NX plates can be mounted several times without degradation. Plates are stored flat, and after each run they go through plate washer. (175-line screen has a shorter life span.)
MRI runs 2 12-hour shifts a day, 6 days a week. With 15-16 changeovers in a day, there has been an optimization of the entire process—from prepress to print. There are fewer ink systems—two instead of five. Registration is done before the press run starts, and the average setup time is 1 hour and 10 minutes. The new press runs at 1325 feet per minute max, and runs that took 30 hours on the old press now take only 5.
The NX system costs a fraction of gravure’s prepress. With the market moving toward increased SKUs— having doubled or tripled over the past few years— it makes flexo and its costs more attractive financially than gravure.
Speeney feels that with the Kodak Flexcel NX system and the Bobst F&K 20SIX “we have the best prepress process and press in the world.”
About MRI Flex
MRI Flexible Packaging turns bright ideas into brilliant labels. They lead the industry with state-of-the-art equipment and unparalleled service that provides their customers with the highest quality comprehensive labeling solutions. Their stretch sleeve, OPP roll fed, and shrink sleeve provide exciting opportunities for their customers
MRI Flexible Packaging offers state of the art flexographic presses, direct-to-plate digital in-house graphic design and prepress, inventory management, speed to market, and internal and external technical support. Their quarter century of experience in flexible packaging has allowed them to benefit many valued customers including: Clorox Services Co., Colgate-Palmolive, Nestle Water NA, Dean Foods, KIK Corporation, American Beverage Corporation, and Kimberly Clark. Visit MRI at www.mriflex.com.
Imageworx is a service-oriented, mid-size prepress service company specializing in the production of artwork, plates, film, prototypes, and proofs designed to meet their customers specialized requirements. All work is produced in their 15,000 square foot facility in Levittown, Pennsylvania.
The company was formed 21 years ago as Gold Graphics. Dry offset was the company’s start and flexo capabilities were eventually added for the 35-40 inch narrow-web customers.
The company’s President, Jerry Toepfer says his motto is, “If you can do someone’s hardest work, they’ll come back.”
Imageworx purchased a Kodak mid-sized plate-making system about a year ago, and is now moving into wide web. “The Kodak NX equipment can take a C+ printer to a B,” explained Toepfer, “and an A- printer to A+.”
Toepfer likes the simplicity of the Kodak system. “You just expose the plate. It doesn’t need special screening. It just works. If you follow the process, the setoff rules, you can make a great plate. NX takes out all the steps that can cause problems.”
During the testing process, Imageworx created plates from different suppliers comparing type, reverse type, process detail, and density. The Kodak plate excelled and was the clear winner. With a Gallus press, Imageworx has been able to achieve 1 hit black, 2.06 density on black, and a black solid with 1-point type on one plate and can even to do .5-point type.
Today, the company’s business is 80 percent Kodak plates and 20 percent other suppliers. The NX plates are initially a hair more expensive, but with the quality produced, it has not been a deal breaker. The plates dry at a slightly lower temperature, offering energy savings, and 87-90 percent of the solvent is recovered and reused. Sludge is recycled.
Toepfer concluded, “We know our Kodak plates are consistently right. We don’t get them back.”
Imageworx specializes in professional file conversion for all major print processes. They have particular expertise in the print processes normally associated with labels, flexible packaging, cup, and tube production. Their highly trained, experienced, computer graphic operators utilize the latest hardware and graphic software to perform all necessary prepress services to maximize the potential of a printed file. Digital file conversion and transfer is available in all major graphic formats. Superior customer service, quick turnaround, and technical expertise are the hallmark of their excellent staff. Visit Imageworx at www.imageworx.net
Source: FlexoGlobal Blog