During a recent ‘de-clutter’ session at home I came across my 1998 box of materials from the EFTA in England, and took a quick trip down memory lane with a printed copy of the “Typical Flexo Print Faults” guide from Sun Chemical. As I thumbed through it I was amazed at just how BAD the issues looked when viewed through ‘today’s eyes’. I know the guide contained truly bad cases for each defect to make sure the fault was visible, but to some degree these really were daily occurrences back then. It struck me how few of these we see today, and if we do see them, how they are never present to that degree.
The list of “Typical” Flexo Print Faults In 1998 included:
- Poor Trap
- Ink Smearing / Dot Bridging
- Dirty Print / Fill In
- Mottled Print
- Print Striations
- Uneven Colors
- Poor Ink Coverage
- Pinholes or Fisheyes
- Washboard Print
- Dark or Dirty Print Color
- Ink Foaming
- Weak Print Color
- Inconsistent Print Color
- Dirty Print / Halos
- Dirty Print / Feathering
What’s with all the Dirty Print?
Did you notice that 5 of the 15 print faults involved the words “Dirty Print”, and several of the others could easily be considered in that type of category? It’s sometimes easy to forget that only 15 or so years ago Flexo had a LOT of issues, struggling with lower quality and a highly inconsistent process.
What is also interesting is that the primary causes of these print faults were not due to a single factor; they were due to issues with the ink, anilox, ink supply, plate, doctor blade, operator, substrate, tape and press combined. The improvements that have been made since that time, and that give us the flexo performance we enjoy today, have truly been across the board – though it’s true to say that they don’t always happen in perfect synchronization.
When one supplier comes up with the latest major advance, it often takes time to completely step the industry forward, because no one component is independent of all the others. As an example, and one that’s close to my heart, when new significant improvements in plate capabilities are introduced, they are supported in implementation over the following years by continuous improvements in the ink, anilox, tapes and the press, until they all come together to unlock the true capabilities of the plate – and vice versa.
The Supermarket Test
It used to be that you could walk down the middle of any supermarket aisle, and a wide one at that, and you could spot the flexo printed products on the shelf from 5 feet away. The typical Flexo halo was often the first giveaway, but now that is very much the exception, and you need to get a lot closer than 5 feet to see it!
As an industry we should be PROUD of what we have done, as suppliers, printers, and service providers, we are now as good, and on most days better than the other print processes that we could only dream of matching back in 1998, on a wider range of inks and substrates than ever before. It’s why we mustn’t stop collectively educating our end users, especially those ones that have long memories, about the capabilities of 21st century flexo.
We’ve come a long way in the last 15-20 years – but it’s important to not become complacent and accept that even the Flexo we are printing today is “good enough”. There is always room for improvement and I know that I, for one, will not stop trying. J
OK, back to those boxes…
Dr. John’s Contact Information:
For anyone who does want to email me, please use email@example.com and please don’t miss out the number 3 in the address, or you will reach another John Anderson in Kodak manufacturing!
Have a wonderful day,
Dr. John, WW Business Development, Packaging, Kodak
Source: FlexoGlobal Blog