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Last updateThu, 05 Dec 2019 4pm
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Taking print to the next level

BOBST lifts the lid on the evolutionary step in has taken in high quality flexo print. Thanks to an end-to-end collaboration with other industry stake-holders, BOBST presents the ultimate in print quality. Introducing BOBST THQ FlexoCloud.

Daniel Brunton looks at what goes into producing the most sophisticated print job seen in corrugated flexo post print
With an ever-crowded market place, it is essential that corrugated box manufacturers find ways to help their customers sell more goods. Whether it be food, drink, electrical goods or cosmetics, the pressure is on to retain market share. But a worrying trend is that of counterfeit goods. It has been estimated that over 7% of all goods sold around the world are fake - and it is a serious issue for stake holders; brand identity is key to the survival of the large multi nationals and protection of their goods is an area that needs serious attention. Whether it be holograms or intricate security labels, packaging producers are well placed to help brand owners protect their goods. This has been widely achieved in the folding carton, label and narrow web industries, but to date, been complicated for the corrugated industry.
BOBST, with a series of industry supplier partners, has now launched a system that will help corrugated box manufacturers achieve some exceptional results, not only in print quality, but security print as well. Heralded by some observers as a quantum leap in what can be achieved with the flexo print process, THQ FlexoCloud is the latest generation of technology from BOBST to help corrugated box manufacturers not only serve existing customers and markets, but an opportunity to branch out with new product offerings.
It’s not just a machine
Let’s clear up a possible misconception right at the beginning. THQ FlexoCloud is not a printing machine; it is an eco-system with strict guidelines and technical parameters. From handling of the original file, through pre-press, creation of the flexo printing plates, specified ink, correct chamber and certified anilox roll, THQ FlexoCloud is a methodology that allows an operator to create some simply breath-taking results, the likes of which are directly comparable to litho offset.
It is still flexo printing, however. You do not need new operators, or to radically change your factory. THQ FlexoCloud can be supplied on any new BOBST flexo Rapidset printing machine and it can also be retrofitted to a BOBST machine that might be a few years old. The physical changes to the printing machine are minimal; the system does have to run on a fixed type machine, as having space for a dryer between each print unit is preferable.
What is THQ?
THQ stands for ‘Très Haute Qualité’ (translated from French as ‘very high quality’) - a phrase coined by its developer, Didier Guenu, owner of Graphilabel. Based in Reims, France, Graphilabel is a business that was set up over 35 years ago, specializing in security printing. Having started out producing sequential numbered documents, the company started to work with banks for the production of cheque books and during this time, pushed the boundaries in what could be done with security features.
From cheque book printing, the company expanded into the production of flexo plates for narrow web labels. It was the first company in France to be certified by Esko as an HD flexo plate producer, back in 2010. Since that time, the company has continued to push the boundaries of what can be achieved with flexo print, even developing a print method that allows printers to create 3D effects in 2D print.
The ‘FlexoCloud’ element of the tag line is a notifier that part of the process lives in the Cloud. This means that a converter anywhere in the world can run the THQ FlexoCloud process. Via a dedicated web interface, the converter is able to upload the artwork, have the file checked by the system, which then sends a THQ-ready file to the certified plate maker. The plate maker then manufactures the flexo printing plate and delivers to the THQ FlexoCloud printing line.
The engraving profile for the anilox and the processing parameters for the plates are closely controlled and monitored by Graphilabel in Reims. “The system is fully automated and runs 24/7,” says Didier Guenu. “However, our operators are on hand to assist with any intricate job where a converter might want a set of human eyes to review the files before plate processing. Thanks to a rigorous checking process and working only with Certified plate makers, converters can be assured of the end result.”
Why is it special?
To achieve the ultimate in print, some might think you need six, seven or eight colors. “THQ FlexoCloud is achieved with only four colors,” explains Francois Chaume, THQ Project Manager, BOBST Lyon. “Thanks to the intricate combination of anilox roll, plates, specially formulated inks and a modified inking system, we can achieve at least 65% color gamut with a standard CMYK process. This compares to an average of 45% color gamut with standard HD flexo post print.
“The fact we hit these high levels of print quality with only four colors offers significant cost savings in terms of not only the ink used, but also a lower number of plates being used per job,” says David Arnaud, Product Marketing Director, BOBST Lyon. “Brands are looking for the highest quality graphics, particularly for e-commerce, as consumers now engage with a premium package for the ‘unboxing’ experience - the point of re-engagement. But while the brands want better looking packaging, they are also applying cost reduction and the best way for a converter to achieve this is to run lighter weight papers and offer additional value-added components, such as security features. Ultimately, the brands want cost reduction across the process; if a converter can print in high quality, apply security features in a single pass and run the box with lighter paper, then they can meet the challenge of cost reduction.”
“Running a job within the THQ FlexoCloud parameters means a converter can achieve everything in one pass, even on an RDC or flexo folder gluer,” continues François Chaume. “No longer is ultra-high graphics the remit of litho-lam, direct offset or pre-print. With the BOBST THQ FlexoCloud, converters have the opportunity to now exploit new markets and open doors to new accounts, all with lower operating overhead and faster set-up times compared to the standard HD print that needs six or more colors.”
Cost savings
As already mentioned, the adoption of THQ FlexoCloud offers some significant cost savings. Fewer plates is a given and lighter weight papers, although not a cost saving in terms of the overall production process, allows for a lower cost per box.
The one area that a converter sees considerable cost savings is in the inks. “Although the flexo inks are slightly more expensive that a standard flexo ink, the fact you only need four colors is a big plus,” says David Arnaud. “But it goes further than this. Thanks to a modified ink circulation system and the use of steel blades, we can meter the ink more precisely and thanks to a very light print pressure, we can achieve greater coverage with less ink. It is a win-win across the board.”
Didier Guenu adds, “Because the process is running with only four colors, THQ FlexoCloud allows for 100% accuracy within seconds of start-up and the repeatability and registration is superior as there are only four colors to control. We have also found that thanks to the ink transfer, we can achieve smoother transitions through the color range, particularly in color-dense images and with solids.”
“Another benefit of using THQ FlexoCloud has been the reduction - and in some cases, complete removal of the washboarding effect, especially with B flute corrugated sheets,” says François Chaume. “Feedback from customers running THQ FlexoCloud also suggests that the overall process is easy for operators to adapt to. With less ink, less plates and less wash-up, operators are achieving more uptime compared to a standard HD flexo printing machine, which means you can achieve more productivity from a THQ FlexoCloud line.”
Security is key
In possibly the most impressive part of the development of THQ FlexoCloud is the quality of print in the smallest detail. This is where the security features come to the fore – the ability to print in minute detail, placing words, letters or images within images that are less than 5mm in depth. Seeing is believing – and you will need a magnifying glass to see the words or images that can be achieved, offering brand owners a low-cost security application to the finished printed box.
End-to-end system
So here it is. An end-to-end eco system, a blend of the latest technology and processes that allow a corrugated box plant to deliver the ultimate in graphics, with the embedded value-added security features that brand owners need to help fight the growing volume of counterfeit goods.
BOBST THQ FlexoCloud – a win-win for manufacturers and users of corrugated packaging.
www.bobst.com

 

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