Screening for flexo printing: a new frontier Made in Italy

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During last Flexo Day of Bologna, Inciflex Srl’s prepress service illustrated the outcome of the experiment carried out to obtain unprecedented levels of quality in the flexographic printing of all the critical elements of a printed matter. Here is a summary of the conference, from the pen of flexo production manager Loreto Simoncelli.

In October 2018, Inciflex Srl (Fisciano, SA) started an important experimentation, with the express purpose of equaling and – why not – surpassing the “gravure quality” in highlight artwork with zero screening percentages for flexography. A goal sought after in previous years by fielding Samba stochastic dispersion screens, without achieving the hoped-for results due to too many unknown quantities that needed checking in order to attain the desired outcome. But the drive for innovation made by Enzo Consalvo, owner and sole director of the only Italian service that covers all gravure, flexo and corrugated cardboard technologies, stands as an indispensable linchpin in the company culture and an “obsession” that involves all components and professional figures working there. Indeed the work has continued and today it has truly reached a new goal. Beyond all forecasts and expectations.

The start? It was truly ‘Bellissima’ (and challenging)

The project started out from the award-winning Bellissima Digitally Modulated Screening (DMS) technology offered by the Hamillroad software house. We carried out the first monochromatic tests that were proposed to us to do the calibration necessary to fine-tune the process in different printing companies and on different substrates – PP, paper, cardboard, adhesives – embracing the widest possible spectrum.

The natural transition from monochromatic to four-color tests repeatedly resorted to Bellissima technology. In spring 2019 the results were shared with the CEO of Hamillroad, also in light of the results of further experimentation, carried out from the beginning in parallel. This involved UltraLed: a mix of technologies developed by Inciflex R&D, which entails the use of sophisticated screens in combination with ad hoc developed engraving algorithms, and photopolymers with specific characteristics able to sublimate the tonal passages and overlaps of the chromatic inks, totally safeguarding the highlights of all the artwork tested.

From the considerations that emerged during the meeting with the UK software house, we continued with further tests, in turn shared, which allowed us to define with greater clarity limits and advantages of the technologies compared. Several users, Inciflex partners, also took part in this long preparatory phase, contributing with their professionalism and their companies to carrying out the necessary printing tests. These were also done in challenging climatic conditions, for delicate makereadies with temperatures and humidity at very high levels.

The resources fielded

Overall, Inciflex has committed more than 1.5 million square centimeters of material to this project: an enormity, if we want to translate it in terms of single printing forms. And this incredible amount of tests have been repeatedly printed, verified, measured and evaluated with the utmost care. Translated in terms of hours it was a very onerous commitment, with meetings at various levels, comparisons with printers in turn committed to measuring and weighing up the print results, and expressing their relative evaluations. Not only that: To further expand the experimental base to technologies/polymers on the market, with the best possible support, we also turned to external sources, obtaining tests engraved in the USA and by other partners operating on the Italian market, such as Kodak, involved in the experimentation above.

UltraLed wins the day

The comparison between the two systems finally rewarded Inciflex’s UltraLed technology which, in an incontrovertible way and according to the unanimous opinion of all those involved in the project, was judged superior. Passing from the experimental to the productive phase, the first printing forms made with this technology have given surprising results on different forms, with insignificant print minimums and zero highlights without obvious signs, extremely detailed tonal passages and perfect ink-on-ink overlays with considerable depth. UltraLed technology can be easily interpreted by all those who work with aniloxes with flow rates ranging from 3, 3.5, 4 to 4.5 grams per square meter, with preferably high linescreening (460/480/500) and a natural propensity for perfection. Yes, because the urge for perfection is also a distinguishing feature in production. And because UltraLed is a technology that is easy to interpret but not for everyone: only the best are able to interpret it to perfection.

Conclusions? No: openings

And now Inciflex, true to its DNA, relaunches by turning to new ambitious goals, with clear ideas and new projects in the pipeline. Because, in the world of applied research, every new goal achieved in technological development marks a new level, a new standard, which becomes the new starting point for further qualitative achievements.

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