A HIGH-QUALITY, COST-EFFECTIVE SOLUTION – FLEXOGRAPHIC PRINTING FOR BRAND OWNERS
Developed for premium and standard brands
A great many purchasing decisions are only made at the POS. Consequently, packaging with high-quality image and graphic elements creates a greater visual impact and is more persuasive. Brand leadership requires a sophisticated corporate design – a striking logo, distinctive colors or color combinations, carefully selected fonts, and design ideas that are both original and effective in transporting their message. These criteria place huge demands on print quality, though, so HELL has developed PremiumFlexo, a technology that makes flexographic printing ideal for both standard and premium brands.
Satisfies the highest quality standards
HELL PremiumFlexo has finally made it possible for flexographic printing to be used for highly demanding, photorealistic, and spectacular creative ideas with an unprecedented level of quality. This is equally beneficial for flexible packaging products and labels. Flexible packaging, especially with flexographic printing, is becoming an attractive option for more and more brand owners. So why not give flexographic printing a shot?
HELL PremiumFlexo is the logical conclusion of the trend toward high-resolution imaging processes – in the shape of direct laser engraving on elastomer printing forms. The print result is on a par with gravure and offset printing. The vital factor here is digital control of the optimum three-dimensional printing form parameters. In conjunction with the elastomer properties, this increases the service life and maximizes the reproducibility of results.
Making even more of the strengths of flexographic printing
One unbeatable argument for flexographic printing is the variety of substrates and ink systems. The eternally young flexographic process can be used to print on virtually all plastic films, metal foils, uncoated and fibrous paper, card/board, and multilayer materials. It also benefits from outstanding ink properties such as resistance to frost and heat, elasticity, and shrinkability. Thanks to HELL PremiumFlexo, flexographic printing can now combine all these strengths with high-end quality.
HELL PremiumFlexo is more cost-effective than other printing methods and established flexographic printing forms. Direct laser engraving in highly productive wide-web flexographic printing and narrow-web printing with its wide range of surface finishing options is becoming increasingly widespread, which proves the market is adopting this impressive technology.
AN ECO-FRIENDLY OPTION
No chemicals, no ozone, and no problematic waste
HELL PremiumFlexo supports the growing demand for green packaging. Production of laser-engraved elastomers is a totally chemical-free process. No UV exposure is needed either, which means no ozone is released. The only waste products are elastomer debris, which can be disposed of as domestic waste, and wastewater that is easy to filter.
Low power consumption
The two-stage PremiumFlexo direct laser engraving process uses far less energy. Although the fiber laser for engraving operates at a higher power because, rather than simply removing a black masking layer, it needs to shape the full relief depth, all the “energy-guzzling” steps that are still required by other production methods are eliminated. The PremiumFlexo fiber laser is three times more efficient than CO2 laser engraving and therefore needs to expend far less energy.
LASER ENGRAVING FOR COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGES
Based on Innovation
HELL PremiumFlexo reflects the extensive in-house know-how that has always made it possible to tackle challenges and achieve success by turning this knowledge into competitive advantages for our customers with high-performance, cost-efficient technology. And it is easy to use.
The name of our company founder Rudolf Hell (1902 – 2002) is associated with numerous inventions and innovations such as the fax machine. He is also considered a pioneer of filmless direct engraving in gravure applications. This process has been a market success since 1962 in the shape of the HELL HelioKlischograph series of electromechanical engraving systems. The launch of TIFF direct engraving and the job ticket workflow in 1997 were key stepping stones on the way to HELL PremiumFlexo. In 2006, HELL unveiled the PremiumSetter – the first system to engrave elastomer flexographic printing forms in a far higher quality than previous CO2 lasers.
High-performance fiber laser
The core technology of HELL PremiumFlexo is a high-power laser developed jointly by HELL and laser manufacturer IPG. This was necessary to ensure an optimum interface between the selected laser source and the innovative HELL optical head so as to achieve the ultimate in beam quality and spot size. Thanks to a new kind of plug & play interface, it was also possible to design an optical head that is maintenance-free and service-friendly.
With a 600 W beam, the IPG fiber laser is one of the most powerful in its class. The latest-generation optical head gets the most out of fiber lasers, which have several advantages. They operate in a wavelength range that is more favorable for elastomer engraving, are more powerful than diode lasers, and enable perfect beam focusing for razor-sharp reproduction. What’s more, their high energy density enables relief-depth engraving in a single step.
The high-quality components and the optimum optical setup complete with water cooling ensure excellent beam stability over the entire engraving time, so the optical system’s lenses are completely stable. Consequently, beam focusing and thus spot size remain constant under all conditions.
Thanks to its high-tech credentials, HELL PremiumFlexo offers business opportunities to open up new market segments in packaging and label printing that were previously the preserve of gravure and offset printing. What’s more, HELL PremiumFlexo is a cost-effective, economical solution that enables a quick return on investment.
Our future-focused portfolio of single-, dual-, and four-beam PremiumSetter systems with various engraving widths covers the full range of utilization volumes. And a laser upgrade of the HELL PremiumSetter is possible at any time. HELL PremiumFlexo grows with the user’s company.
Smart choice based on unique selling points
Investing in HELLPremiumFlexo technology is a decision based on unique selling points that deliver competitive advantages as a result of their efficiency and quality. Points particularly worth highlighting include
RAZOR-SHARP ENGRAVING OF YOUR DATA
“Razor-sharp engraving” means using the ultra-fine laser spot to accurately reproduce halftone, line art, and text elements comprising several pixels in exactly the same form they take in the data. This results in precisely defined printing dots and enables accurate three-dimensional shaping of print elements, which is vital for stable quality throughout the run.
The resolution can be increased from the typical 2540 dpi as high as 5080 dpi for even better pixel distribution – at smooth edges, for example. In order to achieve this, the optical head focuses the energy on a smaller area with a proportionally higher rotational speed so that the engraving time remains constant.
Undercut, first step, shoulder profile, relief depth, dot stability, and shaping are controlled digitally using the laser energy based on the pixels’ gray step. Even with small relief depths, the three-dimensional shaping of isolated or negative dots results in exceptional transfer of details.
Perfect screens, even for hidden security features
HELL PremiumFlexo reproduces gray levels and details in a quality previously unprecedented in flexographic printing. Using the largest possible tonal value range from 1 to 99% enables printers to master even the toughest challenges in image reproduction. An absolutely identical engraving result in terms of format width and range that can be reproduced at any time paves the way for homogeneous halftone areas, while soft tonal value transitions produce smooth vignettes. The unique optimizing possibilities in the HELL PremiumProfiler software enable infinitely variable screen rulings.
Under these conditions, it is of course possible to incorporate a variety of security features. These features are in greater demand than ever, because the more sophisticated the packaging, the more sought-after the contents, and the more effective the brand presentation, the greater the likelihood of attempted imitation. Protection against forgeries is no longer conceivable without high-tech options such as making specific changes to screen structures that cannot be seen by the naked eye.
High contrasts, reliable bar codes
Flexographic printing has established itself as a packaging printing method with a significant proportion of images. Long gone are the days when it was primarily associated with unattractive transport packaging and brown paper bags, halo effects, and cloudy areas.
The precision of direct laser engraving in conjunction with the elastomer engraving material is a perfect combination for this trend. The benefits for detail reproduction are essentially made possible by HELL laser technology. The latest-generation elastomers selected have an equally important role to play in this success story. Their excellent ink transfer comes into its own with solid tints, which results in higher ink densities. This produces brilliant images, higher-contrast graphics, and clearer bar codes.
FROM THE INVENTOR OF DIRECT ENGRAVING
Direct is better – because laser engraving beats imaging alone
During its development, HELL PremiumFlexo benefited from the know-how synergies between gravure and flexographic printing that are unique to HELL. Our many years of expertise in direct engraving enable us to stand out from the competition. Since Rudolf Hell invented HELL HelioKlischograph electromechanical engraving for gravure cylinders, direct engraving has undergone continuous development and is now also available for flexographic printing forms – with the HELL PremiumSetter , which performs razor-sharp laser engraving.
The HELL PremiumSetter combines no fewer than four key innovations for laser systems:
Direct is better – because quality ensures a user-friendly solution
The quality becomes absolutely reproducible, because the 3D shape of the print elements is pre-defined in the digitally controlled process. The elastomers ensure well-defined reproduction of elements without any analog processing steps, do not swell, last longer, and transfer ink highly effectively. What’s more, reducing the form manufacturing process to just two steps minimizes the potential for errors. Three-dimensional shaping and elastomer selection extend the service life, maximize tonal value ranges, and optimize detail reproduction. They do so consistently throughout the run. What’s more, direct laser engraving finally eliminates all kinds of existing printing problems.
Direct is better – because of its cost-efficiency for everyone
Overall, printing form production costs are lower with HELL PremiumFlexo. After all, it costs less to invest in two-stage HELL PremiumFlexo technology than in other established complete systems. Material costs for elastomer sleeves are lower, too, and the total process costs for elastomer plates are roughly equivalent. Under these conditions, it has been shown that both prepress service providers and print shops can achieve a rapid return on their investment.
It is also possible to cut printing costs. Eliminating typical printing problems reduces waste. And thanks to a compressible layer in the elastomer plates and sleeves, savings are also made on expensive cushion tape.
Direct is better – because the printing form reaches the press faster
The extremely fast availability of the printing form on the press is unparalleled – in particular with dual- and four-beam technology. Cleaning is the only process step required after engraving, which more than makes up for the lower imaging speed.
THE JOB TICKET WORKFLOW – COMPLETE PRODUCTION MANAGEMENT
Maximum prepress efficiency
It goes without saying that HELL PremiumFlexo benefits from a modern workflow with job ticket-controlled order and production management for lean and efficient job preparation. Archiving all job-related data along with entire job tickets makes production far easier. In the event of repeat jobs, these settings simply need to be called up by the current job ticket. This ensures the same high quality can always be reproduced.
An MIS connection supporting data exchange makes it possible to import the relevant job data for the customer into the job ticket and report status information about production progress for each engraving job.
Simple and reliable one-button operation
The job ticket combines the engraving data with all the job and system data. It also provides details, for example, about color separations, mirroring, dimensions, notch, and margin areas. The entries increase as job preparation progresses. All the PremiumSetter operator needs to do is call up the job ticket, insert the required printing form, and press a button to start the process.
Clever sequential engraving
Sequential engraving enables several job tickets to be called up one after the other and completed in a single makeready process. This improves the productivity of the PremiumSetter further still.
ALL-DIGITAL DIRECT LASER ENGRAVING
OnlineEngine for optimum reliefs
The 3D shaping of print elements is not left to chance with the PremiumProfiler. It uses pre-defined parameters to convert the 1-bit TIFF data not just into two-dimensional imaging data, but also into three-dimensional 8-bit TIFF data, and does so on the fly. Based on tonal value and screen ruling, it calculates the height and shoulder profile of the print elements in halftone images, line art, and text. Reliable correction of parameters is possible thanks to a real-time 3D preview.
To enable the powerful laser to engrave the relief precisely in a single step, its intensity needs to be modulated. The lower the height of a pixel, the greater the depth to which the laser spot has to remove the elastomer and the higher the amount of energy required. The PremiumProfiler assigns a gray step to each pixel. One pixel in the image data corresponds to one laser spot in engraving. That’s why HELL PremiumFlexo delivers “razor-sharp direct laser engraving” for precise undercuts, first steps, and shoulder angles – something that is impossible in other manufacturing processes.
Relief parameters that can only be controlled using direct laser engraving
The digital undercut is a lowering of the printing element below the original height of the printing form surface. The lower the tonal value, the bigger the undercut. It prevents print elements from tilting during rollovers or exhibiting halo effects and also reduces dot gain.
The first step is the vertical part of the shoulder of the print element directly below its printing surface. Unlike a shoulder that widens immediately, it does not print and causes less dot gain, because the ink does not spread as much around the printing area under pressure.
The shoulder profile, that is to say the three-dimensional shape of the printing elements below the first step, can be shaped as a function of tonal value to achieve optimum print results. It produces uniform geometry within the relief, stabilizes highlights by means of widely extending shoulders, and keeps the shadows open with a steep continuation of the first step.
USER-FRIENDLY CUTTING-EDGE TECHNOLOGY
The compact all-rounder
Direct is better – as demonstrated to perfection here. Direct laser engraving of elastomers makes the production of flexographic printing forms an entirely digital process. Reducing printing form production to just two process steps – laser engraving and cleaning – significantly cuts the workload involved. This means less manpower is needed and results in a reduced footprint.
The compact design of the HELL PremiumSetter series also helps in this respect. These engraving machines are available in various engraving widths with single-, dual-, and four-beam laser technology and clever cylinder equipment for plates and sleeves. This enables both prepress service providers and print shops to customize their system configurations, tailoring them to the various job types and volumes. Thanks to this versatility, PremiumSetter users are perfectly equipped for the future.
One, two or four lasers
The S1300 and S1700 laser engraving machines are equipped with a choice of one or two engraving lasers. The lasers are housed in an optical head and precisely coordinated. With two lasers, the engraving speed is doubled.
The new S3000 can be extended to four lasers. In this case, two optical heads equipped with two lasers each split the layout across the cylinder to double the engraving speed once again.
For all kinds of printing forms
The PremiumSetter couldn’t be easier to operate. A vacuum cylinder keeps the elastomer plates securely on its surface. The suction air ensures full contact is maintained between the plates and the cylinder surface during engraving, even at high speeds. Adhesive tape is also used to keep the plates in place.
On sleeves, the PremiumSetter perfectly handles both seamless sleeves and plate-on-sleeve technology, i.e. plates mounted onto the carrier sleeve. The air mandrel remains in the PremiumSetter cantilever to save time and effort during sleeve changes. The engraved sleeve is simply removed from the free end, supported by a cushion of air, and a new one is fitted. Appropriate adapters are used for different diameters.
FastForward saves even more time
Three FastForward options further boost the productivity of the HELL PremiumSetter . The fast crossfeed functions result in an average time saving of over 20% and, depending on the layout, savings as high as 80% are possible.
ActiveFastForward uses a cutting tool that removes the unlasered sleeve surface to a depth of 1 mm in the non-printing areas. And with PassiveFastForward, the laser simply skips the solid areas and the areas between the plates in the printing form.
The principle of a removable elastomer layer is used for coating plates. In this case, the HELL PremiumSetter performs a fast crossfeed in the large non-printing areas. After engraving, the top layer is removed manually from the carrier foil.
NEW-GENERATION ELASTOMERS – UNIVERSALLY APPLICABLE
Elastomers are taking over from photopolymers – especially when high quality is key
There is no longer any need to compromise on material quality. Today’s elastomers are capable of much more – and far more than photopolymers as well. Abrasion is not an issue for the EPDM elastomers now in use, because they are not exposed to any abrasive pressure. Nor do they swell, because they exhibit greater resistance to chemicals. Whether they are formulated for universal application or adapted to specific ink systems, these elastomers are entirely suitable for both soft, water-based and aggressive ink and coating systems. It makes no difference whether they use UV or electron curing or whether they are solvent-based or two-component systems.
Quality-conscious flexographic printers who are looking to the future are increasingly switching to printing with laser-engraved elastomer forms. The demand for elastomer materials and the expansion of direct laser engraving are mutually dependent and are leading to the steady growth of this high-quality technology.
Round and flat – equipped for every application
Taken together, the selection of printing forms that have been available for some years now cover every conceivable application and offer an unprecedented level of flexibility. Users can choose between
Homogeneous elastomer with an optimized surface
The black elastomer absorbs the energy generated by the high-power fiber laser. However, it is absorbed deep inside the material rather than just at the surface as with the black masking layer. The aim is to create precise three-dimensional structures. Removing the elastomer with optimum precision completes the profile.
After cleaning, the profile and printing surface are perfect. The ground elastomer layer ensures the ink lies smoothly and is transferred highly effectively to the substrate. Halo/donut effects are negligible and dot gain is significantly reduced. This maximizes the tonal value range, produces smooth vignettes, and ensures cloud-free halftone areas. In short, it delivers outstanding print quality – in halftone, solid, line art, and text areas – throughout the run.
Already a hit with leading customers
Deciding on HELL PremiumFlexo is a decision in favor of pioneering technology that is already being used by leading prepress service providers and print shops. Lasting success – above all in high-quality applications – proves users have made the right choice. Even though it would be unrealistic to expect use to be as widespread as for other methods just yet, the mindset of brand owners, printers, and prepress service providers is starting to change.
You, too, can use the diverse range of the benefits that HELL PremiumFlexo offers to boost your company’s success!