Esko Innovations Clinch Intertech Technology Award

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Esko has announced that its full HD Flexo platemaking system and Equinox solutions for the implementation of extended gamut or fixed inkset printing have won the 2014 Printing Industries of America InterTech™ Technology Awards.

Since 1978 the InterTech™ Technology Awards, sponsored by Printing Industries of America, have honoured the development of technologies predicted to have a major impact on the graphic arts and related industries. More than 80% of technologies that receive an award experience continued commercial success in the marketplace.

These are the sixth and seventh InterTech awards Esko solutions have received over the past ten years. Other recipients include Esko WebCenter (2006), Esko DeskPack 3-dX (2007), Esko Neo (2008), Esko Studio Toolkit for Shrink Sleeves (2011) and i-cut Suite (2012).

Carsten Knudsen, Esko President and CEO explained, ‘We are very honored to receive two awards from Printing Industries of America this year. Esko has a legacy of listening to our customers and using our ingenuity to develop products that offer our customers tremendous added value. Esko’s insistence in investing a much higher portion of our budget than the industry average into R&D every year helps to support our continuous innovation helps to fuel these products that result in competitive advantages for our customers.’

Esko Full HD Flexo is a platemaking system for superior flexo printing for all packaging applications. It uses a patented, fully digitally controlled platemaking system combining high-resolution 4000ppi imaging with a unique inline UV main exposure unit. An LED-array delivers UV power density strong enough to fully control the plate polymerisation process during main exposure. For the first time, flexo plates are imaged, exposed and delivered directly to the plate processor, without need for light table exposure.

With Full HD Flexo, flexo platemaking has become a true ‘Computer to Plate’ process: no lamination, no films, and no extra steps with light tables. No special consumables are needed, and it is not proprietary: it works with all popular digital flexo plates and sleeves. Everything is done in the CDI imager. Plates are ready for processing after unloading. Full HD Flexo has had a positive impact on efficiency and cost. Press changeovers are faster and downtimes are reduced. Substrate selection is less critical.

Full HD Flexo also offers consistency, because Inline UV technology maintains consistent, digitally controlled UV light output throughout the entire plate, while lamps in a bank exposure frame continuously age and need frequent replacement every few hundred hours. Bank exposure frames also deliver different UV output over the entire frame area.

‘The judges noted that the inline UV technology is more controllable,’ noted Mark Bohan, Vice President, Technology and Research, Printing Industries of America. ‘The judges also considered Full HD Flexo plate imaging a much more flexible process, with the ability to digitally control the generation of a dot shape, combining highlight capabilities of round dots with the solid ink lay down and print stability of ‘flat top’ flexo plates – which the judges agreed is not a trivial process. HD Flexo plates can produce images with complete, 0-100% dot coverage delivering a wider colour gamut. It was also significant that the technology is upgradeable, already has a sizeable installed base, and is not plate specific,’ added Bohan. ‘The very strong customer letters demonstrated that HD Flexo is allowing flexo to challenge gravure and offset.’ This is occurring among a wide array of flexible packaging, labels and corrugated printers worldwide.

Equinox Expanded Colour Gamut (ECG) Technology is Esko’s patented technology for converting packaging graphics from CMYK and spot colour to seven-colour process. It is applied in the prepress department when preparing jobs for press. Converting entire files results in extremely close matches to spot colours, improved pictorial images, and the ability to print more colours than available ink stations on the press, resulting in improved image quality and brand impact. The major benefit, however, is realised in the pressroom as jobs print more economically and more consistently.

Customers using Equinox ECG technology report that they use 7-colour process profitably in a production environment for flexible packaging as well as labels. This has enabled many of the world’s largest consumer product companies to convert entire product lines to expanded gamut.

‘The judges liked the smart filters, the math and colour algorithms associated with Esko Equinox,’ said Bohan. By quantifying only subsets of four-colour combinations, Equinox 7-colour profiles contain hundreds of times the amount of colour data as a 7-colour ICC colour profile. These profiles are used to convert industry standard ink books into tint build books for a specific flexo press. Equinox also benefits from Esko HD and Full HD Flexo platemaking, which is able to extend the gamut by producing plates that can print dots from 0-100% while delivering consistent and reliable printing results from job to job.

Esko Equinox is a major achievement because it moves flexographic printing a giant step closer to being the economical manufacturing process that the major CPCs of the world are demanding. ‘The fact that the judges had a lengthy discussion about a specific PowerPoint presentation shows both the interest and dedication. Everyone got involved with all the materials,’ observed Bohan. ‘They also noted that all the Equinox print sample images were cleaner than 4-colour images. But the benefit that was not lost with the judges was the economic advantages of extended gamut printing.’

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