Flexo closing in on gravure with Kodak’s Flexcel NX System

Kodak’s Flexcel NX System has established a reputation for enabling exceptional print quality. The fine image reproduction and high print densities enabled by the Flexcel NX System deliver high quality with colours that are brighter and cleaner, smoother transitions and a wider tonal range and expanded colour gamut. Kodak’s imaging technology enables capabilities beyond those of traditional high definition plate systems, enabling fixed colour palette printing, increased line screens, reduced font sizes and even to incorporate printed security features.

The Kodak Flexcel NX technology is claimed to put flexo quality on a level playing field with offset, roto-gravure and digital print processes.

Now, what’s the difference between Flexcel NX and other flexo printers? What is it that sets it apart?

According to Kodak, Flexcel NX was the first developer of the digital flat top dot. The benefits of printing with a flat surface are obvious, but non-digital flat top dots ahev a bigger surface area than is ideal. It’s also not consistent within the platemaking process. Since the release of Flexcel NX Kodak’s competitors have also developed flat top dot solutions but where Kodak excels is within the imaging of the pixel due to their patented ‘Square Spot’.

This creates a very fine hard edged dot on a thermal imaging film which is then directly laminated to the plates’ polymer surface. During the platemaking process Kodak eliminates any oxygen to the polymer which inhibits the growth of the dot. The end result is a robust, consistent dot with a very fine flat top which is a direct copy of the original 1-bit TIFF file created from the RIP.

Another advantage of Kodak Flexcel NX is that any rip which can output to a 1-bitt TIFF can be used. Kodak also have their own Prinergy system and within this they have flexo tools and screenings which are developed and best suited to use with the Flexcel NX plate.

The Flexcel NX system has exceptional white ink layering. The recently released NX advantage is a release of five new Digicap NX surface patterns. The benefits of these five patterns are in the homogeneity of ink laydown. The patterns for white are Advanced 03, 04 and 05 and each is designed to work with different volumes of aniloxes, i.e. 03 lower volumes, 04 mid volumes and 05 heavy volumes. The result is a much improved laydown with reduced pin holing.

The Kodak Flexcel NX system competes head-on with gravure. Gravure for many years has been the higher quality competitor with higher lpi and higher densities. Until Kodak released the Flexcel NX system, if a gravure print sample was put alongside the same printed in flexo, the gravure sample would stand out.

In the past, print runs were also longer, which also suited gravure. In recent years the print runs have become shorter and the overall cost of producing a job in gravure has become more expensive compared to a job in flexo. In addition, in flexo printers can now produce much higher lpi’s with increased densities, so that they can achieve a comparable result for a lower cost than gravure.

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