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Join Us at the Future of Print

the future of print

Our team is excited to announce our upcoming participation in the Future of Print event at Rotometrics UK headquarters in Walsall next month. Taking place on Tuesday 27th and Wednesday 28th September, this year’s event promises to be even more ground-breaking than the last. There will be 35 leading print industry suppliers showcasing their new innovations and technologies, and our Focus sales team is very proud to be among them.

Flashback to DRUPA 2016

Our continued record of innovation, as well as the high level of service and quality we provide to our customers, is what has made us a leader in our field. In June of this year, we held live demonstrations of our e-FLEX, d -FLEX and Proflex SE models at DRUPA 2016 in Düsseldorf, Germany. In case you missed it, here’s a recap of what we demonstrated at this world-class printing event:

The e-FLEX

Our brand new e-FLEX model was a hit at DRUPA 2016. An all new, fully servo driven flexo press; the e-FLEX is capable of meeting both short and medium run requirements. Driven by the latest TWIN-SERVO technology, the eFLEX can be set up quickly & simply using the pre-register facility. There is no worry about excess waste with the e-FLEX, as it produces far less waste than conventional presses do. With optional integration of our digital inkjet module, the e-FLEX model can accommodate variable data and extremely short runs, where conventional flexo would be inefficient. The ability to store job details for future runs, combined with a digital platform that’s fully programmable and touch screen, makes the eFLEX marketplace leader.

The d-FLEX

DRUPA visitors also loved our d-FLEX digital inkjet press. This particular model offers the latest in full-colour inkjet technology from Konica Minolta, as well as rewinding, slitting and die-cutting capability. It also features an in-line UV flexo print head. Our demonstration wowed visitors, who were able to see high quality variable images – printed, converted and rewound in a single pass. And all of this at speeds of 50 metres per minute!

The Proflex SE

Servo drive technology is behind the Proflex SE, which we were proud to include in our DRUPA showcase. Visitors were amazed at the new drop-in print cylinder technology, which allows for quick set-up and minimal material wastage. The Proflex SE, with its many options for specialised production applications, and various drying systems will easily handle unsupported films, small cartons, tickets, tags and labelstock.

Why Attend Future of Print 2016?

There are many reasons to attend this Septemeber’s Future of Print event. Held at the Rotometrics European Manufacturing Facility in Aldridge, Walsall – the event will include live manufacturing tours so that you can experience their high-tech facility.

There is also a daily events programme, where you’ll get to hear and see guest presentations from packaging market leaders like Iceland’s Ian Schofield, who will discuss retail trends for packaging and printing. The Lakes Distillery’s Paul Currie will also be featured, speaking about new brand creation. New Coca-Cola technologies will be the focus of a presentation by Greg Bentley. And you certainly won’t want to miss the event’s headline speaker, Sir Clive Woodward. Speaking on both days, Sir Clive is a former Rugby Union player and coach who coached the England team from 1997 to 2004 and helped them to victory in 2003’s Rugby World Cup.

If that wasn’t enough to get you excited about Future of Print, you’ll love the fact that there is absolutely no cost to attend. However, you will need to register in order to attend.

Come and See us on the 27th and 28th September

We will be delighted to meet and speak with you about print’s future and the technology that will get us there. You can do just that by making an appointment with us at Future of Print, or by registering your details. Once you do, we will get in touch with you closer to the event to confirm. We very much look forward to meeting everyone.

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What is Causing the Global Rise in Paper Prices?

What is Causing the Global Rise in Paper Prices

Paper prices have seen a steady rise of 3% each month since May this year. This has caused significant concern among printing companies, and rightfully so. But what’s behind this increase? The answer is anything but simple, as several factors have contributed to the paper price rise.

The current situation is seeing the European market suffering most of all from a globally-restricted supply of pulp, leaving the UK at a disadvantage. From Paperlinx to production costs, and the cost of crude oil to paper capacity, this article will explore many of the factors affecting paper prices, along with possible solutions those in the label printing industry can implement to lessen the blow.

Delayed Impact of Paperlinx Closure

Paperlinx, the UK’s largest international paper merchant, used to possess more than 40% of market share, but in April 2015, it closed its doors after years of falling sales and mounting losses. Prior to the Paperlinx closure, the market was in oversupply. The closure of many paper and print businesses followed Paperlinx in subsequent weeks and months. Many financial experts remain surprised that it took so long for the Paperlinx closure to affect the wider economy. The rise in paper prices was widely anticipated, however. This was evident last year, when price rise announcements were issued by several mills.

The Weather and other ‘Acts of God’

South America, Northern Europe and Russia all experienced a difficult winter in 2015/16. As a result, the entire world is dealing with the effects of the resulting wood shortage. Also, the global short fibre pulp supply took a hit due to a recent earthquake in Chile, which knocked capacity down another 20%. Because of these occurrences, worldwide pulp stocks are at a 20 year low.

Production Costs have Increased with Everything Else

An increase in production costs has inevitably affected the cost of paper. This is because the cost of everything else has increased. Whether it’s pulp prices, energy costs, or the price of crude oil, they’ve all contributed to the paper price rise. Higher freight rates and transportation costs for paper and pulp have only served to add fuel to the fire.

European Paper Capacity Impacted by Several Factors

Since 2007, coated and uncoated paper have both experienced reductions in their structural capacity. In those nine years, other events have occurred that have further reduced paper capacity. Strikes occurring at Finnish ports and locations such as Condat Mill, along with an increased product demand in higher-priced markets like Russia and North America have compounded the problem, leaving the European market with an increasingly restricted supply.

Handling the Global Pulp Shortage

What’s the solution for printing companies who are feeling the strain of rising paper prices? There are several options. Companies can simply absorb the increase, but this won’t be without risk; doing so will only serve to reduce print margins further, as well as have a significant impact on business sustainability.

Passing the increase along to your customer may seem sensible. However, if a company is considering this route, it’s a good idea to look at their competitors. Unless they are also passing the increase to their customers, you may be placing your competitiveness at risk.

Supply and demand have historically determined market paper prices. To increase margins, prices must increase. Unfortunately, doing so in this case may cause further market demise. Although the current imbalance may seem unending and there’s no way to tell if a resolution is on the horizon, the good news is that options are available to companies who are determined to ride it out.

The best starting point to handling paper price rises is to look within your company, specifically at your indirect spend to reduce any excess. The next option is to place a focus on company resources to see if any can be allocated to core strategic areas of the business.

Finally, giving overhead costs a good look and reducing them where possible will free up that hidden extra profit, which can help to increase your bottom line.

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Printing Plates: A History Of Flexographic Printing

The first Flexo type printing presses were patented in the late 19th century. Originally, flexographic printing was rudimentary in quality with its limitations in ink control and rubber printing plates. Commercial print applications were open to all but the most basic of print & packaging products. As the consumer industry grew, packaging & labels requiring high-quality print were generally being produced using the offset & letterpress processes until more recently. Since 1990, great advances have been made to the quality of flexographic printing presses, printing plates, printing units, drying systems & inks. These advances have combined to rival offset quality with improved practicality, higher production speeds, and lower capital investment.

The greatest advances in flexographic printing have been in the area of photopolymer printing plates, the plate material and the method of plate creation. Companies like Asahi Photoproducts, AV Flexologic, Dupont, MacDermid, BASF & TOK have pioneered the latest technologies, with advances in faster processing, washout and the latest reprographic screening techniques to reproduce high tonal values . This has allowed Flexo to grow & dominate production in the many print sectors such as labels & packaging and even move into new applications such as cartons.

Recently, digital direct to plate systems support greater improvements in image reproduction, reducing the turnaround time from a computer to proofing, to press.

Laser-etched ceramic anilox rolls also play a part in the improvement of print quality through the ability to control Ink volume transfer. Full-color picture printing is now possible, and some of the finer presses available today, in combination with a skilled operator, allow quality that rivals the lithographic process. One ongoing improvement has been the increasing ability to reproduce highlight tonal values, thereby providing a workaround for the very high dot gain associated with flexographic printing.

Printing Presses have evolved alongside those advances already discussed in other areas of the process. A modern press today should offer a stable platform with servo or precision gearbox mechanical drives and digital control systems. Automated functions & closed loop digital controls mean that print quality provided is less dependent on a highly skilled machine operator. Press manufacturers are ensuring their machines are easier to set up & run, reducing waste and improving production capacity. Even a combination of print processes such as flexo,offset, foiling & digital is allowing the print packaging designer a wealth of new opportunities to stand out from the crowd.

flexo printing
Reprographics:

The power of computers & graphics programs has transformed printing in general. Reprographics is a blanket term encompassing multiple methods of reproducing content, such as scanning , photography, photocopying and analogue printing & digital printing. The term applies to both physical and digital reproductions of documents and images. Supplied with artwork, a number of stages have to be processed in order to get the image to a print ready format. What was a very skilled and time-consuming stage has now been automated across all print disciplines. Some regularly used terms are discussed here.

1) Trapping:

Is defined as the compensation of the size of adjacent images to allow for registration errors. Trapping allows a certain overlapping tolerance when two colours meet and helps to eliminate these problems. It usually involves expanding the lighter of the two colours to overlap into the darker colour, which should hold the overall shape of the image or text. Sometimes, gaps are left to prevent two colours mixing.

2) Step & Repeat:

Is the action of reproducing a number of label design images onto film and subsequently plate, so that it can be printed as more than one label at a time. This can considerably reduce press running time and the amount of material used. This process is now done through industry specific software but was traditionally a very skilled and complicated process.

3) Dot Gain Compensation:

Dot gain is a normal printing characteristic or defect in which the size of a half-tone dot changes as a result of platemaking and printing. For example, letterpress and flexo dots print larger on a softer material than they do on a harder film surface. This, in turn, has the effect of darkening the colour or tone of the printed image as the ink is now spread over a greater area than originally intended. Compensation for dot gain can be accommodated at the reprographic stage and is based upon plate material and substrate together with specific press information. Typically, a press fingerprinting analysis is undertaken on all new presses to determine the registration, dot gain, distortion and other characteristics of the press. This press information is vital and is used to minimize dot gain and make it predictable thus ensuring consistent, high-quality print.

4) Colour Separation: 

For plate production, separation is the term used to describe the process of converting an image, such as a photograph, into a set of colours that can be printed. Full-colour printing uses the four ink colours, cyan, magenta, yellow, and black (CMYK). These colours are printed separately but on top of one another to reproduce literally millions of different colours and shades.

colour separation
Water & Solvent vs Digital Printing Plates & Laser Engraved Rolls

The most common imaging systems in use for flexo printing plates today are analog and digital direct to plate systems. For the analog system, the matt film/negative is imaged separately and then applied to the surface of an analog plate, covered with a vacuum sheet, and, with vacuum applied, exposed to the UV light. The final dots and lines on the plate are enlarged to some extent compared to dots and lines on the film, due to the deflection and refraction of light passing through the cover sheet, the imaged film, and the plate slip cover that stops the film sticking to the photopolymer. An analog plate has a flat top dot structure with a good support structure, for excellent on-press performance.

Digital plates do not use a film/negative, but instead, a black layer is applied to the surface of the plate. The black layer is then ablated using a high power laser imaging device, removing the black layer where image areas are required, and leaving the rest to be the mask for the non-image areas. The plate is then exposed in a normal exposure unit, but without the vacuum—meaning it is exposed in the presence of air. The oxygen in the air reacts with the photo initiators, slowing the polymerization process, resulting in shrinkage of the dots and instead of flat tops, they are bullet shaped dots.

A fourth platemaking method is direct laser engraving where the unwanted areas are ablated by very high-powered lasers, leaving the image areas behind. This is the only truly digital imaging processing of flexo printing rolls, not relying on further chemical reactions with UV exposure, and plate processing. It is typically used for continuous print roll image and sleeve imaging applications. Speed and costs of the laser systems are the greatest current limitations to growth of this process.

printing
Platemaking Systems Overview

Flexo platemaking, in its most basic concept, is very simple. You start with a sheet of solid material, selectively alter it chemically using UV light, then remove the areas you don’t want, leaving the areas you do want as the image. More than 30 years ago flexo plates were made by hand, carved out by skilled plate makers but they really did equate in many ways to sophisticated “potato printing” and gained flexo its low print quality reputation. But, today it is very different, increasingly scientific, and significantly better.

platemaking systems
Analog platemaking systems

When manufacturing a plate, the raised image area is a distance above the polymer base, which is called the floor. The height from the floor to the image area surface is the plate relief. The back of the plate is supported by a film layer to provide dimensional stability.

analog plate making systems
Photopolymer plates are made of monomers and UV initiators that, when exposed to UV light, experience a chemical reaction to make the monomers join together to become a solid mass of polymers. Whatever the plate format—liquid, analog, or digital—the same basic chemical reaction in the platemaking process exists.

Normally the first step is to expose the back of the plate to UV light, curing it evenly to build and raise the plate floor to its required level. This also activates the monomers and photo-initiators throughout the rest of the photopolymer mass.

platemaking
The top of the plate is then selectively exposed to UV light, through some form of mask or negative, to build the image areas, while the non-image areas remain unpolymerized monomer. The finer the details, the longer this process takes.

The areas of unpolymerized photopolymer are then removed—using a variety of methods—to the plate floor leaving the image area behind. The most common methods for removing the non-image area on sheet plates involve either washing it away with plate washout chemistries (traditional solvents, new low-odor plate processing solutions, or water and detergent combinations) or a thermal process (involving heat to melt the polymer, and remove it with a wicking material under pressure).

platemaking 2
In the case of solvent processing, once the unwanted areas are removed, any absorbed solvents which swell the plate must be dried out of the plate to bring it back to its original height before the next stage. This is done using hot air dryers and air flow and can take from 1 to 2 hours.

platemaking surface
The surface of the imaged area of the plate is typically in the middle of the photopolymer mass and remains potentially partially un-polymerized and tacky. To address this issue, the plate is further exposed to UVA and UVC light to complete the polymerization process and to de-tack the surface of the plate.

The plate is then ready for inspection, measurement, and finishing. The plate should be allowed to stand for a period before use because the chemical reactions of photopolymerization do not stop immediately, but often continue several hours after exposure to the UV light, until the plate is fully stabilized. Running the plate on-press too soon risks shortening the plate life and affecting stability, especially in fine details.

This is the basic explanation of platemaking, and is relatively simple. What makes platemaking more complex is the huge variety of possible combinations of photopolymer plate materials, plate thicknesses, plate hardness, mask and imaging technologies, plate processing systems, plate processing solutions, and finishing options. These also depend on the final application for the plates, whether narrow-web labels, carton board, envelopes, wide-web films, multiwall bags, or corrugated, to name just a few.

A Few More Details

Plate Exposure

A critical step in all flexo platemaking is the exposure of the plate to UV light to cause the chemical reaction for the polymerization of the image areas. This is a critical step in the control of the final plate produced. The basic technology for this has changed very little in the last 20 years, with small incremental steps, rather than major steps, forward. The key to the process is consistency and repeatability.

It is known that variables such as heat and humidity can affect the process and the final result. Simple items like a chilled bed of the exposure table, and sufficient airflow to remove the air heated above the plate can greatly enhance the consistency. Also to address the natural tendency of the UV tubes to lose intensity and power over time, the inclusion of a light integrator that measures the light output and adjusts the exposure time automatically to ensure consistent light energy is an important feature on a modern plate processing system.

Plate Processing

For all flexo platemaking except direct laser engraving, the processing of the plate is a chemical process. The unwanted monomers and photo initiators are dissolved or melted and then removed. The most common plate processing methods use a plate washout chemistry—either water and detergents as a water wash solution or solvents as a solvent washout system. In both cases, the washout chemistries absorb the unwanted photopolymer, but can be recycled and removed, by separating and removing the unwanted photopolymers, which are sent for safe disposal, often through incineration.

Washout Solution

The solvents used today are available with no reportable hazardous components, low odor, reduced VOC levels, and an operator-friendly nature. They are recovered using traditional distillation, or cold recycling systems, with 1 gallon of solvent recovered at about a 90 percent rate each time, and capable of producing approximately 40 square feet of 0.067˝ photopolymer plates per gallon, before being completely exhausted.

The choice of solvent wash, water wash, or thermal plate & digital processing should be a decision based on technical requirements. Consider each process’s distinct benefits and drawbacks, e.g. solvent plate processing being capable of producing plates to the highest specifications, but thermal processing being the most convenient and faster today. Keep in mind that new chemistries and cold recycling systems are changing this balance in terms of speed and convenience.

The Next Steps

If after reading this e-book you’d like to discuss any of the issues raised, or have any questions about our products or services, please do not hesitate to get in touch with a member of our experienced customer service team. We hope you found this guide useful and informative, and we look forward to speaking to you in person.

To find out more, give us a call on 01949 836 223 or send us an email to admin@focuslabel.com

Other related documents & ebooks (available on request)

Anilox Roll Technology: Textile Printing Inks: Printing Plates: Drying Systems : Heat Transfers


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Anilox Roll Scoring in Printing – What, Why & How

Anilox scoring seems to be a never-ending challenge: It can occur immediately at the start of a new production run, other times it can appear suddenly and other times it comes and goes. Yet it never seems to totally go away.

In This Article We Will Cover The Following:

  • What is anilox scoring?
  • Why does anilox scoring occur?
  • Doctor Blade Selection
  • Steel v Synthetic v Composite
  • How to minimize anilox scoring.

Regardless of the level of pressroom knowledge, anilox scoring can rear its head and if left unchecked it can become very expensive. Firstly in replacing the anilox and then the time and material cost because of the spoiled production.

What Is Anilox Roll Scoring?

Anilox roll scoring is visible as thin circumferential lines on the surface on the anilox roll which quickly show up on the print surface. When foreign particles become trapped between the doctor blade and the anilox, it is likely that the finely engraved cells within the anilox will become blocked , damaged or even destroyed. Small particles do circulate in the inking system and are usually harmless, however when these particles become trapped they can accumulate, harden and then eventually destroy the ceramic engraved cells. Although ceramic is an extremely wear-resistant metal oxide material, it is far from flexible or impact-resistant.

There are two main types of score lines deep gouging and light polishing. Deep gouging score lines initially appear as dark streaks and quickly change to light streaks as the doctor blade wears into the anilox. Light polishing score marks are the most common and also show up as light streaks in the printed area. Light streaks are the result of a change in the cell walls of the engravings and a reduction in height resulting in less ink volume in damaged cells. A common misconception is that all streaks are score marks, but that is not so. ‘Fill-in lines’ also referred to as ‘pick-up lines’ are a group of cells that have become plugged with dried ink residue. Ink residue builds up and eventually gets ground into the anilox cells. The plugged cells contribute to a loss of volume in that area of the anilox roll, this then consequential results in a loss of ink transfer to the polymer visible as light streaks on the printed substrate. Plugged cells can be easily cured through ultrasonic cleaning the Anilox Roll on a regular basis.

Why Does Anilox Scoring Occur?

The primary culprit of anilox score lines is the steel doctor blade, as the doctor blade wears away the tip becomes very fine and can break off in various sizes of wire-looking metal shavings called “Slivers”. Under normal setup, doctor blades should wear by shedding microscopic levels of metal particles that are consumed in the chamber system or extracted by the magnets in the ink filtration system. However, large slivers of metal can often get into the ink system when there is excessive pressure on the doctor blade. Excessive pressure forces the doctor blade backward and changes the contact angle away from the tip.

This change in pressure wears the blade in a location which will ultimately cause long tip to break into slivers. Within an ink pumping filter system these slivers can be filtered out, but if not the slivers eventually get back into the chamber and become embedded at the back of the doctor blade against the anilox roll; & can at worst result in a permanent “score line”.

Overhanging doctor blades; those that hang past the end of the anilox roll can contribute to leaking, which in turn usually leads to additional doctor blade pressure in an effort to minimize the leaking. Excessive pressure will contribute to the wearing of a deep groove in the doctor blade where it overhangs and that can cause large particles to wear off. It is best to keep the ends of the blades as flush with the ends of the anilox roll as possible to minimise this effect.

Additional culprits are the overuse of doctor blades, contaminants in the ink system, misaligned chambers, excessive chamber pressure and rough anilox surfaces. Over used doctor blades require excessive pressure; excessive pressure leads to doctor blade slivers, and thus the undesirable cycle continues. Contaminants can make their way into the ink system in many different ways. If the mixer is allowed to bottom out against the drum or metal bucket, it will generate metal shavings and flakes. The metal pads or metal scrapers used in cleaning can generate metal shavings that cling to the frames of the chambers and once back on the press, make their way into the ink system. Cleaning rags or roll covers are sometimes contaminated with metal particles and when they come in contact with the anilox roll, the particles get back into the ink system.

Magnification of a deep score the edge of a doctor blade
Magnification of a deep score the edge of a doctor blade
Slivers of metal online on the surface of an anilox role
Slivers of metal online on the surface of an anilox role

 

Ink chambers will not always hold their alignment, so they should be checked on a regularly scheduled basis. Misaligned chamber frames can rub against the anilox roll and the worn particles will go directly into the ink system. Inspect the doctor blade clamp frame nearest to the anilox roll; if there is a groove the same length as the anilox roll, chances are there will be scoring. The common way to compensate for a misaligned chamber is to add more pressure.

Another factor can be the surface of the anilox roll; if the surface is not properly prepared and the cell walls have excessively uneven heights, the ceramic can be sheared off and make its way into the ink system – or it can shear parts of the doctor blade and these particles eventually collect behind the doctor blade, causing a score line. Anilox rolls with chipped ends can also contribute to scoring, especially if parts of the chips are sheared off by the doctor blade, or the doctor blade is worn off in chunks, adding metal particles to the ink system. A good cardinal rule is to never rotate a dry anilox roll against the doctor blade.

Doctor Blade Selection:

Trail Doctoring vs. Reverse Angle

To make intelligent choices we need to first understand the difference between these two systems. The major difference is that a trail doctoring blade scrapes the ink while a reverse angle blade shears it off the anilox surface. Let’s take a closer look!

DOCTOR BLADE SELECTION
Trail doctoring (sometimes called forward doctoring) is still the predominate way of doctoring in the gravure industry. The doctor blade is at an acute angle from its tangential line of contact and it scrapes the ink off the roller’s surface. To make it simpler it looks more familiar in a press setting. As we look at the diagram this will leave a lubricating ink film on the roller, extending blade life. Because of the nip or hydraulic pressure created by the excess ink, the blade will float with increased press speed. To adapt for this blade pressure is turned up. A stepped blade is most often used in this application.

Reverse angle doctoring is the dominant system in the flexographic industry. In this method, the ink is sheared off the anilox roll surface at an obtuse angle from the tangential line of contact. Simplified in the press schematic, This gives us a more consistent ink film thickness by shearing the ink from the top of our laser engraved ceramic cells. Press speed has less of an effect on the ink film thickness. With less ink film, blade life is much shorter and effects roller wear. There are many reasons for different metering tips and minimal blade pressure is our goal.

Steel vs Synthetic vs Composite Blades:

STEEL vs SYTHETIC vs COMPOSITE BLADES
Advantages of carbon steel are that you have one of the strongest spring strengths available and you can run a thinner blade to achieve the wipe you want. However always be sure you are receiving quality steel if you want to avoid expensive damage to your Anilox Roll through scoring. If corrosion of your blades is a problem stainless steel is available. These blades are of a softer material and usually wear faster than the carbon steel on ceramic. These are used most often on chrome anilox rolls to help reduce wear to the roll. To check and see if your current blades are stainless steel put a magnet to them to see if it sticks. Stainless steel does not have an attraction to magnets. Blade life has been improved by the introduction of plastic blades. To get the spring strength and wipe comparable to steel, these materials are made of a heavier gauge and would need a reduced edge. These materials are most used on the containment side of enclosed doctor blade systems. Another reason for these blades is their resistance to corrosive materials such as high titanium whites and some coating materials being used. Safety is another advantage to these blades as you are less likely to cut yourself during installation and cleanup.

Composite blades offer us a combination of both worlds, but with a price premium. These blades are being developed with improved spring strength. This offers us the chance to make them out of thinner raw material (currently some as thin as .025 with a reduced edge of .010 with a stepped metering tip). It also allows the safety, longer life of plastic, and the corrosive protection needed. There have been much advancement in this area as technology of combined materials moves forward. The path forward… composite or synthetic blades have made more changes in this area of flexo than any of the others.

How To Minimizing Anilox Scoring

The best way to minimize anilox scoring is a good care and maintenance program that includes the anilox roll, the chamber system, the ink department, the parts cleaning department and the pressroom environment. Additionally, adopt and maintain sound operational practices. Establish a checklist as part of your operation that includes the following:

  • Keep aniloxes clean: establish scheduled, verifiable cleaning of anilox inventory. Anilox rolls should be inspected for cleanliness and if they need attention, they should be cleaned as soon as possible. Use an ultrasonic cleaning system monthly.
  • Fix aniloxes with chipped ends: Chipped ends will wear chunks of metal particles from the doctor blade and they will go into the ink system.
  • Select a good quality doctor blade: Steel, Stainless, Synthetic or Composite
  • Establish monthly Ink Fountain maintenance: Check chambers for vertical and horizontal alignment. Check doctor blade assemblies are functioning correctly, springs changed if defective.
  • Keep ink Fountain fittings cleaned: As part of the monthly maintenance program.
  • Keep chambers aligned: Use a 0.005″ plastic feeler gauge to test contact of the upper and lower blades to the anilox roll. Do this without the installation of end seals.
  • Establish a schedule: For changing doctor blades based on the amount of wear.
  • Establish practices to minimize excessive chamber loading pressure: Change seals when leaking starts, change blades on a regular schedule and select the correct anilox roll for the right color instead of adding additional pressure to achieve colour.
  • Reset the chamber pressure when changing to a new doctor blade: Unless adjusted, the chamber pressure will be set for a worn doctor blade and with a new blade the excessive pressure will quickly create metal slivers in the ink system.
  • If ‘stops’ are available on your stations, use them: This will prevent the chamber from contacting the anilox roll
  • Keep pumps in good operating condition. And check filters are fitted where available.
  • Select the correct doctor blade tip for your application.
  • Always tighten doctor blades by starting from the center and going out.
  • Cut doctor blades to correct length: Doctor blades hanging over the length of the anilox roll will contribute to end seal leakage and will wear a deep groove on the contact area on the overhang.
  • Keep the press area clean!

The last point – ‘keep the press area clean’ – will reflect the totality of your work environment and work ethic. A clean pressroom area is almost always a reflection of a well-maintained production area. Adopting and maintaining good practices throughout your pressroom will help minimize scoring issues. Ongoing training and verification of proper procedures is imperative, especially when there is an employee change. Frequently when experienced staff members move up or move out, the value of care and maintenance practices is lost. Make those practices a part of your standard operating procedures and part of an ongoing training program.

Scoring can be a costly challenge if left unchecked. Hopefully, the issues covered in this article will help to minimize that challenge, and provide you with enough Information to determine and fix the source of any scoring issues you may encounter.

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Which Textile Label Printing Machine Is Best To Print Labels Onto Ribbons?

best label printing machine

With such a wide range of options to choose from, choosing the best label printing machine for your application can be a daunting prospect, especially if you know very little about ribbon printing technology and what is on the market.

Among the many products that exist, there are two machines that are definitely worth further consideration in the ribbon printing realm: our B4 range, and the LX range.

The Letterflex B4 – Entry-Level Cost-Effectiveness

The B4 equipment range offers high production output speed as well as multi-ribbon printing. The advanced enclosed ink cartridge technology allows for near-immediate job changes and full colour to be applied to any label printing project.

Whether you wish to produce labels for printed apparel or are looking to print decorative ribbons, the B4 allows for successful production, whether in a plant or specialist printing setting. Built with high-quality engineering, the B4 offers a compact way to print labels onto ribbons with several drying system options including combination infra-red and fan drying.

The B4 also offers higher production capacity than the L-series printer it replaces. This compact and powerful B4 is ideal both for garment manufacturers who wish to produce their own labels, and companies focused on volume printing.

Benefits of the Letterflex B4

The B4 label printing machine requires very little training to operate, making it ideal for production managers or directors wanting fast implementation of new equipment with the operators, printers and machine supervisors on their team. The ability to set up and implement the B4 so easily also means very little interruption for managers when planning and prioritising jobs.

The fact that the B4 is manufactured in the same facility as our industrial printing machines means that businesses receive a machine that’s been manufactured with quality control as the main focus.

The Letterflex B4 offers both one and two ribbon printing for ultimate flexibility, and due to its high-quality and precision printing construction, results in far less waste being produced from printing.

There are many possibilities for printing with the B4. It offers four colour printing on a 1+1, 2+1 or 3+1 basis. Also, it allows for two unwinds and two rewinds at a print length range of 6 to 12”.

The LX Letterflex – a Professional Solution

This range of textile label printing machines offers a new way to print labels using specialised apparel and decorative transfers. The LX Letterflex utilises proprietary paper chemistry, ink, and printing transfer technology, which affixes an entire image to a garment without the need to sew in a label.

The equipment offers the highest level of advanced technology at a cost that comes in under budget. Ideal for use on printed textiles for adding trim and labels via heat transfer, the LX also allows for full colour to be used and changes made to jobs in seconds.

Benefits of the LX Letterflex

The patented ink cartridge system of the LX Letterflex, as well as a large variety of customisation options, offers true versatility to managers needing to print labels for a wide variety of applications. The ability to change cartridges quickly means seamless production with virtually no downtime.

Combination drying systems ensure that every job, regardless of size, is completed efficiently. Because of the high ease-of-use offered by the LX, training and specialist operator requirements are kept to a minimum.

A number of options are available with the LX, including anti-static bars, ultrasonic cutting systems, web cleaners, video inspection, UV drying and much more.

The sophisticated technology of the LX allows managers to use the machinery in the production of high-quality and complex transfers in multiple colours from roll to roll, while its small size makes it ideal for supplying to local garment manufacturers during the strategic global positioning process.

Learn Even More About Label Printing with our Informative, Free E-book

Both of the printers above make the entire label printing process more efficient, thereby reducing the associated costs of printing textile labels. When this happens, your operation becomes more productive and more profitable.

Of course, in the label printing industry, there always seems to be so much to learn. That’s why we developed a free guide, “Label Printing for Textiles”. Inside, you’ll find lots of valuable tips and advice about printing labels on several types of media, as well as how to win more work, and the best thing about it is that we are giving it away at no cost to you. Just click here to download it.

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Anilox Roll Technology For Printing Garment Labels, Textile Ribbons & Elastics

A key element in Letterflex technology & directly printing textiles is the anilox roll. In order to achieve the best print quality possible the anilox roll should transfer the minimum volume of Ink to the printing plate to achieve the desired coverage. Factors that need to be considered are the type of image, substrate & ink types. All of these will affect the specification of the anilox roll that needs to be selected for the optimum result.

Anilox Rolls
Anilox Rolls
Under The Microscope
Under The Microscope

 

Chrome Coated Anilox Rolls

Traditionally, anilox rolls were mechanically engraved and then chrome plated for protection & to improve wear resistance. In most printing applications, a doctor blade is in constant contact with the surface of the anilox roll to control the ink flow & transfer to the image roller. If you imagine the surface of the anilox roll like a car tyre, over time the tyre tread will wear out, much like the cells of a chrome plated anilox roll. Thus, less ink is held by the roll and less ink transferred to the image/plate roll.

Ceramic Laser Engraved

Over the last 20 years, ceramic anilox rolls have replaced chrome rolls. Although a more costly investment, they do not wear out like chrome rolls. Instead, they retain their ability to transfer the same volumes of ink over a long period of time, up to 2 years if carefully looked after. The base roller is plasma spray-coated with a ceramic surface, which is then ground & polished before the laser engraving of a specific cell pattern. These rollers are fragile, so great care needs to be taken to avoid damaging the ceramic coating.

Chrome v Ceramic

Features Chrome Anilox Ceramic Anilox
Cost Lower cost Higher cost
Wear Resistance Low High
Life Expectancy 6 -12 Months 2-3 Years
Cell Production Mechanical Engrave Laser Engrave
Cell Type/Volume Limited range Infinitely variable
Cell Range 80 to 600 LPI 40 to 1200 LPI
Cell range for Textiles 40 to 200 LPI 40 to 350 LPI
Ease of Cleaning Easy Hard

For special applications, a number of new types of engraving specifications for anilox rolls have emerged, some (but not all) offer advantages for textiles printing.

Conventional Standard

This specification is used across the board for general printing applications for Labels, Textiles & Packaging. The screen resolutions range from 80 to 1200 LPI with angles normally set at 60 degrees. These are suitable for spot, tone, screen & process printing. Around 95% of printed garment labels, textile ribbons applications will be printed using a conventional standard engraving.

Special Applications

For special printing applications or heavy coatings that are not achievable with a conventional engraving style, a number of alternative specifications have been developed with unique transfer characteristics.

EasyFlo:

60-degree angle with open linked type cells. Commonly used with UV inks to prevent ‘spitting’. Generally used up to a maximum of 700lpi and will transfer 15% more ink than conventionally engraved rolls. These are rarely used in applications for textiles ribbons.

MaxFlo:

This specification has been developed to offer high release and is, therefore, beneficial for all types of printing as a finer anilox can be used, offering an improved laydown of ink. Cells are elongated and vastly more efficient in releasing ink than the equivalent conventional roll. If printing on black ribbons, this type of engraving can improve coverage of an opaque white or red but is still capable of producing fine text.

SupermaxFlo.

Developed to produce printed tones and heavy solid/spot colours on the same printing plate, where normally a tone & solid printing plate might be split. The benefits are reduced make-ready time with fewer print stations being used. If printing on black ribbons, this type of engraving can improve coverage of an opaque white or red but can still achieve both heavy & fine text.

EasyFlo HD:

Special engraving for UV opaque whites. A high volume specification to provide uniform coverage and reduce ‘pin-holing’. These rolls allow the Flexo printer to achieve something close to Silk Screen quality. Not used for textiles printing.

TwinFlo:

Unique engraving pattern, allowing almost double the cell volume up to 150cm3/m2. Used to apply heavy varnishes & coating. The main application is Offset/Direct Coating. Rarely used for Textiles.

Some More Detailed Information
——————————————————————————————————-
The following information & tables provide you with a technical reference and indication of theoretical ink volumes available for Conventional & MaxFlo anilox rolls. You may use the information for selection of the correct Anilox Roll for your application or contact Focus for further advice.

Line Count (or lines per centimetre L/cm or lines per inch / L/in)

‘Line count’ or ‘screen count’ refers to the number of cells per lineal inch/centimetre as measured along the engraving angle (because that is where the cells line up in closest proximity to each other).

As a general rule, the higher the screen count, the less ink will be carried by the anilox roll and transferred to the image/printing plate. For example, an anilox roll marked as 100 LPI will carry more ink than a similar roll of 200 LPI.

The higher the LPI/LPC, the greater the number of cells in a given surface area and so the cell diameter is smaller.  It is important to note that as we increase LPI/LPC, we increase the concentration of cells in both the rotational and traversal directions.  Doubling the LPI/LPC effectively quadruples the number of cells in each square inch of roll surface.

As LPI/LPC increases, smaller droplets of ink are spaced closer together onto the plate surface. Smaller ink droplets tend to dry quicker and produce smoother solids. The vastly increased shear numbers of cells at higher LPI/LPC’s provide for a smoother transition of colour and increased tonal ranges on vignettes.

If increasing LPI gives so many benefits, why not have every roll engraved to 1500 or even 2000 LPI? Because as cells get smaller, it becomes more difficult for them to carry and deliver an adequate density of ink.  This has been overcome, to some extent, by new engraving processes including YAG and Fibre multi-hit technologies, which make it possible to engrave ultra-high line count patterns (1000 LPI and up) with greater carrying capacity than conventional CO2 engraved cells at 600-800 LPI.

For printing onto textiles, we normally supply anilox rolls ranging from 80 LPI to 300 LPI, this covers most garment labels applications.

Anilox Roll Selection

The traditional approach to specifying LPI was to have the anilox line count be at least four times the plate screen. Over time, however, the plate technology has improved to the point where it is possible to produce plates with 1% highlight dots on 200+ line screens. The ability to produce such an incredibly fine dot structure necessitated the need to revise the multiplier to at least five times the plate screen. Consequently, if we want to run 150 lpi plates, the lowest line count we should run will be 750 LPI. This helps prevent the occurrence of ‘dot-dipping’, and ensures each plate dot is inked and supported by the wall structure of several cells.

Cell Volume

Cell volume refers to the ink carrying capacity of a cell, multiplied by the number of cells in a given square inch of roll surface. The common unit of measurement in North America is BCM or billion cubic microns per square inch. In Europe, it is more common to use cm3/m2 (cubic centimetres per square metre).

Volume is determined by the depth, diameter, and profile of the cell. It is possible to adjust cell volume by producing cells with the same cell diameter (same LPC/ LPI), but engraved to different depths. The ratio of the depth to the cell diameter is commonly referred to as the “depth-to-opening” ratio.

Ceramic Anilox

Whilst the engraving of the anilox roller is important, the coatings play a crucial roll in its performance. Using the Plasma Spraying System we can offer higher density ceramics, which ensures a repeatable cell shape and structure. We also offer a range of screens to suit your application:

ceramic anilox

Standard 60°

This is the industry standard and has evolved to be the most versatile angle used for the majority of print conditions.

standard 60 degrees

Easy Flow Link™

A screen specifically developed to prevent spitting when using UV inks.

easy flow link

Tri-helical

This screen is engraved as a continuous line around the roller at various angles from 30 to 60 °. Its open structure allows for excellent ink release when using viscose solutions at high volumes, used widely in glue and lacquer applications.

tri helical

Double Flow Helix™

A screen designed to apply heavy coatings ensuring a flat layer of solution, excellent for direct coat applications and opaque white.

double flow helix

Anilox Care:

Now we agree that the anilox roll is an integral part of the printing process and needs to be maintained to ensure that quality remains constant.

Avoid damaging the engraved surface, always minimise doctor blade pressure, and never allow ink to dry on the roll. Some applications in textiles require an ink catalyst to promote the curing process. When using any kind of catalyst or additive in your inks always follow the manufacturer’s guidance, and be sure to change the ink every 2 hours.

We also need to look at care and cleaning of the roll. With even the best press practices, over time dried ink will eventually block the cells, causing shadows & ‘ghosting’ or visible changes in ink transfer levels.

Mechanical cleaning with chemicals is always the first stage of cleaning and should be carried out daily. However, a monthly event should be to ‘Deep Clean’ your rolls, preferably using an environmentally friendly system like an ultrasonic bath.

anilox care
Ultrasonic Cleaning of Anilox Rolls

 

Ultrasonic systems gently heat & vibrate solids loose from the surface of the roller. If used sensibly, they will not damage the roll, and can bring an old roll back to new standard inside an hour.

Get this Free Guide for even more Help with your Labels

The above questions should get you the answers you need to choose the right anilox roll relative to your application. We will be happy to assist you and recommend a specific screen count for your applications should you need our technical expertise.

Our free guide, “Label Printing for Textiles” is the ideal complement to the products you purchase and the information you gain from your equipment manufacturer. It contains everything you need to know about how to print on several kinds of media, and will help you win more work. Just click here to claim your free download.

The next steps

If after reading this e-book you’d like to discuss any of the issues raised, or have any questions about our products or services, please do not hesitate to get in touch with a member of our experienced customer service team. We hope you found this guide useful and informative, and we look forward to speaking to you in person.

To find out more, give us a call on 01949 836 223 or send us an email to admin@focuslabel.com

Other related documents & ebooks (available on request)

Textile Printing Inks: Printing Plates: Drying Systems : Heat Transfers


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The Future of Textile, Label and Ribbon Printing

The Future of Textile, Label and Ribbon Printing

A crystal ball would certainly be a must-have item for anyone wishing to predict the printing trends of the future, as well as the costs to obtain them. This ever-changing industry is notoriously difficult to make predictions about. However, there are some occurrences which certainly do signal change in the textile, label and ribbon printing industries, and the news is very good.

Digitisation

The digitisation of the printing industry is causing much change to occur, and will continue to do so in future, especially where the management of colour & variable information is concerned. New technology developments in the area of spot colour matching, as well as better tools for colour management, will ensure printing results that are more outstanding than at any other point in history.

Technology also continues to benefit the industry beyond colour and colour management with better-than-ever tools for quality control. These management and reporting tools allow presses to be remotely accessed, which holds virtually unlimited benefits for press operators and the industry as a whole.

A large number of new press installations are digital, with many more choices being available for label converters.

In the offices of print companies, technology is positively affecting work flow to help employees manage information much more smoothly. The ordering of stock for ribbon label printing and other jobs is moving to app-based technology; which is having a significant impact on the ease and speed of ordering.

Digital label printing is poised to revolutionise the textile label printing industry. Not only will it require less in the way of operator skill, but it will also add short run capability to the process and incur minimal cost for set-up, as well as personalisation, sequential numbering and variable data. And, in going digital, there is no need for the expense and increased complexity of printing plates. The need to inventory components like printing cylinders or keep large ink stocks will also become a thing of the past.

Digital Challenges

Integration of digital technology has its challenges especially when dealing with different substrates which may require special pre-coating to make them print receptive. These coatings can increase the substrate cost significantly to the point of not being viable. In general digital Ink costs are higher and servicing & maintaining equipment need to be considered as an ongoing cost. Your printers will need to learn a whole set of new skills both in Software, Computer & Colour management , as well as mechanical & electrical skills.
Printing on textiles presents an additional challenge in that textiles are not easy to print onto directly , the finished product must be wash resistant and also safe to be in contact the skin.

Thermal Transfer Printing Technology

Thermal Transfer printers have been used in garment label printing for over a decade and are favoured by ‘In House’ garment manufacturers . They are Ideal for small runs but they are slow, suffer from print quality issues and wash resistance can be low for some applications.

Digital Offset Printing

Thanks to pioneering companies like Indigo the general print & label Industry has been revolutionised in the Digital Arena, however this technology has not been successfully used for garment Label production or Textiles in general.

Ink and Inkjet Technology

Technology in the inkjet sector is now available in several new types which, interestingly, are complementing existing technologies. We are already seeing wide web presses for textiles utilising Inkjet technology and this will be the technology most likely chosen by print press manufacturers as a way to enter the market, due to the ease of which existing inks and nozzle heads can be integrated with existing technology. Perceptions about inkjet printing continue to change and are expected to keep doing so in the future, where this technology will be seen as being perfectly suitable for the majority of label printing applications, and not just the printing of ‘regular’ labels. Focus are working on a single pass system for Printed Garment Labels, Elastics & Ribbons which will come to market in the next 12-18 months.

Low-Cost, Smarter Investment into New Equipment

As far as capital investment into new equipment goes, the cost to obtain a digital press in four colours for general printing is at its lowest point ever at an average market price of just over £8,000 up to £750,000.

As a whole, the printing market is becoming adept at making informed decisions when making equipment investments. Reliability is a major factor for consideration, especially where Digital systems are concerned. The hefty demand placed on these systems is causing potential buyers to take a closer look at the technology beneath them when evaluating their options. Potential purchasers of new equipment have to now consider running costs such as Inks, special materials, equipment service & maintenance & even the effects of the working environment on press performance & quality.

Hybrid Presses and Production

Hybrid presses are certainly generating a lot of excitement and will continue to increase in sophistication in the future. These next-generation bastions of productivity house both conventional and digital presses, between which jobs can be seamlessly switched. Moreover, the information management systems of today will also continue to revolutionise the routeing process for label print jobs.

All manner of labelling, including textile label printing and ribbon printing, are likely to be produced using hybrid methods in the future. Traditional Offset and Flexo technology will merge with digital to complete seamless printing jobs with accurate colour matching regardless of machine. Hybrid solutions will continue to offer a way for brand owners and converters to offer short-run printing that’s cost-effective for the customer, as well as allowing them to adapt to changes in customer requirements quickly.

Print Quality

The technology going into modern print presses is affecting visual print quality in many ways. Dot placement accuracy, reduced noise and a far lower number of defects are making print jobs look their best with very little frustration on the part of the operator.

Print quality standardisation, as well as consistency with colour across global markets, will continue to increase in pace as label makers of all sizes witness the obvious quality of results when colour is measured and produced in the same way around the globe.

Regulatory Changes

The future of the label market will certainly be affected by changes in regulation, such as that occurring in the food safety sector. These changing regulations increase concern for customers, making it imperative for printers to ensure they are staying on top of not only current compliance standards, but planned and potential changes to regulations as well. Doing this ensures that only the most modern and safe technology is used for the labelling of food.

For garment label applications accuracy of data is a key factor and management of this information through software allows advantages for global production & retailers. Using safe products will also challenge the Digital Industry where low migration Inks will need to be developed and will need to meet Oekatex stands for use in garment applications.

While these represent only a fraction of the many predicted changes in the label printing industry, one thing remains certain; a lot of focus will need to be placed on new technology if the goal is to improve the quality of print jobs, increase productivity and lessen lead time.

Get Informed with our Free Guide

Our “Label Printing for Textiles” guide was created to help you improve productivity and increase your profits via the winning of more work. You’ll learn about how to print labels on several kinds of media including elastics and heat transfer paper. Our guide is available for download by clicking here.

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5 Questions To Ask When Choosing A Label Printing Machine Manufacturer

textile label printing

Many businesses who are looking to choose the right manufacturer for the textile label printing equipment they need will consult a search engine and then visit the top sites on the first page of results. But is this really enough to find the best manufacturer for you? The truth is that a website can only tell you so much about a manufacturer and their products.

Meeting Face-to-Face

The best way to know whether a label printing machine manufacturer is the right one for you is by setting up a meeting with them to discuss your requirements with a knowledgeable staff member. In doing so, you will ideally get the answers about accuracy, ease-of-use and product variations answered. Also make time to visit the manufacturing facility & Showroom for a demonstration. But what other questions should you be asking about the company to make sure they’re right for you?

1) Can they offer Tailored Solutions?

The ability of a manufacturer to provide bespoke, tailored solutions for your requirements will tell you a lot about them. In being able to offer these kinds of personalised options, you can determine whether a manufacturer is involved in the continual innovation of their products, or whether they simply replicate old existing technology.

The label printing industry continues to evolve, and the right manufacturer for you will be one who is at the forefront of technology & willing and able to evolve with it. The company who is able to offer you the highest quality , tailored solutions & convenience at as low a cost as possible is the one that belongs on your short list.

2) How Long Have they been Trading?

When it comes to choosing a label printing machine manufacturer, there’s no match for tried and tested experience. It’s important that the company you end up choosing knows the printing industry – and its many changes over the years – very well. They should be able to use their extensive knowledge to explain how their products can benefit you directly.

Not only that, but their years of trading should also communicate experience in business itself; the longer a company has been in business, the better they will be, and the more likely they will be able to offer you the equipment you need when you need it.

3) What is their Reputation?

The internet has given consumers a great way to check on the reputation of companies. This is no different for textile label printing machine manufacturers. Many review sites now offer consumers the opportunity to tell their story so that others may learn from their experience.

However, caution does need to be taken; a negative experience can taint the reputation of a company via a scathing review, even if that company resolved the issue successfully. The best way to gauge a company’s reputation is by seeking out recent customers that you can ask personally, as well as anyone you know who may have dealt with them. A good company will only be too pleased to provide references

4) How Close are they to their Suppliers?

Any quality equipment manufacturer should work closely with their suppliers. For textile label printing machine manufacturers, it’s important to ask about their relationship with Suppliers of transfer papers, inks, textile ribbons, adhesives and other consumables. A company that can demonstrate extensive supplier knowledge has really done their homework into who provides the best products. This means top quality products being manufactured for their customers.

5) Will They Help and Train You?

Support is a vital part of the label machine purchasing process, and so one very important question to ask the manufacturer you’re considering is whether or not they will be there for you should something go wrong. If their support information is difficult to find or come by, then they may not be the ideal manufacturer for you.

Training is another area that your prospective company should offer. An experienced company will understand that taking the time to train customers in the use of their products will not only educate the customer, but also ensure they can take full advantage of their investment & increase customer trust and loyalty.

Get this Free Guide for even more Help with your Labels

The above questions should get you the answers you need to choose the right label printing equipment manufacturer. At Focus we’d like to think that we fulfil all five criteria, so please do get in touch and we’ll be delighted to answer any questions you have.

Our guide, “Label Printing for Textiles” is the ideal complement to the products you purchase and the information you gain from your equipment manufacturer. It contains everything you need to know about how to print on several kinds of media, and will help you win more work. Just click here to claim your free download.

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How to Print Labels Using Heat Transfers

heat transfer printing

There are some circumstances in which fabric garment labels are simply not practical. Swimwear is an example of where an external label would be irritating and inappropriate. A lot of other sportswear falls into the same category. These garments are often tight fitting and come into direct contact with the skin. When combined with sweat and friction through use, fabric labels can feel uncomfortable and cause irritation to the skin. Heat transfer label printing offers an alternative to using fabric labels in a range of clothing, an option that is being taken up by a growing group of manufacturers. These days, heat transfer labels are cropping up in underwear, hats, jeans, shirts, skirts and dresses – in fact anywhere that a traditional fabric label would normally be used.

What’s the Big Deal with Heat Transfers?

Heat transfer labels convey the same information as their fabric equivalents – branding, washing information, size details etc. They are printed directly onto the fabric. The process will be familiar to anyone who has experience creating T-shirts. The majority of printed T-shirts use some kind of heat transfer method to imprint the design onto the shirt. The same logic applies to labels, but obviously on a much smaller scale. The equipment required and the method used is therefore slightly different. So why are they so popular? Not only does heat transfer label printing create a stylish design that is less intrusive than a fabric equivalent, but there are also savings in both cost and time to be made.

How Heat Transfers are Used

Heat transfer printing takes place in two parts. In the first stage, the design is printed as a negative onto special heat transferable paper. The images and text will appear on the paper as a reverse image as if viewed through a mirror. In the second stage, the transfer is imprinted onto the garment using heat and pressure in a printing press, specially designed for the purpose.

Silkscreen Printing

The classic means of applying heat transfers is known as silk screen printing, also called serigraphy or serigraph printing by some manufacturers. The machine-based silkscreen printers of today are based on a traditional Chinese method of printing that originated during the Song Dynasty (960 -1279 CE). Naturally the process has changed over time but the principle remains.
Silkscreen printing uses a mesh to transfer printing ink onto a substrate, one colour at a time. The areas that do not require printing are blocked out by stencil. The ink is applied through a blade which moves across the substrate to fill the open areas of the mesh with ink.
The downside of silkscreen heat transfer label printing is that it can only print one colour at a time , requiring drying before the next colour can be applied. This makes it perfect for one or two colour designs, but not suitable for multi-coloured images, due to the amount of time required for the print operation. Silkscreen printing also creates a high percentage of rejects with registration issues between colours.

The Focus Heat Transfer Label Printing Method (TagTrans)

At Focus, we’ve overcome these downsides by designing a roll to roll, multicolour print press that allows simultaneous printing in a number of different colours. Our machine uses a central impression press and powder adhesive to apply the complete transfer in a single pass. Where increased opacity is required, for instance on dark clothing. An additional silk screen can be used to deepen the quality of the print. Our heat transfer printing presses have a separate silkscreen system that can overprint the original designs in perfect registration with the pre-printed Transfer. Focus introduced its ‘In line’ Powder Adhesive system to support production of ‘halo free’ Transfers . This increases productivity and expands the options available to you when producing multi colour heat transfers.

Curious to Find Out More?

We have recently written an e-book called ‘Label Printing for Textiles’, which, as the name suggests, covers the methods and technologies involved with label printing from a number of different angles. We have included a chapter on heat transfers, as this is an increasingly popular alternative to using fabric labels in the garment industry. You can click here to download the e-book for free directly from our website.

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Drupa 2016

drupa

Drupa 2016 will see live demonstrations of the very latest models from Focus Label Machinery Ltd., with Servo & Digital solutions at the forefront, for the short & medium print run business.

d-flex machine e flex machine

The d-Flex digital inkjet press incorporates the latest high-speed full-colour Konica Minolta inkjet technology into the existing REFLEX servo press with in-line UV flexo print head, die-cutting, slitting and rewinding. Visitors will be able to see high quality variable images, overprinted in perfect register with UV flexo ink, then converted & rewound – in a single pass with speeds up to 50 metres per minute.

For pre-printed digital printed web, the REFLEX S SERVO converting system provides a comprehensive off-line finishing solution. Focus will demonstrate the accuracy of its re-register system – even at speeds of over 100 metres per minute. The full rotary system incorporates flexo printing/coating, cold-foil, laminating plus varnishing & die-cutting facilities in either roll to roll, or roll to sheet applications.

In addition, Focus will show the brand new e-FLEX model providing a new flexo/digital combination press platform for meeting the demand of medium & short run business. The TWIN-SERVO system provides single touch set ups, with minimal waste for conventional printing and can be combined with a digital module for variable data, text & images. The touch screen HMI operator controls, a fully programmable digital platform, plus storage of job details for future retrieval, all help to make the e-FLEX, the most effective, affordable servo-driven flexo / digital combination press in the marketplace today.

At the show, Focus will show a 6 colour, 330mm wide press, equipped with full UV drying.

The e-FLEX incorporates top loading print cylinders, Rapid-Change print cartridges to reduce downtime and set up times. A choice of ultra-efficient interstation drying systems enables much higher press speeds. The short web-path allows for a compact design, whilst still maintaining good accessibility for the operator and plenty of space for optional equipment. IR ,UV drying with chill-rolls is available, as well as delam/relam, rotary cold foil transfer, silk screen, turn-bar, sheet conveyor, enclosed/chambered ink cartridges, plus many other options.


Focus will also launch a new generation of the popular Proflex compact flexo press with open 
architecture print head design

proflex se

The Proflex SE is a servo driven, modular press available with print widths of 250mm and 330mm. Several different drying systems are available, including full UV, LED, Infra-Red or combination drying systems, with optional chill rolls for heat sensitive substrates. The open architecture design of the print stations enables easy loading of ink cartridges and print cylinders, whilst interchangeable print cartridges can be partially or fully unloaded and exchanged, in order to maximise productivity and minimise downtime. Bearer rings are incorporated into the print cylinder assembly, to guarantee accurate print impression settings, regardless of substrate.

For more details of FOCUS equipment, visit: www.focuslabel.com or contact : admin@focuslabel.com