Flexo and Gravure much widespread out than one is aware of!

In the present day situation, Flexo and Gravure are gaining greater awareness than ever before. In fact, both the processes were there in use along with offset though the latter was seemingly more popular, says RS Bakshi (RSB), managing director, Colour Dot (Madras) Pvt Ltd in tete-a-tete with D Ramalingam (DR) of Print & Publishing. DR: Your foray into flexo is by accident or as planned?

RSB: Let me call it as an opportunity. We at Colour Dot strive to keep ahead with technology and pass on that to our customers.

R S BakshIn 1981, I came into the trade in Chennai (Madras), and at that time offset adoption was going on by letterpress printers. Mostly, direct negative to positive method was used. We were the first ones to introduce indirect masking colour correction process in Madras. For one particular Tamil weekly, we used this method which stood out in quality among other weeklies. Looking at this, Better Labels, one of the oldest label printers using flexography, asked me to help them in improving their quality. That way, in 1986, I migrated to flexography retaining offset processing. Flexo has gained more awareness, specially FMCG for labels, carry bags and related products. We were absorbed in the ever changing technology in that area, offset handling by default went into background.

DR: Will journey of flexography help us in understanding the technology better?

RSB: First it was rubber plates, and then polymer plates and now Anilox rollers rule the roost. Pre-press is more important in flexo because when prepress processing is perfect and the machine is set, then no fooling around on the machine. Once set, the printing machine rolls on and on. All about ink transfer—Genetic Transfer Technology developed by Apex Labs, leading flexo technology developers, is a high tech tool union given the highest control around the ink transfer using specialised anilox rollers. Photo polymer plates are available in different thicknesses. An exciting development which had taken place is Digital Flexo Revolution. I would particularly mention REVO team which has collected seven industry leaders to introduce digital in flexography. In coming June, REVO is going to demonstrate the REVO digital process to the technical world. It promises process consistency, efficiency and cost reduction. Another important area is special consumables required for flexo printers.

DR: How is flexo quality different from offset?

RSB: Main thing is the ink density which offers richness greatly in print. That is the inherent technical advantage in flexo.

DR: Realising the opportunities in packaging, the offset machine manufacturers are coming out with their own solutions. What’s your take on this?

RSB: Even labels are produced in offset. Offset vies with flexo to offer better quality and packaging products solutions. But another inherent advantage in flexo process other than ink remains as a basically web fed one. This is ideal for configuring finishing operations. Normally a flexo machine is of 7 to 8 units which give one the interchanging flexibility and combining all finishing operations like varnishing, laminating, foiling, embossing, etc. One can have numbering too. Screen printing also can be integrated or standalone in the same machine.

DR: As a process and trading person, you have been updating the technology and materials. Latest seems to be Opaltone. It seems to be quite suitable to flexo with its multiple units. As a prepress processing, is it applicable to offset with most printers installing four or five colour machines?

RSB: Nowadays, offset machines are coming with 6-clolour units. Recently, I introduced Opaltone to a six-colour unit offset press. The results were quite impressive.

DR: What’s your take on gravure?

RSB: Gravure still holds its place for better reproduction of details. With its cells and continuous tone, it is one process which gives a true reproduction of details matching the original. Flexo is also improving with its cells in anilox rollers and their continuous quality improvement and other ink transfer technologies. I am not a believer in downloading internet images and attempting the resolution enhancements. Gravure has still not become thing like offset because of its investment costs. Cylinder engraving is still a good process. Especially for long run jobs running into millions, nothing can beat gravure.

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