Artcraft Label of Burlington, Canada has been able to significantly improve the quality of their flexo printing with less prepress preparation time with the recent installation of an Esko CDI flexo plate imager with HD Flexo.
Artcraft Label Inc. is a pressure-sensitive label manufacturer specializing in simplifying the complex supply chain requirements of smaller volume premium brands in the wines, artisan cheese, and beauty care consumer goods markets. Their 15 employees operate three flexo presses and two digital presses in a modern 20,000 square-foot facility. Artcraft invested in state-of-the-art management information software and initiated LEAN Six Sigma manufacturing practices. This enabled them to improve process efficiencies and share those benefits with customers. In 2004 Artcraft obtained ISO 9001 certification, and they continue to maintain this certification to this day.
Artcraft has long believed that by having prepress, artwork and platemaking in-house, they significantly reduce turnaround time for new orders, have total control over the full process from start to finish, and offer exceptional quality.They regularly offer the value-added prepress services of producing flexo printing plates and digital film to other printers. Through their partnership with Esko, its software, hardware, and staff, they are kept up to speed on the latest advances and technology. They use Esko DeskPack to prep files and add barcodes. Artcraft's ink manager particularly likes the Ink Tools module, which helps prepare images with spot color separations. Esko Automation Engine directs Esko Color Engine, and operates FlexRIP.
While Artcraft Label Inc. had an Esko CDI digital flexo system, it was getting older and it was time for them to start looking for a new model. They were using subcontractors to create HD Flexo plates. "While we appreciated the work our supplier did for us, I am particular about controlling quality," notes Alain Paquette, President, Artcraft label Inc. "We felt it would be better to bring all our platemaking in-house. We had a successful track record with Esko, and it just seemed to make sense to move forward with an Esko system." Artcraft purchased a new Esko CDI 2530 flexo imager along with HD Flexo.
"Esko's trainer conducted a few benchmark tests on both our presses. We move quickly and were making standard plates on the second day of training. We ran full characterizations on the plates. We are very fortunate that we have very good press operators who work well with the prepress department," says Stacey Turner, Prepress Manager. "The quality of the plate on press is far superior to what we were using before, which was already very good. Before, flesh tones were a nightmare on press. Now, by using HD Flexo, it benefits us internally because we do not have to reconstruct the file to get great flesh tones. We invest a lot less time in a file to be output and put on press. Highlights are reproduced much better and we have definition in the tones. There is no longer a hard drop-off of the dot."
Artcraft uses UV and a water wash system. They believe it adds a lot and, in its own way, equals the playing field between highlights and shadows. While water based inks produce more gain, the HD Flexo dot structure helps hold the dots better. "In fact there are quite a few jobs that we were not going to use with water based inks until we saw these results," comments Turner. "The output of the plate seems to flow nicely with our system. We do not have to see if the plates create scum dots. We are certain that the output is correct, without unexpected or unsupported dots or drop off."
"I wanted to improve the efficiencies. We are able to do a lot more with centralized files and information, and this plate system is a part of the equation. We are getting nice final touches that come with efficiencies and proactive lean manufacturing practices. The data helps us ensure that the presses run well," adds Paquette. "We are excited to see the quality results we are getting on all our presses, along with the ease of use in production. The best part is that we do not have to stress ourselves to make it work. When I first joined the company, I was surprised that Artcraft did not operate offset presses, but we believe we have eliminated the barriers of offset and I am certain we will never return to standard flexo. The majority of our runs are small to medium, and there is no benefit to printing offset."
"We differentiate ourselves as the smaller guys serving smaller customers, but who offer the capabilities of the larger firms. We have agility and are able to respond quickly and consistently," remarks Paquette. "A good deal of this is due to the efficiencies and great results we get from Esko HD Flexo and Esko prepress software."
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