The CI Flexo Tech Technology Innovation Award was established in 2019. It’s the first such award to encompass the entire flexo industry in China. The aim is “to discover, promote, encourage and commend innovative technologies in the flexo printing industry”.
On 6th November a committee comprised of 46 flexo experts from leading printers, brand-owners, universities, trade magazines and technology suppliers judged the finalists in the 2020 CI Flexo Tech Technology Innovation Award. At a well-attended event (more than 300 attendees), Flint Group’s Jacky Chen gave a presentation on the ThermoFlexX Catena+ Inline Plate Making System before gaining the award.
ThermoFlexX imagers and Catena units are designed and built by Xeikon Prepress, Ypres, Belgium. Christophe Lievens, Sales & Marketing Director says “We’re very proud to win this award courtesy of so many peers in our field. We’re fully aware of the demand for the highest quality of flexo print in China. This is a very exciting time for us as Catena systems are our first project 100% combining our equipment design knowledge with Flint Flexographic plate making and flexo print expertise. Development has been a total partnership and we believe the result is a product portfolio of ThermoFlexX and Catena equipment with flexo plates that exactly fits the market-place.”
Catena is a modular concept of individual units that can build up to a fully in-line solvent-chemistry flexo plate making system. A ThermoFlexX imager, Catena-E (LED exposure) and Catena-WDLS (washer, dryer and light-finisher) join together with robotic transport units forming Catena+ for full automation. With Catena+ an operator need only place the plate on the imager loading tray and remove the cover-sheet. The full plate making process thereafter is completed without further human intervention. Productivity and consistency are naturally increased whilst the risk of damage through operator handling is eliminated. Up to 10 flexo plates initiated during a working shift can be fully finished without supervision, for example, after a shift is finished and the factory is closed.
Along with innovative hardware, Catena systems also offer state of the art software utilities.
Catena Cockpit provides a highly visible status report, via ‘airport style’ screens, showing all plates, their progress and expected time of completion. Also, supervisors can access information on their own devices and change queue priorities.
ThermoFlexX ProServX provides a cloud-based, constant monitoring service of all key components throughout the range. A brand-new level of predictive maintenance with on-line support is available. The need for physical service-interventions is minimised. All critical information such as motor current, controllers, operating conditions and working temperatures are monitored. This information can be stored and made available for Plate Passport total QC records
At time-of-writing, Catena units take up to 50 x 80” (1270 x 2032mm) plates and links with ThermoFlexX 80 or 60 imagers. Nevertheless the foot-print of Catena+ is only 13 metres (43 feet), including the ThermoFlexX imager! A smaller Catena range 48 x 35” (1200 x 900mm) is planned for the first half of 2021.
Several full Catena+ systems have been inevitably delayed a little by the Covid crisis but remain on course for delivery before the end of 2020. Installations will take place in January 2021 and testimony from customers available after that. In the meantime there is interesting feedback to share from the first beta installation:
One of the beta test sites for Catena-W and Catena-DL was nearby in Roeselare, Belgium. Miller-Graphics is a Brand Management, Repro and Flexo Plate-making company specializing in Flexible Packaging, Paper & Foil, Corrugated and Labels.
Site Manager Stefaan Herman tells us;
“We have a great deal of experience and pride ourselves on keeping pace with technical innovations. Choosing the right equipment is vital to keep our business ahead. We are always interested in ThermoFlexX developments and happy to take the opportunity to be the first customer installation (of the washer and dryer). Of course we’d had the presentations, design goals etc. and knew what to expect. The equipment looks impressive in our modern production facility. Sometimes though, there are unexpected bonuses that can be both important and satisfying. For example we’ve found the Catena-W pin-bar system to be very useful. This avoids the need for punching the plate by using a spiked clamp system. Not only does this save a step, it also means there’s no polymer residue from the punch that can sometimes stick on the plate. Furthermore, the distance required is less so saves us a small amount of plate material. Rather than a drive chain that passes through the solvent, Catena-W uses a leadscrew that’s outside the liquid, this saves a lot of maintenance. For the environment in our plate room we notice that internal covers limit the solvent with almost no smell discernable in the room. The systems are noticeably quieter too. Overall we believe that ThermoFlexX has definitely brought a fresh and valuable approach to our business (flexo plate making).”