From Microscopic to Macro Benefits
Dots that can take different forms, be used to build other shapes and do not overlap are critically important, but also are literally and figuratively a microscopic concern. As Cave admits, real people don’t use loupes or microscopes to look at packaging: “If you can’t see a problem with the eye, you don’t have a problem.”
But there are plenty of other obstacles flexographers face between great dots and great print. Bellissima DMS incorporates technologies targeted at three of the more common ones: bounce, barring and slurring. Cave singles out the anti-bounce feature as what he believes is the most important of the trio. “It’s one of the trickiest things a printer faces,” he says of the issue. “In some cases, you can work around it, or reduce it, by doing things such as staggering a repeat. But when the job size is the width of your press, clearly you can’t!”
Another obstacle facing flexographers—the proliferation of short-run jobs—has found a solution in digital printing. The common dilemma printers then face is at what run length should they move a job from flexo to digital. Bellissima DMS moves the needle back in the direction of flexography by reducing the minimum length of profitable runs with faster makeready, less ink and less waste, less time spent mounting jobs, and a quicker turnaround time between jobs. That is all due to the software’s ability to produce “perfect or near-perfect” flat tints, sharp tinted text and sharp reverse tinted text, allowing a printer to convert jobs with more than one spot color to pure 4-color or 7-color. Spare decks can then be used to apply a special varnish or embellishment. The entire job is printed inline, rather than having to first run on a digital press and then move to flexo to add effects.
Cave says by redefining what “quality” print looks like, “a digital inkjet print will be seen as a poor cousin to the quality that can be achieved with flexo.” But comparing flexo’s quality to digital might be seen as punching down a weight class, which is why he adds gravure to the conversation. When a U.K. brand began using Bellissima DMS to move one of its products from gravure to flexography, Cave purchased samples of both versions. Comparing the two, he believes, “You cannot say Bellissima is worse. At the very least, you have to say it’s comparable and in certain areas (such as image detail and sharpness) it certainly exceeds what was printed before.”
Given the higher cost of gravure printing and the negative environmental effects stemming from the manufacture of the process’ printing cylinders, he believes Bellissima DMS “could mark the end of gravure printing—for sure it will accelerate it.”
“How Did You Do That?”
In retelling its experience with Bellissima DMS, one prepress provider who has used the software for the last two years said the quality of print prepared with it elicits a single, common reaction: “Wow!”
One of its customers sought to convert 32 spot colors to 4-color process, in an effort to increase press uptime. Previous attempts to do so failed, as the brand owner found printed rosette patterns visually objectionable compared to spot color printing. With Bellissima DMS, the spot colors were able to be reproduced to process and appeared smooth and uniform. The customer’s product manager said the result was “the closest thing we have seen to continuous tone printing.”
In another case, the prepress shop printed a characterization/profile for an event. Using the same file, two prints were made: One with conventional screening (output at 200 lpi) and the other with Bellissima DMS. They were printed back to back, using the same plates, same anilox rolls, same stickyback and same inks. “The level of detail, smoothness and print contrast in the Bellissima-screened image is the best I have ever seen,” the tradeshop’s CEO says.
And in a third scenario, the company earned the go-ahead to begin a print trial to move hundreds of SKUs printed on flexible packaging from gravure to flexography, all because a previous demo project which utilized Bellissima DMS made its way to a potential customer.
“In my career, I have been fortunate to see the evolutionary change that direct-to-plate has brought our industry,” the prepress provider’s CEO explains. “It is my opinion that Bellissima will be the disruptive technology that leapfrogs direct-to-plate as the most significant new technology I have experienced thus far.”
Regardless of how many evolutionary changes a flexographer has lived through, the results displayed by Bellissima DMS are head-turning; the software prompted the 30-year industry veteran GM of one of the tradeshop’s OEM partners to ask, point blank: “How did you do that?”
The Real Reward
That level of amazement, Cave says, is the only thing better than winning a Technical Innovation Award. “The best thing about Bellissima is seeing the reaction on someone’s face when they hear about and see it for the first time, or when they win a contract using it, or when it solves a problem for them,” he says.
The transformation from unbeliever to believer, from incredulity to embrace, from “No, it can’t” to “Yes, it can!” is not unlike the first time someone sees a smartphone power on, and then realizes all the things of which that tiny glass-and-aluminum sandwich is capable when software brings it to life. Whether Bellissima DMS is helping a printer print, a brand owner own its brand or a consumer consume, to Cave, that is the real reward.
“At the end of the day, there’s nothing more enjoyable than making someone else happy and making a difference.”