Very promising, advanced processes are the future of prepress! Everyone is building companies and working to advance production practices, one step at a time.
What they have implemented has enhanced the quality of what they do, while saving time and money. As everyone is busy implementing cutting-edge technologies, for a moment, we may just forget about the challenges and processes that the majority of the industry—and FLEXO Magazine readers—face every day.
This article focuses on a company, like so many others, that does exceptional work as it methodically takes its own path toward Industry 4.0 and builds for the future: FTA member Fusion Flexo LLC—one of the premier flexographic printing plate suppliers in the Midwest—led by President and CEO Brian Anderson and located in Plainwell, MI, produces more than 5,000 projects each year.
Fusion Flexo’s product offerings include digital and analog photopolymer printing plates, magnesium engravings, film, as well as full prepress services and consulting. The company has enjoyed rapid growth by expanding its current customer base and venturing into new markets. It just so happens that it purchased the 500th seat of the HYBRID Software PACKZ Native PDF editor.
Since it’s a trade shop, most customers are printers. We will talk in this article about a job that was printed by fellow FTA member Buckeye Packaging, an enterprise launched by Ford C. Davis that has grown to include more than 100 employees in a modern factory in Alliance, OH, and produces a wide variety of flexible packaging.
Recently, Buckeye Packaging received a job for disposable face mask packaging and delivered it to Fusion Flexo. The job had the typical combination of spot and process colors, small type and thin linework, tight registration—along with UPC codes to create. While there were five SKUs, we will focus on one of them, as we walk through the job—from press profile, to job receipt and assessment; on to art and line work evaluation, approval, step and repeat; and then, we’ll offer comment on added intelligence before finishing things off.
Fusion Flexo optimizes, fingerprints and color manages many customers’ presses before it even starts producing plates for live jobs. That involves identifying significant print variables—determining what anilox rollers, mounting tapes, inks and plate type best suit the printer’s operating conditions. Prepress service team members help increase predictability, consistency, and efficiency using Flexographic Image Reproduction Specifications & Tolerances (FIRST) 4.0 methodology. Using fingerprinting data, they generate a dot gain curve that is applied to all the plates for that press.
With this information, Fusion Flexo is able to characterize the press, delivering proofs that will match every time. This process involves printing an IT8 chart to capture the full gamut of each press. The color data from the IT8 is converted to an ICC profile, which is applied to color-managed proofs.
Fusion Flexo’s jobs are received in many different ways, through FTP, email, Dropbox, WeTransfer—almost every service imaginable. Sometimes, files come directly from the printer’s clients, and some come from ad agencies.
“Most of our clients print for small and large brands and everything in between,” notes Brad Boyd, Fusion Flexo’s VP of technology. “Typically, larger files are sent using a link that points to Dropbox or the customer’s own internal server. Most larger agencies operate proofing portals that allow us to review and comment about necessary changes that need to be implemented before final art is sent. This gives clients the best chance for a successful pressrun.”
As Boyd recalls, Buckeye sent a link to this job—a PDF and specification sheet to pre-quote the job—through Dropbox.