HYBRID Intelligent Flexo: A 2021 FTA Technical Innovation Award Winner
The challenge for any premedia trade shop or printer/converter is to print as well as it can, cost-effectively. One of the most important determinants is producing high-quality plates as easily as possible. Many printers have done so by investing hundreds of thousands of dollars in new flexographic plate imagers, which can reproduce graphics at extremely high resolutions. But many—particularly small operations with limited resources—ask:
- Is there a way to print similar results without investing so much money?
- Could someone improve printing, even at lower resolutions?
While some developers offer pieces in environments with diverse equipment and software, or proprietary applications, specifically for certain hardware or software, HYBRID Intelligent Flexo is truly ubiquitous.
Intelligent Flexo, a 2021 FTA Technical Innovation Award winner in the prepress software category, is a module of HYBRID CLOUDFLOW, a production workflow suite for file processing, asset management, soft proofing and workflow automation. It’s also a sister product of HYBRID CLOUDFLOW Patchplanner—a 2020 FTA Technical Innovation Award winner—a production tool that separates printed elements in a design file, and consolidates and optimizes them to minimize plate material use.
Intelligent Flexo boosts flexographic print quality from existing equipment—and software systems. Basically, its technology mimics digital dot etching, helping to disrupt ink viscosity and utilize more fluid to reproduce graphics better.
It is a post-RIP solution; not one that attempts to resolve screening from within the application. Thus, it works on a non-proprietary fashion and fits into any environment. HYBRID Intelligent Flexo can accept and output any screened file, from TIF to Len, and is resolution independent.
Every trade shop and printer works within a different environment and with different print setups—from inks to substrates to resolutions to plates to anilox, etc. Users can develop and import their own special patterns and area parameters into Intelligent Flexo, so that it is truly specific—and special—to each printer. No matter if someone is creating high-definition plates, or using other plate imaging technology, HYBRID Intelligent Flexo improves the quality of the plate.
HYBRID Software got the original idea for the module from a customer who was spending an inordinate amount of time manually dot etching plates to make jobs as clean as possible. The customer had an upcoming challenge: its in-house expert, responsible for this painstaking work, was planning retirement. There would be no one with the expertise to replace him. HYBRID Software—and the customer—wondered if there may be a way to replicate the process digitally, and automatically, with mathematic algorithms. HYBRID Software determined what their customer was doing manually and applied mathematical algorithms to 1-bit screened imager files.
Intelligent Flexo identifies different zones with diverse graphical objects in the artwork that warrant intervention. These zones are isolated, so specific adaptations are applied to generate effects to help overcome issues that are inherent with the flexographic process. Some screened effects include:
- Standard surface screening to improve ink transfer and boost density
- Extra color, density and smoother flat paints without pinholes when using high-volume anilox rollers
- Enhanced color quality on uncoated stock to achieve similar results as coated
- Improved ink transfer and offer smoother flat ink areas
Line art effects include:
- Reduced unwanted border effects around small type
- An anti-edge void to reduce border effects at the sides of graphics elements perpendicular to the printing direction, mostly to improve bar codes
Users can also define or override zones where they prefer exclusion from patterning effects.
In an automatic, intelligent way requiring very little skilled assistance, Intelligent Flexo improves the quality and stability of flexographic printing, without a considerable investment—or change of prepress workflow or equipment. The best part is that it can achieve improved results at normal resolutions—which means that plates can be imaged faster.
HYBRID Intelligent Flexo works with screens from any existing third-party RIP that can generate TIFF output. The technology fits into any plate processing environment. Results are resolution independent. There are noticeable quality implications for images at lower resolutions, as well as for high-definition plates.
High-quality flexographic plates are more easily achievable while protecting existing equipment investments—a cost-effective way of competing in the quality game.