When it comes to producing a corrugated box, sometimes only a tiny area is printed, even if the box and plates are large. For many years, this has been a manual task created in-house with standard operating procedures (SOPs) or other late-stage software offerings.
Hybrid Software’s CLOUDFLOW Patchplanner, a web-based production tool particularly for corrugated plates, makes the job more flexible and much easier. It utilizes a pure PDF workflow in a browser-based application that separates printed elements in the design file, and consolidates and optimizes them, to take up the least amount of image space, minimizing material use.
This inventive technology has earned Hybrid Software a 2020 FTA Technical Innovation Award in the Prepress – Graphics category.
“CLOUDFLOW Patchplanner addresses the implementation of technology and innovative use of it in one product. It brings technology and innovation to the corrugated plate business, which really needed it. The market segment is growing on turnaround time as well as quality and flexibility,” says Michael Agness, executive vice president of Americas at Hybrid Software.
Photos courtesy of Hybrid Software.
Origin & Creation
The idea for CLOUDFLOW Patchplanner originated during a meeting a few years ago between Hybrid Software and a company that develops flexo plate mounters. That company needed someone to take its new file format to help write graphic coordinates. Hybrid Software determined that what was really needed was a new product for this application.
“After our initial introduction of Patchplanner 1.0, we realized we missed the mark on productivity to prepress, but delivered the accuracy of mounting. We quickly began to develop Patchplanner 2.0. We went from nothing to the first version in six months—and then the second version within nine months!” Agness exclaims.
Because corrugated plate making processes vary considerably from one facility to the next, this presented a difficulty for Hybrid Software when trying to standardize a process.
“These companies take great pride in what they know and have done. Getting users to change and trust the process was one of our challenges,” Agness admits. “Corrugated plate makers, in many cases, are satisfied with what they are doing and have not invested in new mounting technologies for many years. Some of the mounting units still in operation were installed in the 1960s! How do you help make a facility operate better with something built more than 50 years earlier?”
Hybrid Software resolved the issue by creating a system that was flexible enough to work with the most recent automatic plate mounters, but that still made older plate mounters more efficient.
In addition to the requirement of a complete PDF workflow and HTML5 web development for distributed users worldwide, CLOUDFLOW Patchplanner also required:
- The ability to develop effective algorithms for plate optimization
- The ability to understand plate behavior from distortion around the cylinder
- The ability to utilize PDF, JDF and XML to receive job specifications and return them to MIS systems
- The knowledge of a wide range of cutting files and equipment
- The knowledge of automatic motorized flexo plate mounting (MOM) XML, and flat/mirror mounting
- The knowledge of different circumstances when automatic plate optimization may require a manual interface to make value judgements about plate setups.
Hybrid Software says a number of other internal and customer requirements were built into CLOUDFLOW Patchplanner. For example, when errors occurred before, they were caught when it was too late in the mounting/proofing department. CLOUDFLOW Patchplanner reduces prepress errors because manual steps originally done in Adobe Illustrator are eliminated.