Miraclon’s KODAK FLEXCEL NX Ultra Solution Receives a 2020 FTA Technical Innovation Award

Demon Slaying

Simplifying processor operation to automatically ensure clean, debris-free plates; combined with ensuring environmentally sound disposal of wastewater through simple, inexpensive means, correlates to slaying historic demons associated with water wash flexo plate technology, according to Miraclon’s R&D team.

Enabled by patented KODAK Ultra Clean technology, the FLEXCEL NX Ultra Solution is the first aqueous solution that provides reduced washout times, resulting in longer brush life and cleaner brushes, less wear and tear on machine components, significant reduction in residual polymer debris buildup in the processing environment—all extending the system clean requirement time. In multiple settings, after three years of daily operation, the original brushes are still providing consistent results.

Addressing the actual washout process, Miraclon’s R&D team states the unique KODAK Ultra Clean Technology easily dissolves and suspends photopolymer in water without debris. The FLEXCEL NX Ultra processing agent is preformulated and maintained at a pH level that would be considered “safe” for disposal in most municipal waste streams. The washout solution is automatically mixed—for initial filling—for plate rinsing and for machine cleaning, so the user never needs to measure anything. Minimal operator intervention allows easy loading to the processor to supply needs for multiple shifts. The processor tells you when it needs refilling.

Plate processing KODAK FLEXCEL NX Ultra Solution moves through several phases: exposure, delamination, washout, removal, finishing and final plate.

Elaborating on the process, Miraclon explains that the primary washout solution is maintained in a circulated, temperature-controlled holding tank interconnected to the plate processor. As each plate is processed, the primary washout solution is pumped and distributed through the washout brushes and primarily serves as a lubricant in the removal of unexposed polymer from the plate surface. During the course of the plate processing cycle, the primary washout solution drains from the processor and through a filtration system back to a holding tank for recirculation.

At the final step in each washout cycle, the processed plate receives a final rinse with a solution consisting of fresh processing agent mixed with clean water. This accomplishes two principal objectives: it removes any potential remaining debris from the plate surface and adds replenishment to the primary washout solution, thereby maintaining the working pH, while keeping remaining debris suspended in the solution.

The residual waste stream, resulting from the processing environment, is pumped to an industry standard holding tote. According to Miraclon developers, “Waste contained in the totes can be periodically picked up by a contracted waste hauler via vacuum truck for less than the cost of solvent lost to evaporation when processing traditional plates.” They also note, such residue can be consolidated with other water waste streams.

“Miraclon assures its printer partners that they will meet peak volume plate making demands because the processor is designed for high uptime, high productivity and easy maintenance with minimal cleaning.”

Pressroom Perspectives

Attracted by the pledge of environmental sustainability and noticeably enhanced production windows, FTA printer members are going on record and testifying to their experience.

One specialty application printer proclaims, “Today, 100 percent of our plates are produced using two NX Ultra systems. We can get plates much faster and we’ve accomplished our Green Initiative objectives.

“Press operators saw the difference in dots and how they printed and how vignettes and fine screens looked so much cleaner. Essentially, it made jobs much easier,” he continues. “We have the benefits of time savings, increased productivity and an environmental impact that’s improved with going away from solvent.”

Elsewhere in the country, a prominent, highly successful wine label converter attests to seeing “amazing results—right off the bat.” He comments, “We run full production volumes of plates without excessive maintenance—changeout of washout water, etc.”

“Our initial transition to NX was made strictly for quality,” he reports. “This allows us to produce essentially anything we want on press—hold full tonal range and achieve great density. It’s a cleaner, faster way to make plates!”