AS part of its move to digital plate making, specialist packaging prepress supplier White & Gillespie has just installed a new processing line from BASF, represented in Australia by Agfa Gevaert.
New BASF nyloflex ACE digital plates will complement the acquisition of the large format, nyloflex FV processor, which includes an exposure unit, washout system, dryer and light after-treatment unit.
This is another part of White & Gillespie’s comprehensive technology overhaul. As reported in Packaging magazine in May, the company has also recently installed the first Creo Thermoflex Wide II flexo direct-to-plate system in Australia.
Commenting on the latest development, CEO Geoff White said: “The market dictates what we do because we’re a service organisation, and it decided emphatically it wanted digital plates.
“Although we were able to offer very good product with our analogue plates, the market was telling us they wanted digital.”
This, he said, was because of the quality improvements associated with the new technology. White & Gillespie saw the move to digital in terms of increased quality, cost savings, and an opportunity for business growth.
“Logically that will happen because we will supply analogue and digital plates. We expect to convert a number of customers over to digital where it’s more suitable, but we also see growth in the market place and hope to gain new digital clients.”
According to White, the company chose BASF’s processor because it was the best available. “It is the Rolls Royce of the equipment,” he said. “We could have spent significantly less and got a solution that did the job, but we wanted something that would last. We looked on it as a long-term investment.”
To Noel Clacher, Agfa’s packaging consumables product manager, BASF’s advantages are clear: They include a user-friendly, programmable exposure unit which provides unhindered access through 360 degrees because of its lift-top design; temperature stability in the six-drawer dryer unit which eliminates ‘hotspots’ that affect plate output quality; the light finisher which can be programmed for different plate characteristics; and the washout unit which provides lower solvent usage.
“All washouts use solvent to get rid of unwanted plate polymer. This solvent is re-used but as more polymer dissolves, it stops working and you have to replace it,” he said.
With older technologies, the operator decided when to change the solvent, introducing a variable into the system. Newer equipment measured plate length to determine how much fresh solvent was added to the system but, said Clacher, plate width or thickness was not considered.
“The BASF system accounts for all factors. It doesn’t rely on length or width of the plate. It measures the actual amount of polymer in the solvent and makes adjustments based on this, giving more consistent plate quality.”
As a long-term customer of both Agfa and BASF, White & Gillespie has been using BASF nyloflex plates, particularly the FAR II range and the Gold A 116 coating plate. With the move to digital, it will add the new nyloflex ACE plate to their range.
“These new digital plates have improved ability to hold and maintain tonal range, particularly in highlights; very good stability on press; and exceptionally good ink transfer, especially in solids,” said Clacher. “The quality improvements are particularly pronounced in finer work, such as films printed for biscuit wrappers, where realistic graphics are required.”