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Image of a flexographic plate and tape on a sleeve

Shop Talk – Flexographic Printing Industry Info to Keep Your Presses Rolling

Craftspeople helping craftspeople.

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You stay on top of your craft by always being willing to learn something new. Find materials below to help you keep up with the ever-changing flexographic printing industry.


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3M Flexographic Printing Experts From Around The World

  • Click the orange dots to learn more about our experts.
Rodrigo Duarte, 3M Brazil

Key Account Executive, Web Processing

Years at 3M: 16

Years in Flexo: 13

"I love the possibility to know many people, improve and increase my contacts, teach and learn with them and mainly, develop new professional friends every year."

Ann Michaud, 3M Corporate Headquarters

Division Scientist, Application Engineering

Years at 3M: 32

Years in Flexo: 25

“The industry works together in a unique way to use technology to drive growth, while also focusing on total process improvements, meaning quality and total process cost.”

Mat Waddell, 3M Corporate Headquarters

Senior Application Engineer

Years at 3M: New to 3M

Years in Flexo: New to Flexo

“Every printer has their own set of best practices and challenges even though they all use flexo tape.”

Omar Arias, 3M Mexico

Adv. Specialist Application Engineer

Years at 3M: 21

Years in Flexo: 25

“In flexography a greater control of the processes, a predictable cost and an increasingly efficient production are required.”

Sergey Novozhilov, 3M Russia

Senior Application Engineer

Years at 3M: 10

Years in Flexo: 6

“I love the uncertain answers in flexo, because it’s a complicated process with a lot of variable parameters.”

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Article

As a global company, 3M has flexographic expertise in countries around the world. We asked some of our expert engineers to talk about the flexographic printing industry and how 3M can help customers thrive as the industry continues to evolve.

  • Helping You Thrive in a Changing Flexo World
    relief map of the world’s continents

    An Evolving Technology

    Flexographic printing is an entirely different world from when it was invented over a century ago. Presses get faster, the color gamut expands and the technology gets smarter. In addition, the demands keep coming: better quality with shorter press runs (more changeovers) and quicker turnaround – all at lower prices. Technology upgrades help, but meeting these goals still requires the expertise and craftsmanship of you and your team, both on the press and in the mounting room.

    You’ve also changed. You’ve been practicing the craft and art of printing, every day, for years. There’s nothing more fulfilling than perfecting your craft and seeing your customer satisfied with the work you produce.

    3M Science Can Give You an Edge

    We have our experts, too. People around the world who understand that flexographic printing involves many different products working together, both on and off the press, to get from a bare substrate to a printed work of art. Our experts are passionate about bringing value beyond products and helping you thrive as the industry continues to evolve.

    One of the challenges our experts enjoy is the sheer variety of possible solutions. As Mat Waddell, Senior Application Engineer at 3M USA, says, “Every printer has their own set of best practices and challenges even though they all use flexo tape.” Sergey Novozhilov, Senior Application Engineer for 3M Russia, agrees: “I love the uncertain answers in flexo because it’s a complicated process with a lot of variable parameters, [so] in each case there are several right answers, not only one.”

    Problem-solving is an immediate need, but we also want to partner with you on educating your teams and helping them learn how everything works together, including products from other suppliers. Omar Arias, Senior Application Engineer with 3M Mexico, emphasizes the importance of “training programs that set guidelines in the industry and that facilitate plant managers with their operational staff training.”

    Partnering Around the Globe

    Russia to Mexico. Canada to Brazil. Germany to the United States. 3M has experts all around the world who appreciate the immense pride that craftspeople in the press and mounting rooms take in their time-honored work. That worldwide reach also helps 3M keep up to date on the latest trends and lead innovation in the flexographic printing industry. Rodrigo Duarte, Key Account Executive for Web Processing with 3M Brazil, says “I love the possibility to know many people, improve and increase my contacts, teach and learn with them and mainly, develop new professional friends every year.” While our experts are focused on their own regions, they also communicate and network with each other. That means when you talk to one of them you’re also taking advantage of what their colleagues around the globe have learned.

    Our Application Engineers don’t just work with customers, they also interact with the makers of other inputs from presses to inks to understand how everything comes together in the printing process. Ann Michaud, Division Scientist in Application Engineering for 3M USA, says “The [flexo] industry works together in a unique way to bring technology to continue to drive growth, while also focusing on total process improvements.” At 3M, we understand that while we need to be experts in flexographic printing, we also need to understand the other components and variables and how they all interact on the press: where 3M science meets your craft.


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Technical Bulletin

  • How to Select a Flexographic Mounting Tape

    Day by day, the quality of flexographic printing continues to improve. We particularly see this as flexible packaging that was previously done on other systems is now printed using flexo. This new level of industry participation is due to technology developments around all the elements involved in this process.

    The possibility of printing using a greater number of colors, gearless press technology, substantial advances at the mounting level, better definition of dot printing by the elaboration of digital photopolymers and high pigmentation inks, increasingly controlled ink load in the cells of the anilox and the possibility of having several tape densities according to the work to be printed all allow a better control of the dot gain and therefore greater consistency as compared with other types of printing.

    Speaking specifically of flexographic mounting tapes, we must clarify that these joining elements not only affix the plates to cylinders or sleeves, but also the adhesive on the plate side presents excellent performance to avoid edge lifting and improve press speeds.

    It is important to clarify that a mounting tape can affect several aspects of flexo printing:
     

    1. Registration
    2. Machine speed
    3. Photopolymer wear
    4. Printed dot size
    5. Pressure adjustment in the machine

    Therefore, it is important to evaluate the following aspects when choosing the right mounting tape:
     

    • Ease of application of the tape on cylinders or sleeves – there are tapes that facilitate mounting, reducing the total time for this operation
    • Elimination of bubbles between the photopolymer plate and the mounting tape – air bubbles between the photopolymer plate and the tape generate a defect during printing that causes machine stops, downtime and waste costs
    • Edge-lift of the photopolymer from cylinders or sleeves – when lifting occurs the photopolymer plate marks the printing substrate, generating lines or print defects; choosing a tape that has good adhesion balance is the best way to eliminate this problem
    • Uniformity in the caliper of the tape – this factor is definitive for printing registration
    • The resilience of the foam tape – a tape that resists compression makes it easy to run jobs at higher speeds while maintaining print quality
    • A complete portfolio of products – different foam densities allow different types of printing with excellent quality, for example solid backgrounds or lines, a combination of printing, process or halftone
    • Chemical and mechanical resistance of the tape to solvents in the ink and to press effects – this helps reduce the possibility of photopolymer lifting
    • The tape must allow the photopolymer plate to be easily removed – this reduces the possibility of damaging the plate
    • The tape must allow the elimination of air bubbles between the plate and the tape even after several days of being stored waiting to go on the press – this reduces reprocessing caused by demounting and remounting due to tapes that have poorer adhesion

    As you can see, the flexographic mounting tapes are fundamental elements in flexographic printing and, like any printing variable, press tests must be carried out to verify product performance. We hope that the characteristics that must be met by the flexo tapes cited above help the people in charge of printing to select the best alternative and thus continue with the main press responsibility of generating quality and consistency at low cost.

    Omar Arias – Adv. Specialist Application Engineer


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Need help finding the right product for your project? Contact us if you need product, technical or application advice or want to collaborate with a 3M technical specialist, or give us a call at 1-800-831-0658.
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