On last September, FEDEMCO organized a technical conference on flexographic printing on wooden crates in collaboration with the AIDO Institute (Industrial Association of Optics, Colour and Image). This type of technology is already widely used in the sector due to its quality and versatility.
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The conference was attended by over twenty professionals belonging to the sector, in addition to three companies dealing in printing equipment and components (and represented by FEDEMCO): TECNISIS 3000 Técnicas y Sistemas, S.L.U. (representative of INNOVAPAC S.R.L. in Spain), GRABADOS BORONAT HNOS., S.L. and JJ.DISENGRAF, S.L., and the ink manufacturer COLOR INDUSTRIAL, S.A. (HYNSEL).
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Speakers at the conference talked about the rudiments of flexographic technology, where the four-colour process is gaining ground in the sector. They emphasized the importance of the prepress procedure and adapting designs to the technology and substrate, good communication between the packager and manufacturer being an essential requirement.
There was also a detailed discussion of the possible problems concerning quality that may arise and their solutions, especially problems regarding the substrate, inks, stencils and machinery.
Regarding the substrate, it is important that the characteristics of the wooden boards are taken into account: sanding, porosity, colour, etc. Regarding inks, some of the main factors that determine their performance are their formulation, the amount applied, viscosity, temperature, seasonal variations, pH, surface tension, foaming, drying, resistance to light and colour fastness. Regarding stencils, problems mainly occur with the line screen frequency of the ink roller or anilox. As for machinery, there may be problems regarding the pressure and drying systems.
Despite the fact that the rhythm of "just in time" orders that prevail in the fruit and vegetable sector involves very quick changes of brand and very short periods from the prepress procedure to the packaged produce, the experts agree unanimously that the wooden crate sector has exceeded the quality of conventional printing on corrugated and micro-channel cardboard.
However, the conclusions drawn from the conference show that there is still room for improvement in terms of training machinists, planning maintenance, machine testing, correcting the dot gain curve and colour chart, and controlling ink parameters (for example, the viscosity and pH).