Repro Flex and African Flexographic Solutions push the boundaries

18 March 2019

Durban’s Repro Flex operation now boasts a state-of-the-art platemaking facility, including additional equipment and software investments to cater for higher volumes, quicker turnaround times and larger tender jobs.

Words: NICI SOLOMON. Photography: DEAN DEMOS.

  • REPRO FLEX directors Jamie O’Neill and Craig Olliver are thrilled that the dual-head Xeikon ThermoFlexX 80-D digital imager’s 4800 and 5080 dpi resolution pushes quality standards to a higher level through smaller screen dots, sharper text and line-work, full image contrast and greater production stability.
  • Controller by a 360° rotating display the Xeikon ThermoFlexX 80-D is accessible from any side. Appreciated by operatorLucky Khumalo, are its intuitive interface that shows the job list with all parameters and a preview of the imaging plate, and allows him to monitor the imaging progress from anywhere in the room.

REPRO FLEX, together with African Flexographic Solutions, cover all the bases for the modern day brand owner. The combined teams’ expertise spans design, origination, repro, retouching, proofing, platemaking and short– to medium-run digital sample packaging.

The company’s recent expansion project included buying an adjacent factory and laying a slab to create a controlled environment for producing the highest quality flexographic plates for its customers. This project has doubled the facility’s footprint and enabled the DTP division to expand, thus facilitating the increased number of DTP operators. The additional space has also provided a larger area for proofing and quality control.

The upper level of the new factory, above the plateroom, has created room for African Flexographic Solutions (AFS), managed by Jamie’s sister, Callie O’Neill, to install a refurbished HP Indigo. This high-speed, large volume digital printer will enable improved quality finishing and allow the team to achieve a higher level of colour accuracy.

Additionally, having all the equipment and operations arranged under one roof has improved efficiency levels.

The expansion project began in November 2017 and was completed in May 2018, and was accompanied by investments in a first for the Southern Hemisphere, a dual-head Xeikon ThermoFlexX 80-D digital imager, a Vianord Evo5 E exposure unit and a locally-built drier to accommodate the increase in plate size.

As previously reported (PPM February 2014), other equipment in this custom-built platemaking facility include a DuPont Cyrel Fast 1000TD thermal flexographic plate processor and an accompanying exposure and finishing unit for the production of urgent replacement plates that can be produced in under an hour.

According to directors, Craig Oliver and Jamie O’Neill, Repro Flex had reached a point where investment was needed in a larger digital imager with significantly faster throughput.

‘The Xeikon ThermoFlexX 80-D meets these criteria plus a great deal more with a 1 270mm x 2 032mm plate size capability, 1 800m²/month plate capacity at 4 800dpi (double that of the existing imager). ‘It also allows us to output at resolutions of up to 5 080dpi and produce the finest detailed work,’ Craig Oliver states.

The second investment was in a Vianord Evo5 E exposure unit featuring high-strength UV-lamps that enable fast exposure times and excellent control of flat-top dot plate technology. It also includes an integrated chiller unit and upgraded air cooling system to provide effective temperature control. The unit’s software memorises and stores up to 24 process conditions for different plates being used.

Extended colour gamut efficiencies

Repro Flex has invested in Kodak Spotless software to take advantage of moves towards ECG (extended colour gamut) printing, enabling the incorporation of multiple spot colours, rather than being limited by a conventional spot colour production process, and expanding the creative options available to meet brand owners’ objectives of on-shelf differentiation at competitive prices.

The software also transforms a library of spot colours into digital libraries of process colour recipes. ‘The flexible ink combination controls allow us to tailor how the software chooses recipes for four-, five-, six- and seven-colour process printing based on specific print conditions – typically the ink set, press, and substrate,’ Jamie O’Neill remarks. ‘With one ink set, converters can provide a wide colour gamut; jobs don’t require multiple runs through the press, or the use of extended multi-unit presses. This, in turn, enables a combination of jobs that traditionally required separate print runs, making wash-ups between jobs unnecessary and shortening turnaround times.’

Packaging sampling with AFS

African Flexographic Solutions (AFS) – which specialises in short and medium-run sample packaging production on flexible films (bags), shrink sleeves (the team’s involved in both the print and distortion process), labels and boxes – provides Repro Flex with a specialised niche and sets it apart from other repro houses. The trio’s passion and combined understanding of reprographic design, brand marketing and platemaking has resulted in an innovative packaging design and mock-up facility complemented by a world-class platemaking service.

Sample packaging provided by AFS is used in the design phase of print and television commercials and forms an integral part of product launch campaigns. According to Callie, AFS is the preferred supplier to FMCG companies and packaging design agencies in South Africa and has produced samples for the UK, Asian and broader African markets. The DTP and production team have doubled in the past year. The ‘new’ HP Indigo will prove to be a valuable addition to the current complement of machinery, which includes four UV printers and two solvent printers.

As Callie O’Neill points out, African customers like to talk to one supplier and get from A to B in the shortest time. ‘That’s why our combined, complementary skills and expertise for traversing the packaging lifecycle and our comprehensive understanding of converters’ machinery and processes enables us to form the link between a pretty design, the brand owner’s expectations and what’s commercially feasible,’ she explains.