Esko, Asahi Photoproducts develop CrystalCleanConnect, a fully automated flexo platemaking line, from imaging, exposure to plate production, reducing number of steps in process from 12 to just one; product merges key hardware, software from both companies

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August 3, 2022 (press release) –

Esko and Asahi Photoproducts have announced that CrystalCleanConnect, the fully automated flexo platemaking line developed in partnership between the two companies, is now widely available following a successful first year since it was unveiled at drupa.

“We have successfully installed the system at a number of key customers since we premiered this innovative technology at the 2021 virtual.drupa event,” said Pascal Thomas, Director of Flexo Business with Esko. “We’re delighted that those customers have already reported huge success, enjoying the benefits and value delivered by the system. Now that the various lockdown restrictions and logistics issues have eased, we are excited to have made the solution commercially available to our entire global customer base.”

Esko, the global developer of integrated software and hardware solutions for the packaging and labels markets, collaborated with Asahi Photoproducts, a pioneer in flexographic photopolymer plate development, on the innovative flexo platemaking solution.

“CrystalCleanConnect fully automates the entire platemaking process, from imaging and exposure through to plate production, reducing the number of steps in the flexo platemaking process from 12 to just one,” said Pascal. “This equates to a reduction from 36 minutes per plate in platemaking and plate cutting to just 2.5 minutes of operator time to complete all processing steps.

“CrystalCleanConnect brings together key hardware and software technologies from both companies to deliver a number of breakthrough advantages from design to print,” he said. “It delivers a cleaner, faster operation that simplifies the flexo platemaking process, improves safety and boosts print quality consistency,” he said.

Major Japanese printing company, Nabe Process Co., Ltd., became the first in the world to integrate CrystalCleanConnect into its platemaking operation shortly after the technology was introduced at drupa. Mr. Nabesaka, Chief Executive Officer of Nabe Process Co., commented: “CrystalCleanConnect has added to our overall quality and productivity, getting plates to press much faster, with less operator engagement time and with less opportunity for error,” he said.

Mr. Nabesaka said the solution was used to successfully test Asahi’s AWP™ CleanPrint water-washable flexographic plates against conventional solvent-based plates, to measure differences in quality and productivity between the two. “Based on these results, we are converting all of our flexographic plates to Asahi AWP™ water-washable CleanPrint plates, and we know our customers will be even more delighted than ever with the quality they receive from us,” he said.

It was also recently announced that leading label manufacturer Shanghai Hengze Printing Company is in the process of installing a brand-new CrystalCleanConnect flexographic platemaking line. The addition of the solution, together with a switch to Asahi AWP™-DEW water-washable plates that are optimized for use with CrystalCleanConnect, will take the company’s productivity, efficiency and sustainability to the next level, positioning it even more favorably in the highly competitive Chinese market.

“When we learned about the added value CrystalCleanConnect could bring to our operation, we could hardly wait to get started,” said Mr. Li Xiaocheng, founder of Hengze. “We are also very pleased to be an early adopter of this unique, highly productive and innovative solution.”

Pascal Thomas explained that with CrystalCleanConnect, the significant operational benefits are complemented by a reduction in ink use and best-in-class environmental footprint. “With the removal of so many process steps, there’s an immediate 90% reduction in required operator time, which not only eliminates the potential for human error but also delivers immediate efficiency gains,” he said. “Quality is assured through Asahi and Esko technologies working in complete harmony, and the combination of improved efficiency and quality delivers an average increase of 25% in press OEE.”

Dieter Niederstadt, Technical Marketing Manager for Asahi Photoproducts said: “Flexo needs to simplify processes while improving quality, consistency and profitability. In doing so, flexo can create new business opportunities and positively transform into a printing technology in balance with the environment.

“This breakthrough innovation is different in many ways to other solutions on the market,” Dieter said. “It is not just an assembly of available platemaking processes delivered inline, but rather a holistic approach to connecting technologies, up and downstream of the prepress value chain, using an intelligent automation hub as the backbone and heart of the solution. CrystalCleanConnect is truly pushing boundaries to the current scope of plate automation delivering a mount-ready plate as well as being the first automated production solution without the need for VOC-based washout solvents in the platemaking process.”

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