Esko and Asahi Photoproducts unveil CrystalCleanConnect

A sustainable prepress solution for flexo packaging at virtual.drupa


Esko and flexo photopolymer plate developer Asahi Photoproducts unveiled the CrystalCleanConnect plate-making solution on 20 April during virtual.drupa. This automation innovation brings together key hardware and software technologies from both organizations to deliver integrated prepress solutions for the packaging sector.

In this new integrated imaging and processing solution, Asahi’s AWP CleanPrint processor works with the Esko CDI Crystal 4835 and CDI Crystal 4260 XPS imagers. CrystalCleanConnect offers several breakthrough advantages from design to print as it reduces the flexo platemaking process from 12 steps to 1. It delivers a 90% reduction in dedicated operator time. And it is claimed to reduce ink usage by 20% and while achieving an average 25% increase in press overall equipment efficiency (OEE).

Esko and Asahi collaborated for high-quality printing

Esko and Asahi announced their collaboration last year, intending to deliver a cleaner, more environmentally balanced operation that simplifies the print form-making process, improves safety, and creates higher print quality consistency.

Pascal Thomas from Esko said that CrystalCleanConnect facilitates the availability of a print from design to print by offering a fully automated process, “Resulting in the significantly reduced total cost of ownership and thus improving efficiency and profitability.”

Dieter Niederstadt of Asahi Photoproducts said that AWP CleanPrint boosts print quality and efficiency thanks to less plate cleaning and faster makeready due to better plate registration.

The first CrystalCleanConnect has been installed at Nabe Process Corporation in Japan, with the installation completed just a few weeks ago. Shinya Nabesaka, president of Nabe Process Corporation, says, “We are finding great value in joining this CrystalCleanConnect project with Esko and Asahi Kasei, verifying that this cutting-edge concept of sustainable full automation system will be the next standard in flexo plate making process.”

Editor’s view

Our editor, Naresh Khanna, comments, “It seems that flexography which may have been lagging in Japan, behind other long favored processes for both label and flexible packaging, may get another boost from the partnership between Esko and Asahi. Speed of processing flexo plates and increased efficiency in makeready as well quality may move this market. Full automation and sustainability in plate processing, less ink, and less wastage in makeready are also likely to be good selling propositions in Japan.

“Asahi may need to raise its profile in India, a market where Esko is very successful but which already favors flexo for label printing. However, in flexible packaging, where the Indian market is gravure dominated, flexo needs to show its robustness in quality and handling of plates and ease of processing to make further inroads. Suppose ink savings of 20% can be proved in actual production in Indian conditions without sacrificing press efficiency (25% OEE is claimed). In that case, this solution will be looked at by the leading wide-web CI flexo press owning establishments.”

2023 promises an interesting ride for print in India

Indian Printer and Publisher founded in 1979 is the oldest B2B trade publication in the multi-platform and multi-channel IPPGroup. While the print and packaging industries have been resilient in the past 33 months since the pandemic lockdown of 25 March 2020, the commercial printing and newspaper industries have yet to recover their pre-Covid trajectory.

The fragmented commercial printing industry faces substantial challenges as does the newspaper industry. While digital short-run printing and the signage industry seem to be recovering a bit faster, ultimately their growth will also be moderated by the progress of the overall economy. On the other hand book printing exports are doing well but they too face several supply-chain and logistics challenges.

The price of publication papers including newsprint has been high in the past year while availability is diminished by several mills shutting down their publication paper and newsprint machines in the past four years. Indian paper mills are also exporting many types of paper and have raised prices for Indian printers. To some extent, this has helped in the recovery of the digital printing industry with its on-demand short-run and low-wastage paradigm.

Ultimately digital print and other digital channels will help print grow in a country where we are still far behind in our paper and print consumption and where digital is a leapfrog technology that will only increase the demand for print in the foreseeable future. For instance, there is no alternative to a rise in textbook consumption but this segment will only reach normality in the next financial year beginning on 1 April 2023.

Thus while the new normal is a moving target and many commercial printers look to diversification, we believe that our target audiences may shift and change. Like them, we will also have to adapt with agility to keep up with their business and technical information needs.

Our 2023 media kit is ready, and it is the right time to take stock and reconnect with your potential markets and customers. Print is the glue for the growth of liberal education, new industry, and an emerging economy. We seek your participation in what promises to be an interesting ride.

– Naresh Khanna

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