World's first engraving-based flexographic plate system FLENEX DLE System to begin operation at Kinyosha (Japan)

Advantageous for versatile and short-run soft packaging
In-house plate-making ensures thorough quality control

January 5, 2015

FUJIFILM Corporation engraving-based flexographic plate system FLENEX DLE System, first launched worldwide in October, has recently been installed and started operation at the Oguchi Plant (2-134, Kamioguchi, Oguchi, Niwa-gun, Aichi) of Kinyosha Printing Co., Ltd. (President: Ken Asano, hereinafter Kinyosha). The plant is a new production site established within the Oguchi Plant of Kinyosha's partner Daiwa Gravure Co., Ltd. (President: Akira Gotoh, hereinafter Daiwa Gravure). It is run jointly by the two companies, with flexographic plate-making equipment installed by Kinyosha and flexographic presses, laminators and other equipment installed by Daiwa Gravure. The plant mainly handles soft packaging printing for food products. Plates output with the FLENEX DLE System are also supplied to Kinyosha's other plants handling flexographic printing.

With a 90-year history dating back to its foundation in 1926, Kinyosha boasts the top share in package printing for the entertainment industry, in areas such as music, videos and gaming software. In the past, the company had mainly used offset printing. Three years ago however, Kinyosha adopted water-based flexo printing, and has since been working to expand the scope of its business. In addition to its head office in Ota-ku, Tokyo, Kinyosha has a production system at its disposal that is composed of four plants: the Gotemba Plant in Kanagawa prefecture (offset printing); the Oyama Plant in Tochigi prefecture (flexographic printing/run jointly with Toho Packaging); the Utsunomiya Plant (flexographic printing/run jointly with Kosaido); and the recently opened Oguchi Plant.

Daiwa Gravure is a comprehensive manufacturer that works on packages in a wide range of fields, from food products to cosmetics and pharmaceuticals. Based in Nagoya, the company has production sites in the Minami-Alps (Nagano prefecture), Oguchi (Aichi prefecture) and Inuyama (also in Aichi prefecture). In addition, production systems covering the entire process from planning and design to plate-making, printing, processing and packaging, Daiwa Gravure also has an R&D department on new materials and original packaging at its disposal. In April 2012, Daiwa Gravure installed the first unit of package printing fine-jet proofer GP-PRIMOJET Basic at its plant in Inuyama.

The two companies have concluded an alliance in autumn last year, and have been working together on their flexographic printing business. Among other efforts, Kinyosha's operators, in part for technical training purposes, have engaged in the operation of flexographic presses and laminators at the Oguchi Plant. Now, following Kinyosha's installation of the FLENEX DLE System, the Oguchi Plant has officially begun to serve as Kinyosha's flexographic plate-making and printing site.

On November 12, Kinyosha, Daiwa Gravure and FUJIFILM held a joint press conference. On this occasion, Kinyosha's President Asano commented as follows on why the company had installed the FLENEX DLE System.

“Since flexographic printing employs anilox rollers, it does not allow on-press ink adjustments. This means that printing quality depends on ink and plates, and therefore we opted to make our plates in-house. At Kinyosha, we only have three years of experience with flexographic printing, and intend to accumulate more extensive know-how. When the FLENEX DLE System was launched under these circumstances, we were quick to decide in favor of its installation. Among other things, we felt safe working on flexographic printing with Fujifilm, as they have already supported us for many years in the offset area. Out of Kinyosha's plants handling flexographic printing, the Oguchi Plant handles the largest number of products, and production focuses on short-runs with diverse items. Therefore, I believe that it offers the optimal environment to acquire know-how on flexographic plate making.”

Morio Kunizaki, General Manager of Kinyosha's Flexible Packaging Business Division, greatly values the advantages of the FLENEX DLE System compared with conventional development processing plates which he lists as follows: 1) reduced errors; 2) task standardization; 3) reduced worker occupancy time (that is, increased worker ability to perform other tasks during engraving); 4) freedom from development waste liquid processing; 5) space-saving; 6) reduced man-hours for maintenance; 7) outstanding halftone dot quality from direct engraving; and 8) cleaner working environment. On top of this, General Manager Kunizaki commented as follows on strategies employing the system: “We intend to proactively approach markets in which the unique advantages of water-based flexographic printing can be best put to use. For example, we are engaged in R&D on new merchandise to find out the sort of added value that we can offer by employing elastic materials, thin paper/films, etc. The Oguchi plant, where we have installed the FLENEX DLE System, will serve as the core site for these initiatives.”

One example of soft packaging with photographic portraits realized with flexographic printing is the packaging of Team Syachihoko Stick Snacks - snacks containing high definition pictures of members of Nagoya's idol group Team Syachihoko. The members' original photo cards, enclosed with the snacks, are created by Kinyosha at its Gotenba plant with offset printing. This product also reflects the strengths of Kinyosha - a company with close ties to the entertainment industry, and having facilities at its disposal for both offset and flexographic printing.

With regard to Kinyosha's plans for the future, President Asano expressed his wish for the company to keep on learning, and eventually become known as the leading company in flexographic printing. He also set a specific target: “In future years, we intend to boost the sales ratio of flexographic printing to about 50% of the total, and to surpass 10 billion yen in combination with offset printing.” Daiwa Gravure's President Gotoh discussed the significance of the alliance: “In the future, I believe that distribution companies and other clients will require a shift to water-based package printing, and for us, it will be important to develop a system capable of handling such requests. We have entered into our partnership with Kinyosha with an eye for creating the necessary facility environment for water-based flexographic printing while limiting investment risks.” He then added: “At both our companies, we understand the respective advantages of flexographic printing and gravure printing, and hope to leverage these in our businesses.”

FUJIFILM will expand the sales of the FLENEX series at a global level, and contribute to improving the quality and productivity of flexographic printing. At the same time, we will further enrich our lineup of total packaging solutions, and use water-based flexographic printing to provide reliable support for package printing that is easy on both people and the environment.

  • FLENEX DLE System

A DLE-type flexographic plate system that employs direct laser engraving on the plates; it consists of flexographic plates material and a direct laser engraver. There are two types of plates: FD-H and FD-S. FD-H is used to reproduce photographs and gradations, while FD-S is suited to reproducing characters and drawings. One of the major distinguishing features of engraver FLENEX DLE Setter DL-50 is that it combines extremely sharp drawing quality with high productivity at maximum 0.8 m²/hour. The ability of performing engraving while the plate is attached to the sleeve also makes work significantly more efficient. DLE-type processes are extremely simple, allowing plate-making simply through laser engraving and water washing. With few processes, DLE facilitates consistent quality of the plates produced, and also offers excellent halftone dot reproducibility.