Evolution of Thermal Processors

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Evolution of Thermal Processors

Postby FlexoNotBender » Fri Sep 01, 2017 11:42 am

Does anyone have any firsthand knowledge of the current state of thermal processors? From my understanding this is a relatively new technology in flexo. I've heard that the roll out about 10 years ago had some heavy promises but the results never quite hit expectations. Have there been marked improvements? What are the limitations? Plate production speed is obviously a selling factor in using a non solvent processor but beyond that what motivates a prepress producer to integrate or switch to a thermal processing?
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Re: Evolution of Thermal Processors

Postby richflexo » Fri Sep 01, 2017 12:58 pm

I can only speak from recent experience with Dupont FAST. We had a Dupont 4260 TD for the past 6 years and before that a Kodak system. Up until recently we stopped producing FAST because we were able to convince our customers solvent was the way to go. We didn't have a need for fast (2 hour or less) turnaround times so the FAST unit itself just sat collecting dust. As a pre press supplier, here is what we found.

- Great for rush jobs (damaged on press or prepress mishaps)
- Ability to offer wider range of plate products

From a negative point of view:

- Cannot produce 1:1 dot
- Minimum bump is higher than solvent due to "washout"
- Extra consumable
- Must maintain volume (with Dupont) or no rebate. You pay for the unit with your material and you never own it.
- Of all our machines, it broke down most and required lots of maintenance (under contract though)
- Until the EASY plate from Dupont, drape was an issue on DFM, DFR, DFP

From a technical point of view:

- Plate technology is getting better ie, Dupont EASY Plate
- Great for in house label company or wide web
- Smaller footprint than solvent system, no solvent recovery unit required

I think if you are considering thermal for an in house plate department, it is your best option because it takes up less space. And depending on what country you are in and what you are printing, your solvent system would have to be in a different part of your building from where you blow your film or make your paper.

If you are a label company, consider water wash. Asahi and Toyobo make great solutions and is just as fast as thermal units and the quality is considered at par. We have a water wash unit and plates are made in 45 minutes, no swelling of plates like solvent so dry time is 15-20 minutes. However it is for a different type of printing but label companies that I know have water wash units and are quite happy.

Hope that helps.
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Re: Evolution of Thermal Processors

Postby FlexoNotBender » Fri Sep 01, 2017 1:28 pm

It did help, thanks richflexo! Has anyone had any experience with thermal processing beyond the DuPont unit and plates? I believe MacDermid has a LAVA plate and processor and I am seeing Flint has a unit and line of plates just out as well. I'd love to hear from anyone that's had experiences with thermal processors and material from any company.

Also, I've heard speculation that some are using a thermal plate but running it through a traditional solvent processor and getting good results. Anyone heard or done this? Thanks!
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