Flexographic prepress trade shop Pacificolor says it has increased production efficiency and improved its sustainability performance after upgrading a plate exposure system from fluorescent exposure to LED technology, through a beta test of Miraclon’s Shine LED Lamp Kit.

This product is described as a simple, low-cost route to the multiple benefits of LED exposure. It consists of new LED UVA lamps, prewired bracket kit for easy retrofitting, and installation guidelines on how to retrofit an existing fluorescent exposure frame using a qualified electrician. Miraclon says it is compatible with a wide range of third-party exposure frames. It is available commercially now, following the conclusion of the beta test with Pacificolor.

Nick Brunk, Pacificolor’s chief revenue officer said, ‘We’re experiencing faster, more consistent plate exposure times and reduced maintenance. These add up to greatly enhanced productivity in the plate room across the group for a fraction of the cost of alternative routes into LED. Importantly, from the sustainability perspective, it’s all achieved by upcycling’ our existing equipment.’

The beta test began in August 2023, allowing Pacificolor to reinforce its belief that fluorescent technology was being overtaken by LED. ‘Beta testing gave us the opportunity to confirm our instincts and prove the benefits of LED. Routine measurement of UV output showed no fluctuation in the power the LEDs were putting out,’ said Mr Brunk.

At the heart of the issue is consistency: that fluorescent tube exposure technology degrades over time and at different rates, resulting in a risk of inconsistent exposure. Mr Brunk said Pacificolor was having to spend a lot of time on process control and maintenance to avoid poorly exposed plates and remakes. ‘Between flexible packaging and corrugated, we’re exposing a variety of different reliefs, some deeper than others. Getting consistent fluorescent exposures means following a stringent process to make sure you’re getting the power from the bulbs that you need. This can mean significant downtime.’

LED lamps are claimed to offer significant advantages over fluorescent tubes. They last approximately 5,000 hours compared to a fluorescent tubes’ 800 hours, while also not degrading. LED technology is also said to increase productivity: exposures are both consistent and up to 20% faster, because the lamps warm up and cool down instantly. Other benefits are said to include reduced waste, lower power consumption and lower disposal costs, making it a more sustainable method.