CrystalCleanConnect, the automated platemaking system developed by Asahi Photoproducts, Esko and Kongsberg, has been installed by German label converter All4Labels Hamburg.

The system at All4Labels Hamburg was installed late in 2023, replacing a manual platemaking system. According to Mirco Wilke, head of prepress for flexo printing at the site, CrystalCleanConnect has solved the ‘errors and scheduling problems’ that were caused by the previous system, and which he says were stunting the company’s future development, through lack of automation and connectivity.

With CrystalCleanConnect, the company says it can now connect its workflow systems and automate the process, which helps to minimise hands-on work for operators.

Mr Wilke cited flexibility and quality as the key demands from All4Labels Hamburg’s customers, and said the company needed to be flexible in its print production and time-to-market, maintaining quality, while remaining sustainable.

CrystalCleanConnect is a joint development between Asahi, Esko and Kongsberg, bringing together technologies that fully automate the entire platemaking process, from imaging and exposure through to plate cutting, and reducing the number of steps in the flexo platemaking process from 12 to just one. It’s claimed that it delivers a 90% reduction in dedicated operator time, an average 25% increase in press overall equipment effectiveness (OEE), and a 20% reduction in ink usage.

Dieter Niederstadt, technical marketing manager at Asahi Photoproducts, highlighted the reduced operator time with the new system. Using an example of a standard platemaking machine with two operators that can normally produce 24 plates in an eight-hour shift, he said that with the CrystalCleanConnect, the same number of plates could be produced by just one operator in one hour. Pascal Thomas, director of Esko’s flexo business, commented that the system is particularly suited to larger operations running multiple shifts, working well in a 24-hour operation.

Standardisation, said Mr Niederstadt, is a huge benefit for the printer, producing consistent production every day, every month, every year. Additional benefits, he added, include the machine’s use of water-washable plates – which are certified as carbon neutral by the Carbon Trust – to allow for a solvent-free, more environmentally sustainable production.

To conclude, Mr Wike, described the system as providing huge advantages. He highlighted the process as straightforward, despite only a couple of weeks of training, and said that due to the CrystalCleanConnect, the company can now print files directly from prepress into a whole connected system, reduce waste, reduce operator input, and automate the whole platemaking process, which was not possible with the old manual system.