Apex Academy

Is ECG Printing a Flexo Fairytale?

Once upon a time, not long ago, extended color gamut made its way into the flexographic industry promising printers’ productivity and profitability like we’ve never seen before. However, over the past 20 years, it seems a large majority of printers have yet to achieve the benefits claimed by this printing approach. One after the other, printers have tried to conquer the dragon that is ECG and failed to save their print operations time and money. This prompts us to ask the question… can ECG truly be achieved by the everyday printer or is it just a flexo fairytale?

At Apex International, we’ve closely monitored the advantages and complexities of ECG since inception. Over the past decade, we have innovated anilox solutions to maximize performance in ECG and make the transition to this printing process seamless. Through research and development, we’ve discovered that it is the printers investing in high performance equipment and products (like Apex anilox rolls/sleeves), controlling their print processes, and optimizing for performance that are successful in ECG. Though it is no easy feat, ECG is not a fable – there are a number of undeniable benefits that are worth the journey. In this blog we’ll discuss the story of ECG and some tips from Apex International that can help you print happily ever after!

Is ECG printing too good to be true?

OIGSpot colors have been the status quo in flexo printing for many years, though the process can be inefficient and wasteful. Now with the rise of flexo’s not-so-evil stepsister, digital inkjet printing, the industry must find creative ways to remain competitive. This paved the way for CMYK and CMYK+OGV printing applications. By utilizing a 4- or 7-color printing process, printers could double their production capacity and reduce their waste and downtime tremendously. With its dramatic increase in performance and profitability, along with its ability to achieve a large range of Pantone colors, ECG seemed like a dream come true. However, transitioning from one print process to another takes time, training, and higher quality products/equipment.

Printers that have attempted CMYK or extended OGV printing using the same process, components and materials as their spot color applications will claim ECG is too good to be true. That is because ECG requires a higher level of quality control in order to achieve precision ink laydown at high press speeds. Unlike spot color printing, the consistency and control of the dot gain in the color gamut processes play a major role in achieving accurate color builds. The laydown of too much cyan, magenta, yellow, black, orange, green, or violet ink will alter the final print color and may lead to customer rejection and waste. Printers who did not take the proper steps to re-evaluate their print processes and re-train their crew will find ECG to be more wasteful than spot color printing and revert back to their original processes. However, those who make a commitment to the process have reaped the benefits of this application.

In the beginning, ECG was ahead of its time with little framework for success. Thankfully, the industry now has better solutions and processes in place that can help you achieve ECG printing. Be the hero of your print profitability and try again – now is the perfect time!

Dreams Take Work

Though the benefits of ECG may seem like a dream, we know that dreams don’t work unless you do. Extended color gamut printing requires a different set of operator skills and quality control processes and conquering this dragon will take time and practice to get right. Before jumping into extended gamut, we recommend starting with a 4-color process using the traditional CMYK colors.

Apex employeeTo begin, evaluate and optimize your ink delivery systems, doctor blades, anilox engravings, printing plates, cylinders, pressure gauges and other variables to find the optimal process for CMYK printing. The anilox plays an important role in successful ECG printing and should be evaluated thoroughly as consistency and repeatability is the essential element to ensure that the flexo process foundation is stable and accurate. Apex International is proud to offer a patented open-slalom channel engraving optimized for ECG print applications, GTT 2.0. This engraving innovation is an ideal anilox solution for printers venturing into the color gamut process. The consistent laser power used to create open channel anilox geometry, opposed to the pulsed cell based engraving process, allows unrestricted ink flow at high press speeds, while minimizing ink spitting, foaming, mottling, pinholing and more. GTT has been proven to achieve the precise ink laydown needed for accurate color build processes, with the extended roll life required for its extended time on press. Printers utilizing GTT anilox rolls are currently reaping the benefits of ink savings, process efficiency, uptime, and profitability. Discover how to unlock ECG Profitability with Anilox Quality Control in this Apex blog.

Once you have mastered your CMYK process, which can achieve approximately 700 pantone colors, you’re ready to introduce additional colors or added value lacquers and textures into your print runs. Using orange, green, and violet or blue will allow to you match more Pantone colors or alternatively utilize the spare print units to produce added value effects such as matte or gloss lacquers and textured coatings and take your efficiency and profitability to the next level. ECG is not a fairytale, though we must be realistic in our approach to this complex application. In conclusion, your journey into ECG should start with one step at a time. Start with the basics and set the foundation with the right anilox engraving, quality control processes, and operator training using the CMYK colors you have. From there, solidify your processes, train your operators, and introduce one color at a time until you have reached your fairytale ending of maximum profitability!

Apex International is a leading global manufacturer of anilox roll and sleeve solutions. We can help you evaluate your print process and choose the right anilox roll for your ECG application. Contact our team today to discuss your unique print process and print happily ever after with Apex anilox rolls!

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