Decoration on beverage cans has improved exponentially over the years due to the tireless research and development work undertaken not only by the manufacturers of the decorators themselves but also by the plate makers.
The printing plate is essentially where the magic happens in metal decorating, as without this vital piece of the jigsaw we would all be drinking out of rather oddly coloured cans, devoid of a pattern, logo, or anything recognisable to anyone in any language.
Advances in plate making technology are many and varied, but on a recent trip to Jorgen Windelev in Copenhagen, Denmark, I believe I have seen some of the very best in action.
Having sat down with the experts, the complicated and intricate process of removing unnecessary ‘dots’ from the proof was explained to me in detail. I will try and condense it for you here, as in the next issue I will be bringing you the full article, but in a nutshell a design is taken from the customer and the image ‘flattened’. That is to say that there will be absolutely no colour overlap when the can is run through the decorator.
Overlapping colours can lead to distortion of the image, and so by flattening the design you can achieve a far more detailed finish. Some of the design I saw at the Windelev facility were quite simply astonishing – including a Kronenbourg can which featured the Eiffel Tower as seen with the river Seine in the foreground. The detail was staggeringly intricate.
This sort of image can be achieved through the use of laser technology, which etches the flattened design onto the printing plate using different heights – designed to control the amount of ink used for each section of the image.
The company has developed this technology over a period of some 15 years, and there is not much, I am told, by way of competition when it comes to this premium offering.
It will be interesting to see what further advances have been made in this sector at the IMDA annual conference in Illinois next week. I am expecting to see big things at the event and look forward to seeing some of you there.
Look out for the full article on my trip to Jorgen Windelev in the next issue.