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Epson's Aqueous-Based Proofing Technology

Epson America has just introduced the Stylus Pro WT7900; a 24" miracle if you ask those in the printing industry. The first of its kind in the world, the Stylus Pro WT7900 utilizes Aqueous-based white ink proofing technology to assist Flexographic and Gravure printers with sampling and prototyping of print jobs that require white ink be used. To most, this doesn't mean very much so it helps to understand how each type of printing process works and how both printers and clients alike stand to benefit from this amazing breakthrough.

Flexographic printing or "Flexo" processes are most often used for printing on plastic film, foil, acetate film, brown paper and any other type of packaging material. Flexography utilizes flexible printing plates made of rubber or plastic which have a slightly raised image of the desired graphic on them. These flexible plates are inked with fast-drying ink and rotated around a cylinder which is how the image is transferred to the desired media. Flexographic printing is reserved for high speed graphic print jobs such as gift wrap, wallpaper, or candy bar wrappers.

Gravure printing or Rotogravure processes are, like Flexography used for high volume applications that involve packaging, wallpaper and gift wraps. Gravure printing is also used to produce magazines and greeting cards. The only difference between the two is that instead of flexible printing plates, Gravure printers etch the desired image on to the surface of a metal plate that is rotated on a cylinder to transfer the desired image.

Both processes are viable and successful options for a client's high speed printing needs provided that the process can begin on the right foot. However, producing a single proof using a system designed for high speed output is well…difficult. As well, if the client is in need of several different samples the complication is multiplied. Because it can be such a daunting process, proofing or prototyping a client's potential end product has come to be very expensive; specifically if the print job requires the color white. This expense many times, is passed on to the client.

White inks used in the above processes will typically appear to be very low resolution and can be corrected over the course of mass production when printing the final job, but when developing proofs for customers the task of providing an accurate portrait of the final product proves near impossible. Epson has designed the Epson Stylus Pro WT7900 for proofing flexo and gravure print jobs that require the color white using the world's first Aqueous-based (water-based) white ink proofing technology. The ink is safer but also produces white color results with an extremely high density. It also provides professional short-term color stability for critical color proofing on a variety of different media (i.e. paper, film, foil). Simply put, Epson has contributed one of the most valuable solutions to this industry since it began and the "proof" is in the prototype. The Stylus Pro WT7900 will be available through Epson distributors beginning in February 2010 and although priceless, has an estimated purchase price of $8,495.