Revolutionizing the flexographic operation with oneECG


Daragh Whelan is the technical director of applications at Bobst, specializing in flexographic printing, specifically using OneECG (Extended Color Gamut) technology to produce labels and packaging. With more than 30 years of experience and a deep technical knowledge, he is the reference expert to provide advice on new applications and print proofs. With his OneECG competency at Bobst, he visits customers to teach them how to implement the technology and make the most of the power of flexographic printing with a fixed color palette.

Revolutionizing the flexographic operation with oneECG
What does Bobst’s OneECG technology mean for online flexography?

OneECG is Bobst’s wide color spectrum technology, implemented in analog and digital printing processes for labels, flexible packaging, folding cases and corrugated cardboard. By completely digitizing and automating color management, OneECG takes flexographic printing to a higher level in terms of improved time-to-market, print quality, cost reduction and increased sustainability.

OneECG uses a fixed set of inks: CMYK, with the option of adding orange, green and violet, to achieve a wider color spectrum than printing with traditional technology. With the OneECG system, printers can also ensure complete color consistency and repeatability, regardless of the skill and experience of the individual operator.

Instead of mixing inks in an ink cooker to match a specific Pantone or direct color, the color is constructed on the press by layering from the set of fixed colors, usually using two or three inks. With OneECG, printers can accurately replicate 65% of the Pantone book with just four colors and up to 95% with seven, depending on the substrate. This represents great savings in costs, materials and time, which means that converters can deliver faster at a more competitive cost and with a better environmental footprint.

Advantages and benefits for flexographic converters

The digitalization of the Digital Master series of in-line flexographic presses from Bobst, with high levels of automation, such as Digiflex for automatic pressure adjustment and registration, and quality control, combined with OneECG, makes them so efficient and productive that a single narrow or medium-sized Bobst press replacing TWO standard flexographic machines.

In other words: a press configured with OneECG from Bobst offers a 50% increase in productivity and a more sustainable production environment.

By implementing OneECG, converters can enjoy a wide range of benefits, including:

  • Increased productivity and reduced downtime: Since only the plates are changed, there is no need to load the ink tray, change the anilox or the doctor blade at each job change. Together with the automatic registration control, the preparation time is reduced by 50%.
  • Greater flexibility with the interoperability between technologies: OneECG allows to transfer flexography jobs to digital printing and vice versa without limitations, maintaining a complete color consistency.
  • Cost-effective short-run printing: Faster set-up, no ink or anilox changes, results in less ink waste, less substrate waste and faster delivery. And with OneECG, multiple product references can be easily printed on the entire web.
  • Reduction of cleaning time and consumables: A fixed set of inks means that cleaning becomes part of regular maintenance and is not necessary at every job change.
  • Significant ink savings and space optimization: OneECG generates no ink waste and uses 30% less ink. With only four to seven fixed colors, converters will not need valuable storage space occupied by large inventories of Pantone inks, leftovers and waste.
  • Significant reduction of substrate waste: All color matching is done in pre-press, which means that the press reaches the color much faster than in traditional flexographic printing. Combined with DigiFlexo, less than 30 meters of substrate is used in each new working configuration.
  • Exact repeatability of the job: A OneECG job can be successfully repeated on different presses, in different factories and even in different parts of the world, because mostly, the color matching is done digitally, which allows for better business continuity.
  • Savings even on plate costs: When a job is converted to OneECG, often less amount of colors is required, so fewer plates are needed for each job.

Requirements for OneECG printing

Exceptional registration control

In OneECG, spot colors and text are built using layers with minimal or no dithering applied, with up to four colors. This requires highly accurate press registration, so automation is key. The Bobst Print Tutor system is a fully automated automatic length and side registration adjustment and control system that uses mark-to-mark detection cameras in each printing unit. This allows to print fine text and barcodes in multiple colors in registration even.

Automatic change of jobs

To get the most out of the OneECG process, the converters have the option of investing in Bobst’s unique automatic job switching technology, which allows jobs to be printed one after the other without completely stopping the press. The press simply slows down while the work is automatically changed and then speeds up again. This level of automation greatly reduces preparation waste and allows many more jobs to be printed during each shift. In addition, with the new semi-rotary die-cutting unit from Bobst, the die-cutting plates are also changed automatically.

Changes in the flexographic operation

Whether printing companies have their prepress in-house or use an external partner, Bobst experts will provide support to customers by sharing their extensive experience, from job profiling and conversion to the workflow for plate making and assembly.

It will be necessary to change the mentality of the staff, as OneECG moves all the color matching from the print room to the prepress department. Performance will increase significantly, so it is important to train the prepress team, press operators and even managers and sales people, so that they better understand how to maximize the opportunities that OneECG brings to the business.

At the Bobst Competence Center in Florence (Italy), a complete OneECG ecosystem has been created in operation to train operators from prepress to printing, while verifying the entire process. This is the perfect opportunity for the whole team to see OneECG in action, ask questions and try real live production jobs. After installation, on-site training tailored specifically to each customer’s needs is offered.

Frequently asked questions

What are the ideal applications for OneECG?

Any work that is printed using multiple spot colors without embellishments, such as prints and varnishes, can be transferred to OneECG, such as general labels, shrink sleeves, flexible packaging, IML, among others.

How many colors are needed in OneECG?

OneECG uses up to seven colors in the process, but it can also work with four colors (CMYK) and produce 65% of Pantone’s book, which means there are hundreds of colors available along with huge cost savings and less waste.

How do you convince brand owners to adopt OneECG?

Most brand owners use multiple printing technologies and require the converter to match the contractual proof or digital reference as per the agreed Delta E. With OneECG, color matching is digitized and done in pre-press, which means consistent, repeatable printing that matches the proof every time, while allowing brand owners to get to market faster with a more sustainable process.

How will OneECG affect the print quality?

OneECG uses the same software as digital machines to convert Pantone colors. With the right workflow and systems in place, most OneECG converters will see an increase in their quality compared to printing