Digital Magazine

FTA Raises the Bar

Highlights of FTA's annual forum 'Reaching New Heights,' and some of the most noteworthy Excellence in Flexography 2003 award winners.

The snowcapped mountains of Salt Lake City, UT, provided a fitting backdrop as the Flexographic Technical Association (FTA) encouraged members to “Reach New Heights,” the theme of its annual forum held May 4-7 at the Salt Palace Convention Ctr.

The event featured concurrent sessions covering a variety of topics. At the Prepress Session co-chaired by Roxanne Baker (Cryovac North America) and Greg Platt (GMF Flexo Prepress), a panel of speakers addressed the “predictability of outcome” issue.

According to Shane Kelly (Loblaws Brands Ltd.), matching proof to print is a big problem, and cost is not as important as getting the job right. Follow the FIRST (Flexographic Image Reproduction Specifications and Tolerances) guidelines and use densitometers and color control targets as basic steps to consistency on-press. He recommends putting small color-density bars near the UPC if space is an issue on the side of the web.

Mike Mierjeski (Agfa Corp.) covered trends in automated workflow and proofing, as well as a hybrid screening technique that combines AM and FM screening technology.

Marek Skrzynski (City Stamp Works) reported the hybrid screening technology offers tone reproduction in extreme highlights from 0.6% to 2% and provides better detail reproduction and enhanced print quality that can overcome flexo limitations.

Converters must get involved when artwork is being created to spot potential problems, said David Nunez (Great Lakes Packaging). Analyze the proof with color output supplied by the customer. At press time, ensure all suppliers are available for consultation.

Peter Menzian (DuPont Imaging Technologies) offered data on how to eliminate oxygen depletion in analog platemaking. When the exposure bed temperature is lowered and controlled, oxygen migration to exposing areas is regulated effectively, and the oxygen depletion effect is not seen. The temperature of the exposure bed should be 75-77 deg.

Mark Borski and Rich Emmerling (MacDermid Printing Solutions) covered developments in continuous in-the-round sleeves, with input from Mark Hermesdorf (Oberthur Gaming Technologies). On the agenda were the advantages of the displaceable cushioned bridge system over the compressible cushion. In-the-round plates offer benefits that include near-perfect register and improved dot formation, as well as a reduction in press set-up time.

Holger Neumann (BASF Printing Solutions) compared conventional versus digital platemaking versus digital sleeve technology. He also reviewed the latest developments in direct engraving technology, said to offer even more processing-time savings than digital technology.

Excellence Acknowledged
Arleen Neustein, president, The Excelsior Packaging Group, Yonkers, NY, was inducted into the FTA Hall of Fame, the first female so honored. Excellence in Flexography awards also were presented.

Reaching New Heights, the theme selected for the Foundation of Flexographic Technical Association’s 2003 Annual Forum, proved highly pertinent in FTA’s 2003 Excellence in Flexography Awards competition. Printers/converters were honored for raising the bar, meeting challenges and producing some of the best packaging that modern-day flexography has to offer.

FTA reports a total of 652 entries were submitted from 151 companies participating in the competition; 158 award-winning pieces of work were recognized for outstanding achievement, overcoming obstacles and sometimes going to great lengths to attain customer satisfaction.

The setting was The Foundation of FTA’s Annual Forum Awards banquet, held last night (Sunday, May 4) at Salt Lake City’s Salt Palace Convention Center. There, nearly 1,000 flexographers seized the opportunity to study the winning print jobs and comment on modern-day applications and flexography’s growing share of the package-printing market.

In keeping with tradition, categories were broken down into wide web, mid web, narrow web, combined corrugated, preprinted linerboard, envelope, newspapers/publications, self promotion, college student, high school student, and graphic design. Each category was then judged by subclass, including process, screen, line, coated, uncoated, metallized, film and paperboard. Graphic design entries were not subcategorized.

Medals Recap
Forty-six first-place gold awards were decided during the judging at the Wyndham Hotel in Islandia, NY, on Feb. 10 and 11. Of them, six were also designated "Best of Show" within their respective categories. Silver awards totaled 42, followed by 47 bronze, four honorable mentions, and 19 non-designated awards. Honorable mentions and non-designated awards were distributed to student, self-promotional, and design work.

Mid-web had the highest percentage of gold winners—13 out of 28 total awards. It was, however, narrow-web that pulled the highest number of awards, with 35 (11 gold, 10 silver, and 14 bronze). "The level of quality seemed higher than what we've seen in the past," says Paul Lancelle, Green Bay Engraving, judge for wide web. "It's an indication of the bar that's been raised in our industry as far as expectations go."

Shining Examples of Quality
Dave Horsman, Canflexographics, a mid-web judge, says, "A high level of execution has come to exemplify the FTA Excellence Awards." Judge Jim Wright, Arpeco, adds, "Just walking around and taking a look at some of the different categories, I saw that the quality level appeared to be on a very gradual increase. We've made quantum steps forward, and it's noticeable in the quality of the entries here today."

Another judge, Chris Nelson of Packaging Technologies Inc., says a lot of entries in the corrugated/preprint category stood out in his mind, particularly the digital work. He said, "Digital printing-plate technology is making a lot of stuff look really nice. It creates sharp, clean images."

Nelson says he sees the awards judging as a shining example of flexography reaching new heights. "As an entity, flexo is going in the right direction," he says. "We're working hard and pushing technology, we're pushing the minds of people in graphics houses and art reproduction houses. We're pushing our presses, we're pushing our men."

Best of Shows
Narrow-web Best of Show designation went to Spectrum Label for Innovation Beverage—Green Tea Honeydew. Praise from judges on this entry spoke to degree of difficulty. "The job displayed incredible precision using non-typical four-color-process heat-resistant inks. The smoothness of the multiple vignettes without hard edges and the transitions that take place are really outstanding," observes FTA Excellence in Flexography Awards Judge Jay Luft, Magnetic Ticket & Label Corp.

Judge Jim Harris, Water Ink Technologies, adds, "The level of execution was very impressive, particularly in the vignette area. Complex graphics were successfully displayed on a challenging, metallized substrate."

Spectrum label noted on its entry the larger print and tighter register were demanding. The inks used required heat resistance of 350 degrees per one-half second at 50 psi, in addition to having to withstand 100 crockmeter rubs.

In the mid-web competition, Best of Show Honors were claimed by Kramer Carton for Mumm Holiday Giftbox Blanc de Noir. Judge Jim Wright observes: "Platemounting and ink adhesion were properly addressed so the look of the finished piece was consistent with the product. A giftbox is something that's supposed to be the greeting card for the product inside. It really does set the standards. In this case, the packaging is as high quality as what is inside. The quality of the print and the quality of the converting were all top-notch."

Horsman adds, "The gloss and the registration—not only print to print, but also from very fine print to emboss—was what impressed me." According to Kramer Carton, the job was run at 175 fpm on an in-line press where die cutting and embossing were accomplished on a single die, using magnetically mounted tools.

Pacon Corp. took Best of Show in the wide-web competition with its Coors Light-Silver Bullet. Judge Paul Harstron, Discount Labels, says, "The prepress was outstanding. They utilized an incredible tonal range. It combined stochastic as well as conventional screening and had an outstanding-looking print. Everything was in register. The dots were not donut dots. From start to finish, it was a Best of Show."

Lancelle observes, "This is a very effective job of execution, allowing the graphics to virtually jump off the sheet. To be able to pull this off throughout a pressrun requires a high level of process control."

Lewisburg Containers’ Mama Rosa’s Pizza carton won the Best of Show title in the corrugated portion of FTA’s 2003 Excellence in Flexography Awards competition.Judge David Nunez, Great Lakes Packaging, points to why. "The ability to print with the highest quality on both sides of the corrugated sheet and hold the registration tolerances needed for this piece ranked it above all others."

Judge Cordes Porcher, Bobst Group, expresses similar thoughts. "Mama Rosa’s was a double-sided print that required very good registration to get it to work as well as it did. That’s difficult to do. The print was well executed."

Lewisburg’s entry forms noted the Mama Rosa’s pizza carton featured very difficult graphics, including multiple vignettes, fine type and tight registration on the print and die. It was run on an in-line press at 4,000 sheets per hour.

Weyerhaeuser garnered Best-of-Show recognition in the preprinted linerboard category for Black Opal Cabernet Merlot. Judge Stan Field, Flint Ink, says, "Looking at the print quality, there was no question that it was as close to perfect as I’ve ever seen." Porcher added, "The Black Opal job was a very large repeat. It was also a wide-web width. Registration was very well done and the images were even side-to-side, so consistency was very good."

Best-of-Show designation in the graphic design category went to the Jack Link Beef Jerky line of packages, designed by Pen & Inc. and printed by E & H Packaging. "Clear communication and a good, consistent look across the line is what set the group apart," says judge Tom Newmaster, William Fox Monroe.

Newmaster also notes, "When I look at the entries, I look for color usage, overall communication of the product, the layout and the design, and what I think the overall impact at retail will be. With all these things considered, I then ask myself, ‘Does that package get the most out of the flexo process?…I really look at the entry to determine if the designer really understood flexo."

His advice to those considering submitting work to the 2003 Excellence in Flexography awards competition is, "Go for the most impact in retail within the category. Take into consideration other products that could be next to it. Focus on good layout and design and have excellent execution, keeping in mind flexo. The package’s goal is to jump of the shelf or draw the consumer into it."

Visit FTA at flexography.org.

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