With the USA’s capitol as a backdrop, the FFTA’s 44th annual forum held from May 5-6 took as its theme Capitol Ideas for People, Process and Profit.
The results of ‘The Voice of the Customer’ FTA summit were presented by forum chairman David Haradon, The Haradon Group, and Ken Lowden, DuPont Imaging Technologies.
Key packaging trends were identified, including shipping cases being used as point-of-purchase displays and the reduction of suppliers to streamline workflow. Summit members said some of the most important trends are just-in-time packaging workflows; more complex package designs with realistic images; retailers becoming more involved and regional specialization; the use of graphics across multiple substrates and innovative structures that make graphics more challenging; and digital workflows that will drive cost and time savings.
The consumer product company managers expressed what they saw as the core advantages of flexography, as well as their frustration with the lack of standards; proofs and press runs that don’t match; run-to-run inconsistency; and the time lost between art approval and press runs.
So what do these important customers want? They requested a totally digital workflow; design software specifically developed for packaging; designers trained to understand the flexo process; proofs that accurately predict printing; and printers that use the FIRST standards.
Results of the association’s Excellent in Flexography Awards competition were announced at the banquet; with 32 gold medals, 42 silver medals, and 35 bronze medals being presented. Best of show went to LSK Label for Kendall Jackson Collage Cabernet Sauvignon; Banner Packaging for Superman Boys’ Briefs; Printpack for Bugs Bunny and Friends Fruit Snack; Lewisburg Container for Hoover Steam Vacuum; and SCI for Marsan Food Teriyaki Chicken Bowl.
Arpeco, of Canada, won the Technical Innovation Award for its injector system, a cutting and creasing device custom made for folding carton applications.
Nearly 200 companies exhibited products and/or services at the Info*Flex Exhibition. Sun Chemical unveiled WetFlex EC, a printing process that uses UniQure inks, a new line of wet-trapping UV and EB inks for flexo. The company reports the process eliminates the need for interstation curing while printing multicolour jobs on a non absorbent substrate. An EB unit or UV lamp at the end of the central-impression flexo press is said to be the only energy source required to cure the printed image and render it for further processing.
Dynaloy, Indianapolis, announced a coating and cleaning system for anilox rolls that reduces downtime. The DynaFlex Coating, applied prior to inking the rolls, is reported to decrease ink residue build-up.
Quality Engineering unveiled the Flexo IAS image analysis system, said to provide objective image quality analysis from proof to film to plate to print, using a single instrument. System design uses CCD image capturing and advanced image processing and analysis software in a hand-held unit.
Technical presentations were offered in concurrent sessions covering the label, flexible packaging, corrugated/preprint, folding cartons, and towel and napkin segments.
Dr Mark Snyder, of Clemson University, delivered results of a study comparing print quality of flexo plates from various imaging processes over three industry segments. Conventional and digital plates were imaged using both diffused light and point light exposures. The point light, or single lamp, method produced a tall, thin dot, whereas the more common diffused exposure produced a dot with more of a shoulder. The study measured solid ink density, print contrast, tonal reproduction, and minimum dot/type.
Snyder reported point light sources work very well with film for narrow web applications. Conventional plates exposed with point light held highlights from 1-5 per cent better.
In the wide web segment, digital plates exposed with diffused light provided the best results in highlights, while digital plates exposed with point light provided the best results in the mid-tones.
In the corrugated segment, the best highlight results came from digital plates exposed with diffused light, while digital plates exposed with point light provided the best results in mid-tones and above.