Educational and technical content covered a wide ran range of topics, from flexo fundamentals, found in the Flexography 101 and 102 sessions, to the more complex processes and in-depth analysis in sessions such as Expanded Gamut and Managing Pressroom Efficiencies. The session titled “Flexo Mythbusters” paid tribute to the popular Mythbusters TV show, with experts sharing their thoughts on several flexo misconceptions. Topics that were tackled included the stigma UV inks have in relation to food packaging, the robustness of photopolymer plates, the importance of controlling ink temperature, cleaning anilox rolls that are UV-inked, and debunked were the perceived drawbacks of LED systems.
“Everything came together extremely well for this year’s Forum gathering,” said Mark Cisternino, FTA/FFTA president. “The program committee and members of the FTA staff really took the theme to heart in executing a number of new and exciting initiatives throughout the year-long development process. There was a real positive buzz among attendees at the conference and on the INFO*FLEX show floor, both commenting on the success of the event, as well as reflecting on the current strong business conditions in the flexo marketplace.”
Across the street from the FTA Forum, at the Baltimore Convention Center, the annual INFO*FLEX exhibition took place. According to the FTA, this year’s event attracted 1800-plus attendees who learned about the products and capabilities of the 262 exhibitors representing all facets of the flexo process and supply chain. Several exhibitors used INFO*FLEX as a forum to announce new products.
Flint Group Flexographic Products debuted at INFO*FLEX its new FlexoToolbox app for iPhone and Android devices. The app helps printers in simplifying flexo prepress, platemaking and process control, and can assist platemakers with tasks ranging from the calculation of plate distortion and solvent balance to monitoring UV-A irradiance and the determination of sleeve diameters. The FlexoToolbox app is available for free in the Apple App Store and Google Play Store. Also featured at the Flint Froup Flexographic Products booth was the introduction of the new rotec High Speed Sleeve with a specialized design for high speed press performance. The composition of the rotec High Speed Sleeve simultaneously eliminates bounce-induced skipping while allowing for a significant increase in press speed.
Eaglewood Technologies introduced the Sanilox Anilox Roll Cleaning System and demonstrated the Sanilox touch screen interface which controls the cleaning of rolls in-line or off-line with the touch of a button. The programming includes features to operate the system in both English and Spanish, and to help monitor roll inventory by entering roll information. to the touch screen interface.
Sun Chemical launched a new multi-purpose ink system, a water-based flexo dispenser program, specialty coatings that engage the senses, a laser marking system for variable printing, and digital plate technology which provides sharper images than standard plates. “Our customers want solutions that meet the high speed requirements of their press equipment, improve overall printing efficiency, and satisfy their customers’ requirements with packaging graphics that pop and grab attention,” said Tony Renzi, vice president, product management, Packaging Inks, North American Inks, Sun Chemical. “Sun Chemical offers a wide range of solutions for the flexo market that take converters from concept to shelf to meet their individual printing requirements.”
Dutch label and flexible packaging press manufacturer MPS announced the introduction of the enhanced MPS EF press series, an automated label and multi-substrate packaging press. Both traditional plate rolls and print sleeves are available with the EF series – the label printer can choose at time of purchase. “The EF is a platform which brings higher value for label businesses and allows printers to differentiate into high quality flexible packaging as well. The added value of the high-tier EF printing press is press automation, superior print quality and extreme ease of operation,” said Kees Nijenhuis, vice president of North American operations.
The flexo market is enjoying good growth, with opportunities coming all the time. To help their flexo customers meet these new requirements, ink manufacturers are developing innovative systems, many of which were showcased at the 2014 INFO*FLEX.
Sun Chemical offered a range of new inks at INFO*FLEX, including SunUno Solimax multi-purpose ink system and its SunVisto corrugated inks. “We are seeing excellent results with our latest technologies,” said Penny Holland, vice president, NAI Marketing at Sun Chemical.
To showcase its capabilities, Sun Chemical printed a flexible bag that incorporated seven color process printing, Benda-Lutz metallic pigments, HD plates and lemon SunScent inks. “We are showing our wide range of capabilities,” Holland noted. “The show is going very well. This is a key focus area for us, and it is always nice to see what’s new and have conversations with attendees.”
“INFO*FLEX has been well attended,” said Charles Murray, president of Sun Chemical North American Inks. “We have had a steady stream of existing and new customers. What’s also nice is the interest in our new technologies. We have converters who are helping us with beta sites on our SunUno Solimax and report it has been a huge success.”
Flint Group Narrow Web’s UV LED inks have drawn much interest from the market, and the company is developing a wider range of systems. “We’re launching a series of new UV LED products soon,” explained Deanna Whelan, global marketing manager, Packaging and Narrow Web, Flint Group. “This will include adhesives, coatings, metallic, shrink whites and screen whites.
“It is an interesting market,” Whelan added. “A lot of people are now asking about the ROI on the LED lamps, as well as availability of LED lamps for corrugated and wide web printing. It is interesting that people don’t have to buy a brand new press, but they can retrofit stations.”
Lou DeFlaviis, vice president of sales for packaging business development at INX International, noted that INX had a number of new products at INFO*FLEX, including its new low migration energy curing and water-based inks. “We are also building our new plant for solvent-based inks in Ohio, which should be operational in Q1 2015,” DeFlaviis added. “Our technology continues to evolve.”
Siegwerk had three new technical and service solutions at INFO*FLEX, including its new Nutritec LM UV offset ink systems; NC 536 and 537 high speed flexo ink technology and two-component inks, which are a lamination replacement. Speaking of the show, Scott Pederson, regional director at Siegwerk USA, said, “It’s been busier than last year, with more customer traffic.”
Wikoff Color was exhibiting for the first time since 2009, and Vice President Martin Hambrock said that flexible packaging is an increasingly important market for the company. “The flexo market has continued to pick up for us,” he said. “It is a strategic growth market for us – it’s our sweet spot.”
“We are highlighting our Flexta solvent-based retortable inks, which use Toyo Ink’s polyurethane resin technology,” said Darren Oakes, corporate sales manager, packaging inks at Toyo Ink America, LLC.
Colorcon showcased its direct food contact inks at INFO*FLEX. “Our dual FDA and EU direct food contact compliance water-based inks are compliant with all food types,” said Ron Tarewicz, manager of scientific affairs at Colorcon. – David Savastano, Editor, Ink World
Awards and honors
The Annual Banquet & Awards Program is always a highlight of the FTA Forum. In addition to the 106 winners of the Excellence in Flexography Awards, select suppliers were honored for sustainability and innovation, and individuals were recognized for their dedication and service to the flexo industry.
Avery Dennison took home the 2014 FTA Excellence in Sustainability Award in the Innovations in Sustainability category for its CleanFlake portfolio, a product built on its proprietary SR3010 adhesive, which debounds and cleanly separates the label during the recycling process. The label floats and the pure polyethylene terephthalate (PET) sinks to deliver food grade quality PET flakes.
“CleanFlake was designed to address the lifecycle impacts of pressure sensitive labels and full bottle shrink labels on PET recyclability,” explains Maria Kula, communications manager within the North American Materials Group. “CleanFlake can help brands and consumer packaging companies adhere to design for recycling guidelines, so that their PET bottles and containers can be easily collected and do not contribute to contamination and yield loss of recycled PET supply.
All Printing Resources (APR) and SpotOn! were the co-recipients of the 2014 FTA Technical Innovation Award in the Prepress-Pressroom category for SpotOn! Flexo Technology, co-developed by the two companies. “On behalf of APR, we are honored to be recognized with the prestigious FTA Technical Innovation Award for our SpotOn! Flexo software,” said David Nieman, president & CEO of APR. “Collaborating with SpotOn! Press has truly been a partnership of shared ideas resulting in a product that can save our customers time and money.”
Bruce Bayne, founder and SpotOn! Flexo architect, commented, “Our vision of creating an effective, accurate and dependable tool for flexo press operators to consistently control ink densities would not have been possible without the support and involvement of APR.
Together we have delivered a powerful tool unlike any other.”
The FTA named Esko’s Equinox software technology the winner of its 2014 Technical Innovation Award in the Prepress Graphics category. “There’s a lot of great new flexo technology out there. For a committee of industry experts to objectively select Equinox as the most valuable technology of the year is a great compliment to the development team at Esko,” said Mark Samworth, Esko’s product specialist-color. “Receiving this award will help further the adoption of Equinox in the flexo industry and encourage Esko to continue its large development commitment. That will be good for the flexo industry as whole.”
Equinox converts 4-color jobs, in CMYK or RGB, to 7-color process and allows for spot colors and combining multiple jobs into a single run, bringing a higher graphic quality, more print consistency and increased profitability. It focuses on four 4-color combinations: CMYK, OMYK, CGYK and CMVK.
“Now, through a user-friendly interface and a series of curves related to lightness, chroma and hue, a user can get the benefit of truly color managed gamut expansion and be able to selectively discriminate according to color space how much gamut expansion to apply to different subjects,” Samworth said.
FTA President’s Awards were given to Paul Teachout, technical and OEM accounts manager at Harper Corp. of America, and Robb Frimming, print services director at SCHAWK! Both were cited for their exceptional commitments and integral roles in the success of the FIRST 4.0 certification program.
Finally, Dr. J. Page Crouch, alumni professor emeritus of graphic communications at Clemson University was inducted into the Flexographic Technical Association’s Hall of Fame. Crouch is widely credited with leading the development of the school’s graphic communications program, dedicating his career to preparing students for the printing and packaging industries. Crouch was responsible for the development of the University’s hands-on industry training programs used by employers across the globe.
Looking ahead to 2015, the FTA Forum and INFO*FLEX will take place May 3-6 in Nashville, TN, USA.