FTA presents 'Premium Package' in Vegas

By Steve Katz | July 14, 2010

Pre-show activities and awards galore

The Paris Hotel in Las Vegas
Dubbed "The Premium Package," The Flexographic Technical Association (FTA) Forum and Info*Flex took place May 2-5, at the Paris Hotel in Las Vegas, NV, USA, with educational activities and sessions, as well as a Sunday night awards presentation and banquet. But it all got started unofficially on the Saturday before the event, as this year there were a number of pre-show activities.

Among Saturday's highlights was a FIRST Press Operator Level 1 training and certification program. The course was made free to attendees who had booked their sleeping rooms at the Paris Hotel. Also on Saturday was a software tutorial session led by Steve Smiley of Vertis, who spoke on the subject of G7 calibration methodology and software systems. April Clarke of Adobe Systems talked about using Creative Suite 4 software updates for packaging, and Catherine Haynes, All Printing Resources, rounded out the session discussing workflow efficiency and file accuracy. Haynes outlined techniques needed to develop an optimal workflow plan with customers.

Sunday morning's Flexo 101 session saw about 350 people turn out to hear chairperson Jay Sperry of Clemson University lead a discussion on understanding key flexo components and how they interact within the workflow. Clemson's Rory Marsoun discussed the not-so-simple task of printing specific colors on specific substrates. Allen Marquadt, Kimberly-Clark, then introduced the basics of process control, and was followed by a presentation about "selling flexo" delivered by Mark Mazur, DuPont Packaging Graphics, and Mark Samworth of EskoArtwork.

350 people turned out for each of the eight techinical seminars.
Sunday afternoon included a session titled "Prepress: Streamlining the Digital Packaging Process." Chaired by Michael Butler of Southern Graphic Systems, it focused on e-Lean efficency and the digital infrastructure, and included a case study from Margie Dehim of The Sara Lee Corporation. She focused on the company's packaging workflow activities and how lead times have been cut 40 percent. Dehim emphasized how an efficient workflow eliminates waste and reduces costs.

Rounding out Sunday's sessions was "Emerging Trends and New Technologies." Here, Kodak's John Anderson chaired a series of presentations on the latest in special effects and other new, value-adding technologies. Tim Cain of Breit Technologies presented Cast and Cure, the company's proprietary special effects finishing process. Kurt Flathmann of Bobst Group introduced SmartGPS, a technology that eliminates a major portion of startup – the system uses RFID chips embedded in the plate and anilox sleeve.

The SmartGPS system also earned the Bobst Group the 2010 Technical Innovation Award, which was presented at the FTA Annual Awards Banquet held Sunday evening. Also at the banquet, Joe Tuccitto, FTA/FFTA education director, announced the launch of the Howard Vreeland Sr. Virtual Campus. The campus, made possible through an investment by Anderson & Vreeland, is designed solely for educators to access FTA's TEST (Technical Education Services Team) authored courses.

In his opening statement at the Banquet, Tuccitto said, "Over the past few years, TEST has worked diligently in the development of the TEST Virtual Campus. Today it provides countless industry professionals with ongoing professional development opportunities via the internet. While this has proved an invaluable delivery mechanism for the industry as a whole, the new campus will address the needs specific to the world of academia."

A total of 154 Excellence in Flexography Awards were announced at Sunday night's banquet where nearly every seat was filled. Best of Show award presentations were made to nine companies including All Stick Label Ltd., Vaughn, ON, Canada, in the Narrow Web category, for its Dan Akroyd 2008 Riesling wine label. Multilabel Argentina S.A., won the Best of Show for Graphic Design for its Café Borghetti Liquore label.

Individual honors were also handed out, with a spotlight shining on Charlie Brown, formerly of Topflight Corp., York, PA, USA, as he became the 48th person inducted into FTA's Hall of Fame. President's Awards went to Shawn Oetjen and Kent Esby of Dunwoody College of Technology; Michelle Donohue, Global Packaging; and David Nieman, All Printing Resources.

The winners of this year's Phoenix Challenge College Competition: From left, Dunwoody College students Ben Paparella, Dani Nelson, Chad Quigley, Matt Evanson and Andy Williams.
Industry veterans weren't the only ones honored in Vegas. Up and coming flexo professionals were also awarded, specifically the winners of the 3rd Annual Phoenix Challenge College Competition. This year's winning team was from Dunwoody College, and the victorious students were on hand at Info*Flex to hoist the trophy. Making up the Dunwoody team is Ben Paparella, Dani Nelson, Chad Quigley, Matt Evanson and Andy Williams. In addition, 13 college students were presented with either Rossini or FTA scholarships including Tessa Libby, Cal-Poly, 1st Place Rossini Scholarship ($10,000), Kasey Reed, Cal-Poly, the 2nd Place Rossini Scholarship ($6,000), and Kristin Zeleznik, Clemson University, 3rd Place Rossini Scholarship ($4,000).

Monday, May 3, featured two sessions. "FIRST From the Front Lines" provided a detailed guide on how to effectively use FIRST 4.0 (Flexographic Image Reproduction Specifications & Tolerances). This was an "open book session," and attendees were encouraged to bring their copies of FIRST, as the program referenced specific sections in order to help users win the "war on the flexo front lines," as it was called. A session on substrates followed, chaired by David Rosenberg of the Solo Cup Company. Here, the discussion focused on cost savings, productivity, and overall process improvement.

On Tuesday, May 4, a session about inks chaired by John Edwards of Sun Chemical and Todd Mannira of Brandimage brought together a group of speakers to discuss the role of collaboration, design and ink technologies in delivering a customer's message. John McDonald of Brandimage and Autumn Graphics' Ben Abray, Stacy Daly from All Stick Label, and Catherine Vitale, Sun Chemical, showcased the process in action with a case study of a flexo printed cover of a magazine.

Networking at Info*Flex
Legal and logistics issues were the hot topic during the session on sustainability, chaired by Colleen Twomey of MacDermid Printing Solutions, and Paul Kearn of Exopack. Mark Hammond, an associate in the Environment and Energy Practice Group at law firm Drinker, Biddle and Reath LLC, referenced the legal quagmire of making "green" claims. Derek McFarland, Sonoco, and Michelle Donohue, Global Packaging,revealed efforts that their respective companies have made to be more eco-friendly. Nina Goodrich asked attendees to look deeper than just the packaging when considering sustainability, Heather Barrett, MacDermid, showcased a new tool for calculating and comparing carbon footprints.
On average, the FTA reports that 350 people turned out for each of eight technical sessions. The pre-show bonus seminars – the FIRST Operator Certification course and the software tutorial stretching – were filled to capacity. Info*Flex featured 186 companies displaying their products and services in 218 individual booths. In total, some 65 individual speakers, assembled by Forum Chair Jean Engelke, Kodak; and Vice Chair Mark Coffman, Dixie Graphics; made presentations.

Info*Flex provided additional educational opportunities at the "Presentation Theater," which was located right on the trade show floor. Here, over the two days, 14 different speakers discussed a wide range of topics. This was a more intimate setting than the technical sessions. Amongthe presentations was "Printing for Polymer Electronics," delivered by Tim Claypole of Swansea University, and "Genetic Transfer Technology," led by Aaron Lessing, Apex North America. There was also a detailed discussion on the rebranding and repackaging of the entire McCain Foods product line.

By and large, attendees of the technical sessions, as well as Info*Flex exhibitors, reported the show a great success from both educational and networking perspectives. Inside the numbers, the FTA said that there were more than 50 first-time Forum goers, 70 students, 710 plates served at Sunday's Awards Banquet, and over 1,400 people on the Info*Flexshow floor. And looking ahead, organizers report that reserved booth space for Info*Flex 2011, scheduled for Indianapolis, is already 60 percent sold.