Traffic was heavy at the 2011 Info*Flex.
According to the FTA, there were more than 200 booths, and over 170 companies represented. And while the FTA encompasses a broad range of flexo printing markets, narrow web label printers were able to cull useful information from the sessions, as well network and learn from industry suppliers. Event activities actually began on Saturday, prior to the official start, with the Phoenix Challenge College Competition, the JP Buckley Annual Golf Tournament and a cocktail reception. And on Sunday, May 1, the forum got down to business with welcoming remarks from co-chairs Mark Coffman and Randy Butler, as well as FTA President Mark Cisternino, introducing the official theme of the event: "Set the Pace for Flexo Packaging Excellence."
The opening session on Sunday focused on prepress. Marc Welch of GMG Americas discussed how
UV-curable inkjet printers, coupled with today's color management systems, are changing the way prototyping and proofing is being done. Steve Smiley, Vertis Inc., talked about the impact of brand color management standards, and EskoArtwork's Rory Marsoun presented information on how high resolution imaging allows for the use of new screening technologies that can transfer more ink, with more detail. Shannon Steele, Coca-Cola North America, gave a brand owner's perspective. She said that 97.6 percent of consumers say that visual factors are most important when it comes to purchasing, and they remember things by color first, followed by shapes, numbers and words.
During the sustainability session, Heather Barrett, MacDermid Printing Solutions, presented a case study documenting how optimal printing plate processing can positively affect a company's Walmart Sustainable Packaging Scorecard results. Joseph Meindl, American Recycling and Manufacturing, detailed the benefits and processes of recycling flexographic materials such as pallets, core plugs and end plugs.
During Monday's Emerging Trends session, Flint Group's Rich Emmerling discussed the benefits of flat-top dots, which, he said, include optimized surface textures for improved ink laydown and solid ink densities. The system, he explained, does not use inert gases or require expensive consumables. Aaron Lessing, Apex North America, talked about Genetic Transfer Technology (GTT), a new type of anilox roll that, he said, can allow for reduced inventory, while printing cleaner and denser. Inspired by nature, GTT is based on slalom channels, as opposed to traditional cells.
Mary Sullivan, Mark Andy, was one of the featured speakers during the Lean Session. She described new print platforms designed specifically to address Lean principles and philosophies. With short run demand skyrocketing, she said, old flexo technology is challenged to remain profitable. "There are too many steps in the process," she said of the "old flexo," adding that the new platforms address time being
spent on setup and changeover. Sullivan also emphasized the advantages inline flexo has over digital printing, pointing out the faster speeds and lower capital costs.
Like the city of Indianapolis' famed speedway, the Info*Flex aisles had lots of traffic. Booths were busy throughout the two-day expo, with flexo professionals eager to network and learn about the latest offerings from suppliers.
The MacDermid team and its Technical Innovation Award.
Some companies, in addition to a tabletop display, had running equipment on hand. At the Anderson & Vreeland booth (A&V), OKI Data Americas demonstrated its pro510DW digital color web press, together with the Kompac EZ Koat Web 15 by Kompac Technologies. The combination of the pro510DW's ability to produce fast, customized continuous web printing with the EZ Koat's UV coating applicator expands the machine's usefulness within the flexo industry. A&V recently began distributing the OKI proColor Series of printers within the US.
Roland had on display (also at the A&V booth) its VersaUV inkjet printer/cutter. The machine can print CMYK plus white and clear inks on most any substrate and then crease, contour cut or perf-cut designs, all on the one device through one workflow. The VersaUV uses safe, low-heat LED lamps for printing.
The Roland VersaUV was demonstrated at the
Anderson & Vreeland booth.
At the Graymills booth, Ed Dedman, director of emerging technology, said that the company was focusing on its press-side cleaning equipment at the show, in addition to its ink pumps, and a variety of this equipment was on display. "Graymills has been a manufacturer of parts washing equipment for the industrial and automotive markets for decades, and we're now focusing that expertise on cleaning options for the label and packaging market, with press-side parts cleaners, small benchtop ultrasonic cleaning units, and our new portable ultrasonic anilox roll cleaning system," he said.
Flexo press manufacturers were also represented with tabletop displays. The Matik booth featured information on Italian press maker Omet's rotogravure, rotary screen, offset and foil saver printing processes. MPS was on hand to discuss its recently introduced Automated Print Control system. The Nilpeter booth had an actual print station on display from its FG Line of presses. Mark Andy showcased its Performance Series, fresh off of winning the FTA's 2011 Technical Innovation Award.
Awards and accolades
In addition to the educational sessions and Info*Flex, the event is a place to also celebrate achievements, with the 2011 FTA Awards Banquet and celebration.
From Dunwoody College, Phoenix Challenge College
Competition winners (L-R) Mitch Hanson, Mary Johnson,
DJ Rickerd and Matt Christianson.
MacDermid Printing Solutions won for its Lux platemaking process, which involves laminating a proprietary membrane over the top of an image-ablated digital flexo plate, conducting standard UV exposure of the photopolymer through the membrane, and removing the membrane prior to processing. The resulting flat top dots are sturdy, less sensitive to both press impression and wear, and more conducive to highlight detail than bullet-shaped dots of the same size – no bump curve required. The Lux process is meant to complement an existing digital flexo workflow, not replace it, and will permit the use of legacy artwork without modification for as long as the customer desires.
At the banquet, the FTA also recognized three converters with the presentation of Environmental Excellence Awards. Paragon Label of Petaluma, CA, USA, and Prairie State Group, Franklin Park, IL, USA, shared top honors in the area of process improvement, while PolyCello of Amherst, NS, Canada, won for Technical Innovation.
As always, the future of flexo was also spotlighted at the event. College students from the Dunwoody College of Technology were awarded the top prize in the annual Phoenix Challenge College Competition. The winning team of Mitch Hanson, Mary Johnson, DJ Rickerd and Matt Christianson were honored for there work on a golf ball package that included a cylinder, a flexible package with a reverse-printed gold scorecard, and an attached raffle ticket.
Finally, a special honor was paid to Mark Samworth, vice president of technology for EskoArtwork, who became the 49th inductee into the FTA's Hall of Fame. A color scientist, Samworth pioneered in the 1970s the linking of print outcomes with computer science – a major development in the advancement of the flexo industry.
9th NELMA Expo draws a lively crowd
Suppliers and converters connect at the expo.
Traffic was steady at this year's event; NELMA reported about 100 converter attendees. There was also more equipment on display than in previous years. Anderson & Vreeland showcased one of its latest offerings, the OKI proColor pro510DW, a compact digital label printer designed for affordable, short run printing. The machine features continuous web printing at 30 fpm, variable data printing on variable length media, widths up to 12.9 inches, and automatic diecutting.
The NELMA expo extended to the hotel parking lot, where the Gallus ECS 340 Roadshow was parked, displaying the flexo press with a granite core, featuring easy setup and a short web path. While the weather on the day of the event wasn't conducive to press demos (there were heavy rains and even tornado warnings in the area), some were still able to check out the machinery aboard the open trailer when the storm cleared in the afternoon.
Primera Technology was another company with equipment running, featuring its CX1200 digital printer. The machine has 1200 x 1200 dpi print resolution for printing colors that are bright and vibrant along with sharp text. Print speed is 16.25 fpm, and includes Pantone-approved color support.
Avery Dennison showcased the no-label look
and the new Fasson Curvy substrate.
"I feel good about this year's expo attendance, as our tables were sold out well in advance of the show," said Miller, who is also NELMA president. "I must commend the crew from Gallus as they made heroic efforts to keep their display truck together through monsoon-like wind and rain. Although the storm won out, I hope they will return next year and give us their best demo. I would like to thank all who attended – both veterans and newbies."
Miller invites the label industry at large to contact him about NELMA, and what they would like to see for future events, particularly in regard to the educational program. "My hope is to keep working with Mark Snyder and Millersville, along with other schools, in order to further flexo and related trades. To anyone who has not attended a NELMA Expo in recent years, has no idea of what they are missing. The networking reception following the expo is a great, once-a-year opportunity to spend some time with colleagues or prospects. This year we booked a record number of guest rooms at the hotel, likely meaning that the event went on well in to the night," Miller said.
Kathleen Santana-Colón, NELMA trade show coordinator, noted that feedback from vendors was all positive regarding the new venue. "The vendors were happy with the quality of the prospects at the show," she said. "Although we believe the weather might have kept some away, we had a good turnout of attendees. Everyone is already looking forward to next year's expo."