FTA Forum & INFO*FLEX 2013

By Steve Katz, Editor | May 31, 2013

With the theme of ‘Right Here, Right Now’, the flexo industry enjoyed education, awards and atmosphere in San Diego.

The aisles were bright and busy at the 2013 INFO*FLEX.
San Diego proved to be an idyllic location for the 2013 FTA Forum and INFO*FLEX Exhibition. While many of the 1,600 attendees

traveled a long distance to Southern California, those that made the trek basked in the waterfront setting and enjoyed the historic Gaslamp district, all while taking in four days, April 28 – May 1, of lively flexo printing discussion and education.

The theme of this year’s event was “Right Here, Right Now,” and it was chosen to reflect the notion of flexographers living in the moment, embracing new technologies and continuous improvement. Forum session topics included emerging trends, best practices, food safety, print buyer demands, improved process control, color management and workflow automation – all topics chosen as they are relevant and current within the industry. The presentations were delivered to full, engaged audiences.

Emerging Trends
During the Emerging Technologies session, Mike Buystedt, VP sales Narrow Web North America, discussed the merits of UV LED curing. He emphasized the operating economics, advanced capabilities, and environmental benefits of the technology. UV LED curing, Buystedt said, results in more press up-time as there are less equipment faults with a process that has a faster cure and higher productivity. It also has a long lifetime and requires little maintenance while being a “solid state” process with an instant on/off. Buystedt presented a wide range of examples and results including jobs for pressure sensitive, unsupported film, shrink film, direct thermal and pouch. “This is a more sustainable process that brand owners are asking for – it has less than half of the carbon footprint,” Buystedt said. 

Gene Plavnick, president of Heat Technologies Inc. (HTI), discussed the advantages of Spectra HE Heat and Mass Transfer Technology. According to Plavnick, the technology, which has been used in water heating and heavy drying applications, has been successfully applied to the converting industry. It utilizes acoustic pulsations, or, “the power of sound,” he explained.

Bob O’Boyle, product manager for Sun Chemical, discussed high oxygen barrier coatings as an emerging trend. He said, in packaging applications since the 1990s, nanoparticles have shown promise as a barrier to gases, aroma and UV light. Industry uses for barrier coatings, O’Boyle said, include flexible packaging, dry and chilled food packaging, liquid packaging, and flexo, gravure or roller coat processes. Results include packaging that is of a lighter weight, improved laminate integrity and shelf life, and lower costs compared to high performance barriers.

Concluding the Emerging Trends session was a presentation on printed electronics by Tracy Lunt, global technology manager for DuPont Packaging Graphics. Among the applications she discussed were sensors – where the product can detect temperature, gases and humidity. Security was another area Lunt touched upon, explaining how printed electronics can provide unobtrusive, open merchandising, where the unauthorized removal would damage the product.

“Significant advances are happening constantly,” Lunt said, referring to new inks, substrates and designs.  “Printed electronics is a major disruptive technology that is still in its infancy – the breadth of applications is huge.”

Gobal Marketing Manager Deanna Whelan greets visitors
to the Flint Group Narrow Web booth.

Winner, winner, chicken dinner
Winning print awards competitions can be a big boost to a company, improving reputation and team morale, among other things. The session topic titled “Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner,” provided insight into how these contests are judged and how a company can improve its chances of taking home a prize.

A team of awards committee members and former judges shared several tips companies can employ to better their odds. For starters, they emphasized that bigger is better, imploring, “Before you even look at the entry form, four cylinder repeats – at full web!”
Additional tips shared were to identify contenders early on, educate and incentivize press crews, follow the rules of the competition, ask for permission early, don’t rule out less difficult jobs, and to provide clear instructions to your crew about what to focus on.
The session took place on Monday morning, while the previous night’s FTA Awards Banquet was fresh on everyone’s mind.

Mark Andy’s QCDC wins FTA Technical Innovation Award
At the FTA Awards Banquet on April 28, Mark Andy’s new in-line diecutting technology Quick Change Die Cut (QCDC) was awarded the FTA 2013 Technical Innovation Award. Mark Andy now has back-to-back wins in the category. The FTA Technical Innovation Award “recognizes companies whose visions and perseverance bring new products and technologies to the flexographic marketplace.” Judged on six specific areas including Technical Achievement, Impact on the Industry and User Testimonials, the award acknowledges the significant impact the technology has on the future of flexography.

Accepting the award on behalf of Mark Andy were Bill McCroskey, principal mechanical engineer, and Joe Calmese, project manager, new product development, both of whom spent considerable time on the design, development, and introduction of QCDC to the market. Kevin Wilken, COO, was also on hand to celebrate the win.

“We see QCDC as a game-changer in the flexo world,” said Wilken. “Our customers have reduced die changeover times by up to 80%, are no longer experiencing a bottleneck in high-speed matrix stripping, and are seeing more consistent cutting and minimal die strikes – all of these contributing to a more profitable bottom line.”

QCDC was introduced to the market at Labelexpo Americas 2012. Live demonstrations showed the technology on both the Mark Andy Performance Series P5 and P7 presses. QCDC will again be demonstrated when Mark Andy participates at Labelexpo Europe 2013 in Brussels later this year, and is available for demonstration at both the Mark Andy USA and UK showrooms year-round.

“Mark Andy has always partnered with our customers, analyzing their needs and developing new technologies to make them profitable in an ever-changing world,” said Wilken. “The acknowledgement by the FTA of the Performance Series in 2011 and now QCDC in 2013 validates our R&D efforts and motivates us to continue creating solutions to the daily issues confronting converters.”

Technical Innovation Award for GMG OpenColor
GMG received the FTA Technical Innovation Award in the category of Prepress-Graphics for its OpenColor proofing technology. GMG OpenColor is a proofing technology that precisely predicts the color appearance of printed inks, particularly “overprint” inks printed on top of each other. This allows the previously unattainable ability to let a proof accurately simulate a printed result.

A continuing trend in package printing is the increasing complexity of jobs and the use of multi-color printing while reducing time to market. Many jobs require different combinations of inks, substrates, screening and other variables. One of the most difficult challenges facing a converter is accurately and reliably communicating color between all parties of the supply chain, from the brand manager to the printer. To understand colors by mixing them, every combination would require a specific test chart with the different combinations. It is costly to go to press with color fingerprint charts, making plates, and spending time testing rather than earning money on a job. GMG OpenColor resolves this complex packaging problem and provides better results, with less information. With OpenColor, users do not have to print combinations of overprints. They can print the single color patches – e.g. color control strips – and combine the color and substrate properties in the software. Measurements are centrally saved and categorized according to print variables. This lets operators build an archive of measurements and to combine existing measurements to new profiles, whenever a new combination of inks must be profiled.

“Our entire team is honored to receive such important recognition. With GMG OpenColor we wanted to take a big step to help customers increase production efficiencies, and improve color accuracy and predictability in the supply chain,” commented Victor Asseiceiro, director, Business Unit Packaging at GMG. “We are working with many prepress houses and converters worldwide, to help them implement GMG OpenColor. They understand that OpenColor can reduce time to market, save the cost of creating too many press fingerprints, and reduce lengthy makereadies. Most important, it improves the color communication and approval process between all supply chain partners, and verifies color expectations. They appreciate that.”

Alllen Datagraph demonstrated cost effective, digital label
printing with the iTech AXXIS HS Digital Label System.
More than 200 suppliers from all segments of the flexo industry showcased at INFO*FLEX their products and technologies engineered to enhance productivity, support profitability, promote sustainability and improve quality.

Sun Chemical featured its full-range of products, showcasing its ability to be a one-stop-shop for printers’ needs. Among the products highlighted were inks for high-speed printing, digital plate technology that provides sharper images than standard plates, plates designed to reduce waste, and coatings that engage the senses.  

 “Our customers want solutions that both meet the high speed requirements of their press equipment and satisfy their customers’ requirements with packaging graphics that pop and grab attention,” said Tony Renzi, VP, product management, Liquid Inks, North American Inks. “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. From scented coatings and oxygen-barrier technology to high-speed inks and the latest in plate technology, Sun Chemical is working for our customers by bringing solutions to each of the key challenges the industry is facing today.”

Narrow web label printers were introduced at the Sun Chemical booth to SunGraphics high definition flexographic plate technology, with Esko HD software and CDI high resolution imaging. Converters that utilize the HD printing plates can print with an image quality of up to 4,000 PPI, resulting in expanded tonal range and wider color gamut to produce sharper, more vibrant images and colors. Printers also saw the new Flat-Top Dot technology that prints with 30-60 percent less impression sensitivity compared to standard digital plates which allows for longer, cleaner, more consistent runs from beginning to end. 

MacDermid Printing Solutions used INFO*FLEX to preview its new LUX In-the-Plate (ITP) technology. LUX ITP is designed to enable printers to reap the benefits of flat-top dots without adding extra steps to their platemaking workflows. ITP is a photopolymer plate technology used to create flat-topped dots without the need for special exposure equipment, processing, or a controlled atmosphere. The plate is designed to be processed using a standard digital workflow to create the distinctive LUX flat-topped dot. LUX ITP is currently in alpha stage testing, being used by a small group of converters. MacDermid plans to commercialize this new technology by the end of 2013.

Allen Datagraph Systems Inc. (ADSI) had up and running its new iTech AXXIS HS Digital Label System, which offers a significant increase in speed from ADSI’s original iTech AXXIS Digital Label System. The system, designed and manufactured in the US, is comprised of both the iTech AXXIS HS Digital Label Printer, a high-resolution roll-fed CMYK print engine featuring LED toner technology, and the iTech AXXIS HS Digital Label Finisher that laminates, integrates die-less diecutting, and then strips, slits and rewinds to finished rolls of labels.

“We have been very successful selling the tabletop iTech AXXIS Digital Label System, but our customers have also expressed interest in a faster version. The iTech AXXIS HS Digital Label System is ADSI’s answer for our customers who appreciated the flexibility of the original iTech AXXIS Digital Label System, and the ability to manufacture, print and finish labels in a complete, all digital workflow with greater productivity. Our new iTech AXXIS HS Digital Label System has faster printing and finishing,” said Mark Vanover, ADSI VP, sales and marketing.

Flexo Concepts introduced at INFO*FLEX its newest TruPoint Orange doctor blade technology that joins innovations in polymer materials with advancements in tip design. The result, the company says, is a long-life blade that can deliver the metering ability of steel with the safety benefits of a non-metallic blade in a wide variety of flexographic printing applications. Information about the company’s MicroClean dry media anilox cleaning equipment as well as other TruPoint blades and samples were also on display.

Epson showcased its SurePress L-4033AW high-quality, short-run digital label press. The SurePress L-4033AW is an inkjet digital label press with white ink that is designed to be easy-to-operate. The 7-color press makes high-quality, short-run label printing easier and more efficient, even on clear and metallic substrates. Delivering exceptional print quality and accurate color reproduction on a wide variety of standard label substrates, the L-4033AW enables label converters and commercial printers to expand their service offering and improve profitability. 

Color-Logic demonstrated it latest graphic design software at INFO*FLEX. Discussing the event, Color-Logic Director of Sales and Marketing Mark Geeves commented: “Color-Logic is demonstrating how brand managers, graphic designers and their printers can add dramatic dimension and special effects to their labels, flexible packaging and cartons without expensive postpress processes such as foil stamping. With the latest version of our Color-Logic software, graphic designers and prepress personnel no longer need to produce white masks when working with metallic substrates and white ink.”

Next year, the annual event will move to the East Coast, with the association’s 55th FTA Forum and 32nd INFO*FLEX taking place in Baltimore, MD, April 27-30, 2014.
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