Demand for Details and Innovation: FTA Surveys Towel and Tissue Manufacturers

RONKONKOMA, NY, USA—A non-scientific poll of Flexographic Technical Association (FTA) members engaged in the printing of towel, tissue, and napkin products (nonwovens and disposables) found this type of plant typically employs 200 workers; utilizes 11 presses; runs more than 20 jobs daily; and consumes some 5,000 gallons of ink monthly. This is according to the FTA's release of survey results today, which also reports an average press run (at this type of converter) involves 130,000 impressions. The largest order filled (reported by survey respondents) was a four-million-run napkin job produced for Valentine's Day last year.

Also says the FTA, towel, tissue, and napkin printers say demands for detail are forever increasing, and all the respondents agreed "printing on absorbent substrates really pushes the envelope." Says one FTA member: "Tension and registration control are key on the press. Tissue has to have the properties enabling it to be printed at high speed and still look, feel, and act like a napkin. The ink must perform well on press, with a stable pH and viscosity. It must print clean and hold up to end-user requirements."

In addition, the FTA's survey revealed three-quarters of the sample audience reported their operation embraces Flexographic Image Reproduction Specifications and Tolerances (FIRST); that series of guidelines—developed under the auspices of the association and working with a large committee of flexo printers, says FTA—serves as a foundation for ensuring delivery of consistent, reliable, and high-quality printed results.

Other challenges cited by FTA member printers includes the printing of fine screens and solids on tissue substrates. According to one member: "Different types of stocks that vary in absorbency have given the consumer more options than just the stiff, decorative napkin that doesn't absorb liquids." The same member adds, "Some unique folding opportunities have been investigated, and now are being used to create imaginatively shaped napkins."

Growth Forecast
According to FTA's release, one ink industry market analyst offers this assessment [of the industry's projected growth]: "Leaders in the paper towel and napkin market remain steadfast in their assessment the industry will maintain an annual growth rate of three to five percent through 2005. None of us expected the market to take off like this; this growth warrants attention." The analyst adds, "Suppliers are being challenged, and as we see the market growing and changing simultaneously, customer specs have become tighter. New four-color presses are printing at 3,000 fpm; are maintaining excellent register successfully; and are capable of more detailed printing designs. Therefore, plate manufacturers must step up and offer improved plate life for increasing press speeds. The relationship and proper understanding of accurate anilox roll volumes and screen lines is more critical than ever…."

For more information about the survey and other FTA activities, visit the FTA on the web at

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