“Big D” was the setting for the 2004 Annual Forum of the Flexographic Technical Assn (FTA). Appropriately titled “Think Big, Think Flexo,” the event's program, held at the Dallas Wyndham Anatole Hotel April 25-28, indeed was both broad and deep.

FTA/FFTA president Mark Cisternino chaired the introductory session, welcoming approximately 1,300 members of the flexo industry. Ian Johnston, president/CEO of Paperloop, talked about CMM 2005 and the partnership with FTA, which is among the associations that will offer case-study-driven presentations at CMM.

A panel of industry futurists included suppliers, converters, end-users, educators, and designers. They used their expertise to predict where flexo may go in the years ahead. Key points included the importance of speed to market in beating competitors; viewing flexo as a precision coating process to open up new applications; and packaging as a primary advertising vehicle. The consumer is no longer the customer, noted David A. Schawk, Schawk Inc. The customer is now the mass merchandiser with purchasing clout, i.e., Wal-Mart, Target, etc.

Wal-Mart's name came up again at the Tag & Label session during the RFID (radio frequency identification) discussion. The giant retailer has “mandated” its 100 largest suppliers must have RFID tags on cases and pallets by 2005. With Target, the Dept. of Defense, and others getting into the act, RFID continues to be a hot topic and getting hotter.

Other sessions included flexible packaging (standing room only!); paperboard; prepress; inks and coatings; FIRST (Flexographic Image Reproduction Specifications and Tolerances); corrugated/preprint; and towel and napkin.

Accompanying the Forum was InfoFlex, in which 156 exhibitors occupying 194 booths showed their wares. Crowded aisles made for many happy participants.

The awards banquet combined gourmet food with a first look at the winners of the Excellence in Flexography Awards. With 650 entries to choose from, judges honored 141 print jobs, and seven were named Best of Show. Following are details on a few winners.

Wide Web Category

Tetra Pak, Vernon Hills, IL, received praises from the judges for its flexo work on the Imagine Broth package. Using digitally imaged plates, an in-line press, and water-based inks, this paperboard package kept judges talking. Judge Paul Lancelle, Green Bay Engraving, explained, “What separated the organic-chicken broth piece from the rest was the setup. It featured multiple items in lanes across a wide web, all run in four-color process. Each item contained different tint builds in addition to the process image that made color management and register control a real challenge. In addition, solids and screens were run on combination plates. And they all matched practically dead-on to the proofs.”

Mid-Web Category

Alcan Packaging, Shelbyville, KY, received top honors for its entry of the Supercook Cake Covering. “The picture literally made you hungry. It was the most spectacular-looking cupcake I've ever seen in my life,” raved judge Dave Horsman, Canflexographics Ltd. Judge Dave Franze, Q.C. Packaging, agreed. “It was like you could reach in and grab the cupcakes.” To create the mouth-watering visuals, Alcan used DuPont photopolymer, digitally imaged plates and a Fischer & Krecke central impression press (run at 700 fpm).

Narrow Web Category

Q.C. Packaging Systems, Mississauga, ON, Canada, was recognized for its Buick Rainier entry. With what judges called a remarkable match to target, this computer-to-plate original design ran at 300 fpm on an Arpeco press, with in-line rotary die-cutting. Judge Ian Hole, Esko Graphics, commented, “An example of work that has simply balanced all the factors of accurate color rendering, clean trapping, excellent dot printing range, sharp ink transfer and impression, etc., into one job.”

Combined Corrugated Category

Lewisburg Container Co., Lewisburg, OH, impressed judges with its work on the Kitchen Aid Pouring Shield package, which was printed with photopolymer plates from Container Graphics and water-based inks. “The use of bright red and solid-coverage black along with the process print screams out, ‘I contain a high quality product,’” said judge Joe Rach, Chemence Inc.

Envelope Category

Commercial Envelope Mfg. Co., Deer Park, NY, shows its flexo smarts with a best-of-show win for The Easton Press envelope. Using a CI press and water-based ink, the envelope is said to demonstrate the advances in flexo printing within the envelope segment. “The best of show illustrated the advancement that this industry has achieved through hard work and the use of new technologies,” said Pat Kent, Pamarco Global Graphics.

An additional 37 gold, 40 silver, 44 bronze, and 16 non-denominational awards were presented at this year's event. For a complete list of winners, contact FFTA at 631/737-6020; flexography.org.

Technical Innovation Award

HyperFlex, Creo's plate-resolution enhancement tool developed specifically for flexographic platemaking and unveiled late last year, has won the highly prestigious FTA/Flexo Market News 2004 Technical Innovation Award. Incorporated into Creo's Maxtone screening system, HyperFlex software is credited with advancing the quality of results achieved in flexographic printing. It is said to aid in the formation of small graphic elements on photopolymer plates, thanks to the inherent capability to produce smaller, more stable dots.

Subscribe to PFFC's EClips Newsletter