PIA Color Management Conference Tackles Technologies, Focuses on FIRST

Highlighted value of FIRST in any printing environment

1/5/2011 - Flexographic Technical Association members were represented in force, both as presenters and attendees, when they made their way to Phoenix, AZ. The event, Printing Industries of America's annual Color Management Conference, took place Dec. 4-7 and was co-sponsored by FTA. The challenge of technology implementation was addressed to 200+ attendees, as was best practices, including FIRST (Flexographic Image Reproduction Specifications and Tolerances).

Bridging the gap between customer and supplier, E & J Gallo Winery is a rare breed. As keynote speaker on Sunday, Dec. 6, Frank Windgassen, production director for creative services, addressed the company’s efforts to bring its packaging and label printing in-house. One chief challenge, Windgassen revealed, is matching labels to comps, the latter of which are often printed with dye-based inkjet inks. Also high on his list of peeves: the lack of universal international standards. Part of the solution, he insisted, is recognizing that there are no easy answers. Gallo has created its own brand style book, which includes restricting comps to colors producible on press.

“Color management is a beautiful concept,” exclaimed Tuccitto, “This session covers those things that have to happen before color management.” Tuccitto, along with Devlin, offered a primer on FIRST—Flexographic Image Reproduction Specifications and Tolerances. He asserted that FIRST is a byproduct of consumer product company demands for better consistency in flexo. “CPCs have pushed forward in getting FIRST implemented.”

Devlin stated that FIRST takes into account the fact that everyone uses different inks, substrates, plates, etc. The idea, she said, is to be “consistent regardless of the plant.” To get there, Tuccitto interjected, one must establish known starting points, define targets and goals, and recognize the failure points.

Inkjet proofing is a mature market, according to Son Do of Rods and Cones Inc. Most devices on the market are continuous tone, but some produce dots to replicate moiré. Proofer manufactures are asked to, and are continuously working to, make them less expensive, faster, offer higher color gamuts and a wide array of substrates.

But that, insisted Do, is commercial printing. What about packaging and flexography. “Flexo still wants a minimum dot,” declared Do. Packaging also needs proofers that work on a wider variety of substrates. In addition, said Do, “Flexo doesn’t print just four colors—they need support for expanded gamut, white inks, and metallics.”

Do touted the value of FIRST in any printing environment. “Until you run to the numbers, it is difficult to buy a system and call it a proofer,” he said. He also offered a caution for flexographers who prefer dot-based inkjet systems: “If you want a dot, you have to accept more maintenance requirements and registration issues.”