Forum 2019: The Content, the Attractions, the Takeaways, the Opportunities
FLEXO: Four days of flexo start on Sunday with a trio of technical sessions that will look at increasingly complex print requirements for corrugated products (in “Transitioning from Brown Boxes to Multi-Color Flexographic Printing – Join the Growth”), flexography’s ability to deliver on what brand owners need (in “Best Print Technology on the Planet”), and new and enhanced package functions (in “Flexo Boldly Goes Where No Process Has Gone Before”). Tying them together is the idea that flexography is already No. 1, but still advancing, still looking to improve. What are the takeaways from each session and how will they reinforce that idea?
Michaud: Starting with the corrugated session: As its title indicates, we will hear how to navigate the transition from brown box to multi-color flexo printing in the corrugated segment. This will again include the brand owner’s perspective as well as equipment considerations and a process roadmap to success.
Welter: With “Best Print Technology on the Planet,” we are letting the brand owners set the stage for the remainder of Forum: Why it is important for us to go where no one has gone before, why the defects matter, and why we are working to develop and implement new screens. The objective is to tie these all together and ensure we remember the “why” as we build out processes and capabilities that keep our customers coming back to flexo.
Michaud: The final session on Sunday, which Hank alluded to, is “Flexo Boldly Goes Where No Process Has Gone Before.” It will take attendees beyond their traditional flexo world and will explore the ability of flexo printing to provide more functionality beyond simple package decoration. We will hear about the latest in lenticular and functional printing, anti-counterfeiting, product coding, and more, all from the experts who are exploring this new frontier.
FLEXO: Monday kicks off with “The Defectives,” where a panel of Flexperts will diagnose common print defects and unravel where in the process they occurred. Why does looking at real-world problems resonate so well with an audience? How does it differ from discussing the theoretical “this could happen” and instead saying “this did happen”?
Michaud: Seeing real-world examples that reflect our shared challenges always resonates. Printers value information and tools that can be immediately implemented. Everyone should come to Forum 2019 with the expectation of gaining useful information that they can apply in their daily working environment.
Welter: We all learn best from experience, but learning from others’ experience can help us improve faster and avoid costly mistakes. Having these real-world problems and reviewing their potential solutions will help the process come alive and provide, as Ann said, tools we can implement immediately.
FLEXO: Day two closes out with a collection of project results, findings and data in “FQC: Research Is the Key to a Successful Flexo Future.” Whose research are we going to see and how could it impact the next decade of flexography?
Michaud: The FQC session will give us a glimpse of our future flexo leaders today, as we hear from the FFTA Rossini North America Flexographic Research Scholarship and Gary Hilliard FQC Scholarship recipients. We will also hear from the Phoenix Challenge College Competition-winning team and from the FQC High-Resolution Printing Project team. This session gives us the chance to see future and current flexo leaders in action.
Welter: I have been to many Forums, and my most vivid learnings have come when the data or research discussed challenged a long-held belief or when we have been asked to look at a well-known process from a new angle. The opportunity to learn from the next generation of FTA members will do just that, bringing fresh, new ideas and an eagerness to take flexo to the next level, while ignoring all of the well-known obstacles that often keep us from starting the journey.
FLEXO: Fingerprinting and characterization are two crucial components of Flexographic Image Reproduction Specifications & Tolerances (FIRST), and are the subjects of Tuesday’s pair of sessions: “Gaining Control of Your Process: The Fingerprint” and “Gaining Control of Your Process: The Characterization.” Why does each topic deserve its own two hours of discussion?
Michaud: Incorporating FIRST methodology into the workflow will lead to more accurate and repeatable color results to ensure the finished printed product matches the proof and the original design intent. Improving production consistency and efficiency is key, and we accomplish this by having our process under control. These two practical sessions will begin with an overview of the FIRST methodology and will then focus on the fingerprint and the characterization. Each two-hour session will walk through the process, highlighting current techniques in measuring, monitoring and documenting results, again focusing on practical takeaways.
Welter: For FIRST to be implemented correctly, we need the ability to predict the outcome of our process. These two components together are the foundation of that process and they are what enable us to accurately make that prediction. For years, we have agreed running to the numbers is the goal. These steps are so critical that entire sessions have been built around them, so attendees can walk away with a clear understanding of how the process works and how to best apply it in their workplace.
FLEXO: “A Screening of Screening: Investigation into Prepress & Plate Advances” leads the final day of Forum 2019. The session’s focus is clear from its title, but how will it impact the way in which printers print?
Michaud: It’s important to keep up with the latest technologies that will allow flexo to continue to push the boundaries of print quality and efficiency. The three technologies showcased here will demonstrate options that will improve solid ink transfer and uniformity, achieve smoother transitions and control across the entire tonal range, and minimize highlight gain. We will hear in detail about each technology, their strengths and their benefits to both printer and brand owner.
Welter: As we look back at the previous three days, we have ensured the basics, removed the defects and set the stage for a robust and predictable process. Technologies like these screening techniques will be what allow us to continue to push our capabilities forward. The session will show how these technologies can help a printer’s process and will allow each printer to question current methods and look for ways to continue to push past any limits they face on a daily basis.
FLEXO: Every flexographer aspires to “win,” whether its new business, the fight against inconsistency and waste, or the satisfaction of a customer. “Anatomy of a Winner: Dissecting the Process” will close out Forum 2019 with a comparison of 2018 FTA Excellence in Flexography Awards-winning prints and variants of those same prints with defects. What do attendees stand to gain from not only seeing the comparison but hearing critiques from the panel of FTA Awards Committee members?
Welter: We are each looking for that advantage, that change that will take us to the next level. “Anatomy of a Winner” will demonstrate just that. It will show the difference between “commercially acceptable” and being set apart by your peers. As the session walks through the process, we will gain insight into the art of what’s possible and what it takes to up your game.
Michaud: This session will bring it all together, offering an overview of the awards judging process, discussing some common print defects, and offering suggestions from the panel on how to improve weak points by providing constructive details. Learn from the experience of the panel on how to ultimately improve your process and print results.