Thirty judges, 11 committee members and a handful of FTA staff were present for the judging of the 2019 FTA Excellence in Flexography Awards. They saw hundreds of pieces of flexographically printed packaging: from labels to boxes; line, screen and process; the OK and the great, all kinds of substrate.

2019 Excellence in Flexography Awards everyone
There is no “I” in “Excellence”: Thirty judges, 11 Excellence in Flexography Awards Committee members and a handful of FTA staff convened on the Hyatt Regency Long Island Ballroom from Jan. 26-28 to judge the 2019 FTA Excellence in Flexography Awards.

Judges were divided into two groups, each focused on a specific set of criteria when evaluating a print: degree of difficulty and level of execution:

First, the degree of difficulty group judges the overall complexity of each print, grading attributes on a scale from one to 10. Those attributes are substrate printability/ink compatibility, registration tolerances, plate-printing complexity/fineness of print, screen (lpi or stochastic spot size), tonal range (on screen and process jobs) and defect detectability.

Second, the level of execution group judges how well each print’s various elements were printed, also grading on a scale from one to 10. Those elements are image sharpness, ink coverage, registration, dot/screen/vignette (again, on screen and process jobs) and consistency.

After each print has been evaluated by the degree of difficulty judges and then the level of execution judges, the points are totaled and all the category’s entries are sorted from highest to lowest cumulative score. All the category judges then convene together to debate each print’s worthiness of a gold, silver or bronze award—if any. Finally, when the debate is over, the gold award winners are collected and, from them, a Best of Show is chosen.

2019 Excellence in Flexography Awards judging committee
The Excellence in Flexography Awards Committee. Top row, from left: Bill Rund, Mac Papers Envelope Converters Inc; Paul Teachout, Nilpeter; Mark Mazur, FTA Hall of Fame; Sean Teufler, Harper Corporation of America; Tim Reece, All Printing Resources Inc (APR); Caryn Kuehl, ProAmpac; Alix Guyot, tesa tape Inc; Geoff Roznak, Great Northern Corp. Bottom row, from left: Bob Loescher, Compass Color & Coatings; Paul Lancelle, Kodak; Tim Esselman, WestRock CP LLC

Overheard at the 2019 FTA Excellence in Flexography Awards Judging

What does judging the Excellence in Flexography Awards sound like? At times, you could mistake it for a library. When a group of degree of difficulty or level of execution judges is “in the zone,” their heads so close to a print they would smear ink on their noses if it hadn’t already dried or cured, the click of a camera shutter or snap of a soda can opening can be deafening.

At other times, it resembles a cantankerous courtroom or family dinner, where industry experts’ assert their opinions and then defend them with vigor. Debates over registration, impression, complexity, sharpness, ink coverage, consistency and other criteria arise and subside. Judges scrutinize every detail of every print, once when assigning it a score and again when deciding whether to give it an award, and they often do so audibly.

“Extremely well executed on a large sheet. Nice tonal range from the highlights to the mid-tones. Great detail and register across the entire sheet.”

“Great die cut! How did you do that?”

“Excellent, excellent use of high-definition highlight dot fade to zero. It’s incredible how well the detail is held in this wrapper.”

“There is so much to like about this entry: From the solid ink density, halo-free type that would make offset print jealous, to the sharp, precise dot structure building dimensionality and texture to the bottle surface, and finally, to the smooth, strong solids that are free of defect.”

“Great consistency across the entire print with heavy coverage. This is a realistic design printed well as a 1-color image.”

“The print exhibited a great deal of detail and saturation from highlight to shadow. The ink laydown is very smooth. Color match print to proof was well done.”

“Amazing job on very, very unforgiving graphics. This piece rivals litho offset print quality. It’s out of this world!”

“Gorgeous piece with extremely high defect detectability, especially in the dots on the face and back.”

“Wonderful ink coverage. The tonal range on the product shot was superior and the registration on the product shot was exceptional—especially considering it was printed on a white background.”

“Excellent registration, executed well for this substrate. Way to go holding the fine details!”

“Smooth build solids, registration was all one-for-one and held tight. White laydown was executed really well. Text had nice, crisp, sharp edges. This also had the best highlights in its category, while also using the highest linescreen count.”

“This represents the future of flexo!”

The 2019 FTA Excellence in Flexography Awards, by the Numbers

124

Total Awards

6

Best of
Show Awards

39

Gold
Awards

41

Silver
Awards

40

Bronze
Awards

See the Winners of the 2019 FTA Excellence in Flexography Awards

2019 FTA Excellence in Flexography Awards wide web best of show

Wide Web

There is a very broad range of obstacles facing any printer entering a print sample into the wide web category.

See the Winners

2019 FTA Excellence in Flexography Awards mid web best of show

Mid Web

Too wide for narrow web, too narrow for wide web—the mid web category is a mix of substrates, sizes and segments.

See the Winners

2019 FTA Excellence in Flexography Awards narrow web best of show

Narrow Web

Labels—and tubes, and labels, and boxes, and even more labels—were the stars of the narrow web category.

See the Winners

2019 FTA Excellence in Flexography Awards combined corrugated best of show

Combined Corrugated

For the printers who run work in the combined corrugated category, their biggest challenge is with their substrate of choice.

See the Winners

2019 FTA Excellence in Flexography Awards preprinted linerboard best of show

Preprinted Linerboard

When it comes to web widths and repeat lengths, it doesn’t get any bigger than the preprinted linerboard category.

See the Winners

2019 FTA Excellence in Flexography Awards envelope best of show

Envelope

Judges of the envelope category looked for excellent printing in the face of adversarial substrates and registration-hostile speeds.

See the Winners

2019 FTA Excellence in Flexography Awards self-promotion

Self-Promotion

See the Winners

2019 FTA Excellence in Flexography Awards non-traditional

Non-Traditional

See the Winners

2019 FTA Excellence in Flexography Awards student

Student

See the Winners

Photos from the 2019 FTA Excellence in Flexography Awards Judging

2019 FTA Excellence in Flexography Awards homepage judging
Richard Klein takes a loupe to a wide web entry.
2019 FTA Excellence in Flexography Awards homepage judging
Kevin Schilling (left) scores an entry while David Bell examines its detail.
2019 FTA Excellence in Flexography Awards homepage judging
With a variety of tools to study each entry’s finer details, there’s nowhere to hide imperfections.
2019 FTA Excellence in Flexography Awards homepage judging
The preprinted linerboard judges gather around a very, very large entry.
2019 FTA Excellence in Flexography Awards homepage judging
Some people read books in their spare time; others, like past FTA Excellence in Flexography Awards Committee Chair Paul Lancelle, read print repeats.
2019 FTA Excellence in Flexography Awards homepage judging
Paul Teachout (right) advises Bill Enright (left) and Keith Nagle on a debate over a narrow web print sample.
2019 FTA Excellence in Flexography Awards homepage judging
Embellishments are plentiful on entries, giving judges another level of application to critique.
2019 FTA Excellence in Flexography Awards homepage judging
When the awards have been… awarded, it’s time to debate which gold award-winning prints—if any—are worthy of a Best of Show honor.
2019 FTA Excellence in Flexography Awards homepage judging
First, judges score degree of difficulty; then, they evaluate level of execution.
2019 FTA Excellence in Flexography Awards homepage judging
Narrow web judges have well over 100 entries to dissect.