Are you too wide to be narrow and too narrow to be wide? Too big to fit on a wine bottle and too small to hold more than one or two servings? Then welcome to the mid web category.
The entry guidelines for the FTA Excellence in Flexography Awards define the mid web category as web widths wider than 24-in. and narrower than 44-in. But ask a narrow web printer what it considers mid web, and you might hear 20-in. Ask a wide web printer what it considers mid web and you might hear a number of inches somewhere in the fifties. Throw in a variety of packaging formats and you are left with the one category that, unlike wide web, narrow web, combined corrugated, preprinted linerboard and envelope, is a sort of hodgepodge free-for-all of flexography.
Right Down the Middle
What pushes a printer to purchase a mid web press? One of the answers is to increase its print quality. Mid web presses are designed to handle that in-between segment of web widths that is too wide to fit on a narrow web press and too narrow to run well on a wide web press.
It’s not just print quality but also productivity. Imagine a day’s worth of short-run jobs to be printed on a single wide web press. If that press were instead a mid web machine, then the makeready per job would be shorter and the press speed per job could be faster.
Combined, print quality and productivity yield another “p” word—profitability.
If a mid web press is zeroed in on that sweet spot of web widths, the opposite is true of the substrates and formats that can run on one. Flexible packaging, folding cartons and shrink sleeves; wrappers, cartons, bags, packets and napkins—and that’s just among the group of award winners in this year’s competition.
Putting the Middle on Top
Category judges ponder all of these things when debating each submission’s degree of difficulty, level of execution and award merit. And they lend their loupes to the wide web category, scoring its line and screen entries, which only sharpens their eyes for noticing defects. That group of six industry members was overseen by Excellence in Flexography Awards Committee Members Caryn Kuehl of ProAmpac and Alix Guyot of tesa tape Inc.
A comment like, “Here we have great execution of a complicated job. There is impressive white on multiple decks. And the cold foil was very well done,” which may seem at home on a narrow web award winner, is all the more noteworthy for a mid web-sized print sample.
Similarly, a mid web entry’s “well-executed registration” nets it only a bronze award, where a comparable comment applied to a wide web print sample could come with a silver or gold award.
“Excellent, excellent use of high-definition highlight dot fade to zero. It’s incredible how well the detail is held in this wrapper.”
“The copy—quite fine—was consistent across the web. The 10-color registration must have been difficult to execute.”
“This was a close runner-up to the gold award-winning napkin. It’s got great ink coverage and impressive ink sharpness.”
“Excellent registration, executed well for this substrate. Way to go holding the fine details!”
And the Winners Are…
The Mediterranean Influenced Sweet Pepper Farcí Wrapper, printed by Sunshine FPC, took Best of Show honors in the mid web category.
Including the Best of Show, judges recognized a total of 12 prints:
How the Judges Judge
Judges in the mid web category, like each of the categories of the FTA Excellence in Flexography Awards, 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 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 mid web 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.
See the Rest of the 2019 FTA Excellence in Flexography Awards
There is a very broad range of obstacles facing any printer entering a print sample into the wide web category.
Too wide for narrow web, too narrow for wide web—the mid web category is a mix of substrates, sizes and segments.
Labels—and tubes, and labels, and boxes, and even more labels—were the stars of the narrow web category.
For the printers who run work in the combined corrugated category, their biggest challenge is with their substrate of choice.
When it comes to web widths and repeat lengths, it doesn’t get any bigger than the preprinted linerboard category.
Judges of the envelope category looked for excellent printing in the face of adversarial substrates and registration-hostile speeds.
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