It don’t get no bigger in flexography than preprinted linerboard. When measuring the width of a finished roll, there is its precise and numerical width, expressed in inches or centimeters; and there is its more vague and general width, expressed as “narrow” or “wide.”

That works for submissions in the wide web, mid web, narrow web, combined corrugated and envelope categories of the 2019 FTA Excellence in Flexography Awards, but for preprinted linerboard, a more apt unit of measurement might be “Shelley Rubin.” Standing at an inch over five feet tall, the FTA Excellence in Flexography Awards organizer is regularly dwarfed by the sheer size of entries in the category, which can measure 1.2 or 1.5 Shelley Rubins.

2019 Excellence in Flexography Awards preprinted linerboard judging
Kevin Krause (left) and Jason Rhyne study a job.
2019 Excellence in Flexography Awards preprinted linerboard judging
Ed Trainor (left) and Rick Pomerenka consider the attributes of a preprinted linerboard job.

Comparing & Contrasting with Combined Corrugated

Destined to be adhered to a medium with some type of fluting, preprinted linerboard is by its very nature linked to corrugated printing. Removing the medium from the actual print process means removing some of the concerns that come with direct print corrugated.

The biggest of those concerns is fluting. Their integrity is the No. 1 priority of corrugated board; a printer that does not have to worry about crushing fluting is one that can worry a little less about impression, ink laydown and registration. The printer also does not have to worry about fluting that is already crushed or in some way defective.

Preprinted linerboard shares with direct print corrugated its enormous size, not only with large web widths but also with large repeats. Everyone in attendance for the Excellence in Flexography Awards judging process knows the preprinted linerboard category has begun when venue staff start bringing extra tables to be placed together, so the entries can be completely rolled out. Whereas narrow web judges can sit three to a table and bring labels up to their faces, preprinted linerboard judges have to stand and bring their faces to the prints. In some cases, the samples cannot fit on a table and are instead rolled out on the carpeted floor.

Dwell time is still an issue facing preprinted linerboard printers, as the format also makes use of large-diameter cylinders and anilox rolls. While the absence of fluting during printing removes one set of concerns, the addition of it in postprint—the corrugating process itself—introduces unique obstacles. Ink properties have to be carefully considered in order to withstand linerboard being attached to the medium.

Judges’ Feedback

Unfortunately for printers, judges in the preprinted linerboard category know all of this. They expect higher-quality print and accept fewer defects. And they also judge the combined corrugated category, so they are well versed on what both segments are capable of in 2019.

2019 Excellence in Flexography Awards preprinted linerboard judges
The judges of the preprinted linerboard category of the 2019 FTA Excellence in Flexography Awards. From left: Kevin Krause, Great Northern Corp; Rick Pomerenka, Printron; Jason Rhyne, SGS; Ed Trainor, International Paper; Doug Weiss, Kodak; Claude Gaudet, Master Packaging Inc

Comments like “Great laydown of ink with a large coverage area” and “Large format but very consistent print across” carry even more weight when they are speaking to preprinted linerboard entries. To earn an award in the category, entries needed to meet and exceed that level of quality. As Excellence in Flexography Awards Committee Members Tim Esselman of WestRock CP LLC and Geoff Roznak of Great Northern Corp explain, what in years past could pass for excellent now is more or less average.

“It is getting tougher and tougher every year to stand out,” they say. “With quality improvements and prepress contributions, submissions were more even across the board than ever before.”

They also called attention to the diversity of entries, noting “The category of preprinted linerboard had a wide range of imagery, from glass bottles to cherries. It’s great to see such a variety of graphics.”

Judging Comments

“Color consistency across the web was flawless on the dark blue.”

“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.”

“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.”

“Beautifully printed job with excellent solid coverage laydown. And there’s an added degree of difficulty for the web size and design complexity.”

And the Winners Are…

2019 Excellence in Flexography Awards preprinted linerboard best of show

The KitchenAid Artisan Series Stand Mixer Box, printed by International Paper Hillsboro, took Best of Show honors in the preprinted linerboard category.

Including the Best of Show, judges recognized a total of nine prints:

3

Gold
Awards

3

Silver
Awards

3

Bronze
Awards

The Preprinted Linerboard Winners of the 2019 FTA Excellence in Flexography Awards

How the Judges Judge

Judges in the preprinted linerboard 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.

2019 Excellence in Flexography Awards preprinted linerboard judging
From left: Ed Trainor, Claude Gaudet and Rick Pomerenka evaluate one large sample.
2019 Excellence in Flexography Awards preprinted linerboard judging
Doug Weiss (left) and Kevin Krause ready a sample for judging.

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 preprinted linerboard 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

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