Everything from confectionary products, to chips; frozen vegetables to pet foods. There’s a wide range of packaging types in the wide web category.
Equally as wide as those packaging types is the range of concerns facing wide web printers, including one concern that is higher on their list than those entering the mid web, narrow web, combined corrugated, preprinted linerboard and envelope categories—unsupported substrates.
By a wide margin, the two most dominant package types in the category were wrappers and bags—formats designed to hold things. Whether those things are smaller wrappers (like a bag containing single servings of candies), or the end product itself (like a bag containing charcoal briquets), the contact between them requires a printer to plan accordingly. Surface or reverse print? Water- or solvent-based inks? What are the end use requirements and how do they affect the job’s printability?
Regardless of the answers to those questions, all wide web printers have to grapple with the unique set of characteristics that comes with the category. Their thin, unsupported films and plastics stand in stark contrast to the support a narrow web printer sees when running label stock. Does a wide web printer run at a slower speed to accommodate that?
A litany of other concerns presents itself when a wide web printer gets its press up to high speed. Among them: registration and press bounce, along with the quality of ink film laydown (watching out for mottling or feathering).
Eyes Wide Open
With such a broad range of potential print problems, a large number of entries to examine and the sheer size of each one, it takes two six-person judging teams to get the job done. They were overseen by Excellence in Flexography Awards Committee Members Mark Mazur, an FTA Hall of Fame member, and Tim Reece of All Printing Resources Inc (APR).
Between the two groups, judges evaluated 149 entries. Mazur says separating the wheat from the chaff is an increasingly harder task, not only because of the number of entries but also because of how well each one is printed.
“It is becoming more and more difficult to choose a winner,” he says. “I don’t think the best samples are any better than the best samples we have seen in the last few years. It seems we have reached a plateau, and everyone is coming up to that plateau.”
And the Winners Are…
The Fresh Gourmet Focaccia Ranch/Garlic Toast Crumbles Wrappers, printed by Transcontinental Robbie, took Best of Show honors in the wide web category.
Including the Best of Show, judges recognized a total of 30 prints:
How the Judges Judge
Judges in the wide 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 wide 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.
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.