The 2019 FLEXO Magazine Cover Project

Analogies, analogies: Press teams and pit crews… Racetracks and pressrooms… Drivers and operators… Mechanics and pressman… Pace cars and process control… Chassis and web paths… Checkered flags and impulse buys… Sponsors and CPCs… Time trials and optimization runs. Fast and Furious—oh no, that’s a movie franchise!

Stock car racing and FTA? You get the picture—Blurs of color flash by your eyes with the hum, din or sometimes roar of engines ringing in your ears. You might be at the Charlotte Motor Speedway, “Beast of the Southeast”; you might be at Clemson University’s Sonoco Institute of Packaging Design and Graphics, where “Tiger Rag” “Shakes the Southland.” Time to go “Full throttle!” Let’s put you in the driver’s seat. Ready for some fast-paced action?

Mindsets, whether for motor sports or package print production, focus on reaction time to contend with the ever-present battle between consistency and uncertainty. From garage to pit road, to victory lane; or from design studio to plate room to press—reliability is stressed; predictability pursued. Variables exist to be eliminated. Careful planning and meticulous execution set the stage for both race and run. Trials and tribulations are to be expected.

Critical Thinking

“First,” “First.” “First,” is the single recurring thought in the mind of every racer, just as Flexographic Image Reproduction Specifications & Tolerances (FIRST) sparks the thought processes of highly successful modern day flexographers. Package print is their passion; “print to the numbers,” is their reverberating call. FTA members hear it every day. Theirs is a world of standards, reference points, targets, curves, profiles and the like. These are the tools they use to dial in, ramp up speed, get man and machine operating as one. In this world, common knowledge holds: “Efficiency rules!” “Time is money!”

From left: Joe Tuccitto, Sean Teufler, Keith Nagle and AJ Grome wait to evaluate print samples in Clemson’s Sonoco Institute’s pressroom.

Coincidentally, that second phrase, “Time is Money,” serves as the theme of FTA’s Fall Conference 2019, where pit crew precision, as applied to a flexo job—this month’s magazine cover, an image captured at Charlotte Motor Speedway—brings print to life, thanks to measurements taken and data collected and leveraged.

By design, this print production job showcases flexo’s ability to match offset quality and consistency on a job typical to that process, yet atypical to an FTA member pressroom. To make it possible required a highly collaborative industry partnership, extensive communications and strict adherence to FIRST methodology and tenants, namely: optimize, fingerprint, characterize, control. Collectively, the sequence promotes quality, consistency and continuous process improvement.

Revving It Up

Dog Days of August—Monday the 26th, through Wednesday the 28th—drove home the point. It was in the opening days of the fall semester that the team of Fall Conference session chairs—the pit crew for this project—descended on the campus, design in hand and ready to go to work. The roster: Sean Teufler, Harper Corporation of America; Ann Michaud, 3M; Mark Samworth, Esko; Catherine Haynes, All Printing Resources Inc (APR); AJ Grome, E.C. Shaw Co; Keith Nagle, Phoseon Technology (and Fall Conference 2019 chair); Dan Uress, Colorware USA Inc; and Dean Radgford, Siegwerk.

“Flexo is dynamic. Through process control and documentation, challenges can be minimized.”

Keith Nagle

Once on site, that support force was joined by Bobby Congdon, assistant director of the Sonoco Institute; Kenny Tucker, project coordinator; Shane Hutchings, lab technician (lead press operator) and a cadre of student assistants hungry to learn. I was there, as was Joe Tuccitto, FTA’s director of education—the in-house technical guru.

It was just after 8 a.m. on day one and engines—the press—could already be heard idling. With the cover file sitting at pole position, the full crew set about final preparations for the run. First up, careful examination of the image itself—CMYK + spot, which put forth client expectations. Identified: placement of spot color—in the Fall Conference logo—hues, gradients and fades to zero, 100 percent solids, tight traps, reverse text—and that’s a partial list.

Samworth explained, in essence, defining the race, “As FTA projects continue to showcase the latest technologies, it’s getting harder and harder each year to show something entirely new. This year’s Fall Conference FLEXO Cover Project shows something entirely new. The goal is to use the exact same separations to print offset and flexo and to achieve match by using the G7 (Near Neutral Calibration) method and aiming at CRPC-6 (GRACoL 2013, aka the General Requirements for Applications in Commercial Offset Lithography). With respect to color adjustments, the only difference between the flexo-printed cover and the offset-printed cover will be the curves. Our proof and flexo pressruns must match CRPC-6.”

So, our chosen Characterized Reference Printing Condition applies to Universal Coated Premium Paper—for this job, Orion 100# Gloss TXT. That said, it should be noted that, M1 measurement devices (in this case, a spectrophotometer) color manage optically brightened papers using a calibrated amount of UV in the measurement source to accurately capture the effects of optical brightening agents (OBAs) on appearance, under simulated D-50 lighting.

G7 embraces Committee for Graphic Arts Technology Standards (CGATS.21 ) and International Standards Organization (ISO 15330), which are based on M1. By name, ISO 15339 14276 is known as “Graphic Technology—Printing from Digital Data Across Multiple Technologies.” It affords substrate correction and is proofed with an ISO 14647-7 strip.