Pedal to Metal
Confident that the job was running on all cylinders and a proof-to-press match could be assured, it was time to put the pedal to the metal and run the job. It was just after 8:30 a.m., Wednesday, Aug. 28, and FLEXO’s Fall Conference Edition Cover was about to go on press.
Clemson’s OMET Varyflex seven-station press was configured to printing order recommended by GraCOL—K, C, M, Y. It was fitted with Harper Corporation of America anilox rolls, the aforementioned Flexo Concepts Orange doctor blades and a Phoseon FJ60S UV-LED curing unit.
As all stood ready, fate once again reared its ugly head. Just before our arrival, several of the newly processed plates fell victim to getting cut. Time delay: four hours. Difficulties didn’t end there; the compression setting left on in the .jpg file would have required re-plating anyway.
By afternoon, the press was humming along at 200 fpm and initial cover samples were collected and measured. Set side by side with the proof, consensus on final and minute adjustments were derived.
One last wipe to clean all print decks, and the lingering specs, hickies and blotches were erased. The numbers told the story. It was time to go. Some 16,000 cover images, printed two-up, rolled through the press in no time. It was shortly before 2 p.m. that the team saw the checkered flag dangling over the rewind.
By 3 p.m., the race was in the books; the results posted for the records. Flexo matched offset utilizing CRPC-6.
Recalling the Race
As is custom, FTA’s pit crew paused to review what transpired, resolving to continually improve as the next track unfolds.
For his part, Teufler noted, “The press trials clearly retested our capabilities to diagnose setup flaws and pressrun struggles. We had the opportunity to hone our skills on spotting potential troubles, in-process issues and provide the understanding as teaching moments among the peers and the students”
He maintained, “The work we put into preparation and the work that was not prepared reflected in the struggles that were faced. The challenges were always overcome, but we were reminded to prepare well and always stay aware and ready.”
Michaud concurred: “The entire process, from optimization to the final printrun, was truly a collaboration of the entire team. Looking forward to sharing the team’s experience and results in Charlotte.”
Ever reticent, Samworth opined, “We now await the offset pressrun. If the offset run matches CRPC-6, then the offset-printed FLEXO cover will match the flexo-printed FLEXO cover and both will match the proof.”
Grome offered, “I am continuously impressed with the interdependence we all have on each other to bring print to life. Every discipline, every vendor, and every skillset is required. From optimization through printed piece, no one is more important than the other—and all are reliant on each other. We proved it!”
Uress, fully embracing his assigned role, provided further documentation. “Even in an educational environment, far from the stresses of fully scheduled production, we still faced many of the same issues our customers see every day. Throughout each part of the process—from the fingerprint, to characterization, to production—we had to spend considerable time troubleshooting routine issues. While these are not inherently complicated, they do take significant time to diagnose and rectify. Even on a relaxed schedule as ours, we still found the pressure increasing as new and unexpected challenges came up that slowed us down.”
He continued, “Toward the end, when our team needed to break apart to make their travel arrangements home, tough decisions had to be made considering the amount of time and raw materials remaining. While we might not have achieved the utmost of our capabilities, we still accomplished a satisfactory production that should successfully demonstrate the goals of the project.
“If I had to summarize the experience,” Uress said, “I would call it ‘business as usual’ in flexo production. While some difficulties we encountered might seem routine or unsophisticated, the impact they had on our efficiency were as real as more complex problems faced every day in the real world. While we can always seek to improve our process in the future, doing our best to adapt to the unexpected and execute under pressure remained the keys to our success.”
Haynes echoed the thoughts of the others. “What a great few days. As prepared as we felt we were going into this project, Papa Production (a lesser known kin, second nephew, once removed, to Mother Nature and Father Time) played his normal antics, sprinkling challenges along our journey. Mind you, we were not phased. With each obstacle, we collaborated to form solutions.”
Elaborating on the point, she stated, “Our experience speaks to the realities we all face with production chaos and just how valuable it is to work together. I am also confident that our preparation (having worked through optimizing our variables) and the time spent upfront to understand and define our targets were the primary reasons we were so successful. Without this collective approach to involve all the partners for this project, and the efforts to lay out a plan for success, I do not think we could have finished in just four days. Nice job team! I look forward to the reveal!”
Nagle put everything to rest. “This pressrun echoed the necessity for a controlled process including a production meeting and followed by a wrap-up session,” the Fall Conference 2019 program chair explained. “We had the benefit of a room full of technical flexo experts and were still presented with challenges.”
His take on the final lap: “Flexo is dynamic. Through process control and documentation, challenges can be minimized.” They have to be. After all, “Time is money!”
FIRST at Full Throttle
Racing and reality converged! Here is a short Q&A looking at the cover run in racing speak.
How were you able to overcome all those obstacles and finish FIRST today?
Joe “Torpedo” Tuccitto: Well FIRST, I’ve got to thank all my sponsors—Esko, EC Shaw, APR, Colorware, 3M, Harper, Siegwerk, MacDermid, Flexo Concepts and Phoseon—whose long hours back in the shop all week helped us come out a winner. In other words, the Sonoco Institute’s OMET sure ran good today.
What specific issues did you encounter? You sure were busy in the pits all week. We couldn’t hear all the whispers above the radio static, can you tell us what happened?
Torpedo: Right off, we blew a tire in setup and testing, but with new rubber we were able to get a setup we liked. During qualifying, we had too many people want to drive the car at the same time, but we worked it out and let everyone have a turn tuning it in. Come race time, we had our backs to the wall all day but were able to collectively put our best efforts together. We lost seventh gear, but that’s what hammers are for!
We got it running and back up to speed. Luckily the track went under caution, so we didn’t even lose a lap! Later on, during the race, as our venerable crew began leaving for the next track, our stalwart crew chief Keith “Eagle-Eye” Nagle made the call of the race by adding a little sumthin’ to the magenta. We managed to finish with just enough fuel for a burnout.”
Wow, that is quite a tale! Got anything you want to say to wrap this up?
Torpedo: Yeah, don’t forget the aspirin.