From files and formats to plate making and prepress, no one understands package production better than the 50th inductee into the FTA Hall of Fame. He’s been practicing his craft for decades.
First attracted to a print shop in high school, he evolved into a soldier-printer. After three years of active duty, he enrolled in Western Michigan University’s Print Management Program on the GI Bill. There, once again, he was drawn to the print shop with magnetic force.
A printer-turned-prepress-expert, he now dabbles in design and has long been an advocate for the consumer product company. As a champion of standards, he is a forbearer of Flexographic Image Reproduction Specifications & Tolerances (FIRST) and staunch proponent of printing to the numbers. Some know him as flexography’s “Walmart Connection” and describe Bentonville, AR, as his near second home.
When he picks up a package and glances at it, he instantly knows who it was printed by and where it was printed. He’s fascinated by flexography—its fundamentals and its flashiest complex image statements.
Al Bowers—”Alfred,” whom friends and family fondly call “Fritz”—stepped out of Western Michigan and into the professional package printing and converting world at American Can in the late 1970s. Passionate from the start, he relocated from his boyhood home near Pontiac, MI, to Nennah, WI, with no reservations. He quickly rose from entry level pressman to shift supervisor, graphics support manager and general manager. Over time, Al honed his skills at American National Can, Pechiney Plastic Packaging, Banta Digital Group and RR Donnelley, where today, based out of Menasha, WI, he holds the position of customer solutions manager in the Premedia Technologies Division.
Early in his career he began making both personal and indelible marks on FTA. Initial assignments involved lecturing at Fox Valley Technical College’s FTA-sponsored “Get Your Color Here” seminars. That led to a role on the institution’s advisory board and soon after a seat on FTA’s Board of Directors and its Foundation’s Board of Trustees (1989-1995).
During his tenure on the Board, Al became intimately involved with the development of FFTA FlexSys training modules, earning an FTA President’s Award in 1993. He became active in Flexo Quality Consortium (FQC) research work and experiments and soon gravitated to become a champion of FIRST.
Al spent countless hours serving on the FIRST 3rd Edition Digital Plates Subcommittee and took a leadership role and co-chaired FIRST 4.0’s Design team with Robb Frimming, Schawk, and Arleen Neustein, Excelsior Packaging Group. In fact, in that capacity, he managed the cover and collateral print project and assisted in design of the corrugated box easel, book cover, poly bag shipper and CD label.
Eventually, his support and thirst for standards and specifications led him to work with Clemson University via its Process Color Symposiums and the International Standards Organization and its Walmart Ink Specification Project. It was that experience that served as the foundation for his FFTA Fall Conference 2011 presentation.
Earlier FTA programs, containing rosters of presenters, included the name Al Bowers:
- For Forum 2002, he served as co-chair of the Plate Making and Prepress Sessions
- At one time, he helmed the Wide Web Session
- At Forum 2012, he leads the Expanded Gamut Session with co-chair Ellen Farrell of DuPont Packaging Graphics
- Two years earlier, in 2010, he served as co-chair of the FQC Session with Paul Lodewyck of Flint Group
- In 2009, he spoke to emerging trends—specifically expanded gamut printing—at Forum and said, “It’s not just about making reds redder, it’s about matching spots, increasing the intensity of process images and enhancing ‘impossible’ images.”
He espoused his philosophy from the podium, as well as in print, right on the pages of FLEXO Magazine many, many times. Most recently, in late 2011, he said, “Because flexo can print on almost anything, it is used to print on virtually everything. Every structure brings unique challenges and each printer devises an approach to solve those difficulties. Images in the aisles of supermarkets today are much brighter, often more complex and generally create more impact than ever before.”