If you’ve ever set out to buy a TV, you’ve no doubt come face-to-face with a smorgasbord of acronyms and letter/number combinations, insincere sales pitches and the cognitive dissonance that comes a year later when a new model replaces yours.
The amount of new stuff being thrust into the marketplace—in flexography as much as television sets—can become overwhelming, and it takes a focused look at what’s available to really understand what’s useless and what can have practical applications in your operations.
“As we began planning for Fall Conference, we agreed we wanted to pack the schedule with strong technical content and we wanted to highlight some of the new technologies that are starting to take hold in our industry,” says Esko’s Rory Marsoun, chair of Fall Conference 2017. “I have no doubt that even the most seasoned flexographers will leave this conference with knowledge they can take back and put into practice, whether implementing a new technology or just optimizing a 20-year-old flexo press.”
Here, FLEXO Magazine talks to Marsoun about how Fall Conference’s theme will be brought to life, what each session brings to the table and how the event prepares flexographers for the technology-laden future.
FLEXO Magazine: If Fall Conference 2017 is “The Gateway to Technology,” as its theme indicates, what do you hope attendees come away having learned? After they’ve entered and exited that “gateway,” what will they know that they didn’t before?
Rory Marsoun: As we began planning for Fall Conference, we agreed we wanted to pack the schedule with strong technical content and we wanted to highlight some of the new technologies that are starting to take hold in our industry. One example of such a technology is digital printing. As we start to see more flexo printers adding digital capabilities, we have started to realize there are some challenges that come with it. Fall Conference will feature a real-life project that deals with some of these challenges. I have no doubt that even the most seasoned flexographers will leave this conference with knowledge they can take back and put into practice, whether implementing a new technology or just optimizing a 20-year-old flexo press.
FLEXO: The roster of speakers for a Fall Conference often reads like a who’s who of the industry—individuals who are in-the-know and command authority on their subjects of choice. How does this year’s lineup reinforce the ability to deliver on the event’s theme?
Marsoun: As we look down the roster of speakers for this year’s conference, indeed there are a lot of familiar faces, but we didn’t just name off our favorites when building the lineup. We started by determining the topics we wanted to cover in this year’s conference and then simply asked ourselves, “Who is the absolute best person we could get to talk about this?” Our speakers are subject matter experts from all different parts of our industry—the best and the brightest. When addressing the topic of technology and innovation, each speaker understands the latest technological trends and best practices in their part of the industry. They also understand how these technologies should be deployed and the pitfalls that should be avoided.
FLEXO: Monday’s first session covers the “realm of flexographic innovation,” and promises to define what it means to be innovative in our industry and how that innovation affects flexo printing and the processes behind it. What are some of those innovations and how can they make attendees better flexographers?
Marsoun: The kickoff session at this year’s Fall Conference is intended to set the foundation for the entire event. The speakers will first define what innovation means and how some of the best companies are effectively driving innovation. We will look at the innovative products that have shaped the flexo industry over the years and which innovations some of the biggest names in the industry think were most important. Without getting too specific, we’ll look at how new innovations in inks, presses, plates, mounting tapes, aniloxes and metering systems have brought us where we are now.
FLEXO: The year “2017” isn’t a round one, but it does mark a momentous anniversary: 20 years of Flexographic Image Reproduction Specifications & Tolerances (FIRST). The closing session Monday afternoon is an hour-long panel discussion looking at how the FIRST document has evolved over the last two decades, moderated by FTA Flexo Hall of Fame Member Mark Mazur. In a conference focused on looking ahead, how will the retrospective benefit those in attendance?
Marsoun: How better to celebrate 20 years of FIRST than to hear from some of its original authors? We really want to discuss how things have changed in so many ways, but also how some of the core principles are still as relevant as ever. The panel will discuss the biggest areas of change and why certain content was added, subtracted or changed in FIRST over the years. Hearing from some of the originators will hopefully give today’s users of FIRST new insight into the origins of the document and how it has matured and developed to meet the needs of the flexo printing industry. It is my hope that looking back over that last 20 years of FIRST will give the audience a new appreciation.
FLEXO: One of the major focuses of this year’s event—it serves as the cornerstone to all of Tuesday’s presentations—is the process behind the printing of FLEXO’s October 2017 cover. The program at Fall Conference 2015 had a similar setup, following the printing of the November 2015 FLEXO cover, and earned overwhelmingly positive remarks from those in attendance. What’s similar about doing it again two years later, and what’s different?
Marsoun: In my experience, there is no better way to teach a process than to walk through it step by step. Printing the FLEXO cover gives us the opportunity to put all the concepts we hear so much about at FTA events into practice, and then bring that story back to the audience. We can talk about all the challenges that were encountered throughout the process and how we could overcome them. Having a live, printed job also makes it easy for us to produce and distribute actual samples of each step of the process; the audience can then pull out their loupes and look at the samples while we talk about them. Each attendee can also take those samples back to work and use them as a reference next time they go through a similar process in their facility. This year’s project will be different because we will be running both digital and flexo on the job. Not only will we go through the optimization, fingerprinting, process control and characterization of the flexo process, but we will also have to do the same for digital. In the end, success will be defined by how seamlessly the two processes work together on the final job.