Forum 2018’s Flexo Quality Consortium (FQC) session, “Cultivating Our Future Through Research,” officially kicked off the event on Sunday, May 6. Chaired by Jean Engelke from RR Donnelley and James Stone from VinEquities Inc, the session featured a look at promising initiatives, student research presentations and more.
Jean opened the session by sharing updates on current FQC projects. The next phase of High Resolution Printing Project: Part A, Print Output Metrics and Part B, Print Performance Comparison, Narrow Web, titled Print Performance Comparison Wide Web, is underway. The project team is working on print trials and will then be analyzing the resulting data. The Flexographic Plate and Mounting Tape Optimization project, reported on at Forum 2017, has had no additional trial work done since then. Review the results of the project and learn more about the FQC.
Jean also shared details of two new projects that are beginning:
- Evaluating the impact of environmental factors, like temperature and humidity, on inks and coatings. The team for this project is being formed now and is looking for volunteers, specifically press manufacturers, anilox roll manufacturers, printers, ink makers and testing equipment suppliers
- A focus on opacity, as retail and CPC customers are concerned with the hiding power of white film and white ink on clear film. “We want to identify common white/black point specifications for backing materials, recommend a generic test method, create a correlation look-up table between instrument geometry and create a best practice for Flexographic Image Reproduction Specifications & Tolerances (FIRST),” she explained
Following the FQC update, the first presenters were Sonoco’s Corporate Technology Council Chair Jeff Schuetz and Bobby Congdon, the assistant director of the Sonoco Institute of Packaging Design and Graphics at Clemson University. Jeff presented facts and figures surrounding the amount of food wasted each year, noting 40 percent of food in the U.S.—amounting to 135 million tons—is wasted annually. As fresh food continues to be a growth market, that amount of waste is poised to grow larger. The duo also pointed out that changing consumer behaviors are also impacting food and waste—for instance, the move toward healthy and fresh food, and snacking on the go.
“Why not stop waste before it happens?” Jeff asked. “Wasting food is not going to be an option in the future.”
To address this, the pair highlighted their newly formed program Sonoco FRESH, a five-year partnership that will seek to optimize the fresh food cycle and address the current and future challenges in fresh food packaging and distribution. Some key points of the Sonoco FRESH program:
- $1.725 million Sonoco Foundation gift to establish a multi-disciplinary hub for innovation, education and outreach
- $1 million for business-driven research projects that will target exclusive growth opportunities for Sonoco
In 2019, Sonoco FRESH plans to hold its inaugural symposium to help foster dialogue around food waste and how packaging can help solve this issue.
The next speaker was 2017 FFTA Rossini North America Flexographic Research Scholarship first-place recipient and Clemson University student Thomas Koester. Thomas sought to utilize different plate cylinder circumferences to produce variable repeats. He used repeats of 12-in., 18-in. and 24-in. The result was 72-in. of unique print from three different sized repeats. Text and numbers could be implemented as security features, he explained, a technique exclusive to flexography.
Following Thomas was another FTA scholarship recipient: Christopher Teachout, a student at Central Piedmont Community College and the 2017 Gary Hilliard FQC Scholarship recipient. Christopher presented his project “Correlation Between Minimum Dot Size and Floor Height,” which explored if FIRST-recommended reliefs should be optimized using recent technology, such as flat top dots compared to round top dots, more precise impression adjustments on press, harder durometer plates and tighter manufacturer tolerances (mounting tape, cylinders, etc.). In seeking to identify other reliefs outside FIRST recommendations that work in a narrow web printing environment, Christopher’s research found that among the three plate types tested, there was a consistent trend—when floor height increased, finer minimum dot percentages were held.
From the testing that was done, a ceiling of detail in the trend could not be determined. In his conclusions, Christopher noted:
- The data indicates there is a direct correlation to relief height and plate detail
- The topic requires a broader sampling of materials and should focus on reliefs smaller than FIRST specifications to find a ceiling of detail
- Next steps could test more types of plates using all kinds of equipment, just to continue verification of FIRST specifications
A panel discussion of the Phoenix Challenge followed, which featured Dr. Nona Woolbright from Clemson University; Zachary Blackburn from Central Piedmont Community College; Bettylyn Krafft, the chairman of the Phoenix Challenge Foundation and the president of Krafft Printing Systems; and Dr. Malcolm Keif from California Polytechnic State University. The panel discussed how the Phoenix Challenge has impacted students, how it impacts schools, as well as industry impacts.
“One thing I always stress with [the students] when they are doing this problem solving is it’s their project, they took it on, and they need to figure it out,” said Nona. “It’s a good thing to have them really solve these problems on their own.”
Closing out the FQC session were Chair of the FQC Standards Working Group Dr. Danny Rich, a senior color physicist at Sun Chemical Corp, and FTA Hall of Fame Member Steve Smiley of SmileyColor & Associates. Together, they focused on three new and important standards for a flexographic workflow: ISO 18620, ISO 13655 and ISO 20654.
- This International Standard specifies a simple extensible format for the exchange of tone adjustment curves between applications including, but not limited to, color management, calibration and raster image processor systems
- Transfer curves map the input setting to the output setting in a workflow
- Provides an XML schema for efficient communication of reproduction characteristics
- XML is a very verbose standardized text-based information interchange format, allowing for nearly faultless exchange of complex datasets
- This revised standard is a major revision of the former standard, adding the latest recommendations from the CIE Publication 15 Colorimetry with the hope of further improving reproducibility of color measurements
- This standard was begun because spot colors and to a less degree extended gamut process colors are not well characterized by traditional CMY densitometry
- Several schemes were evaluated and one proposed by Birkett and Spontelli was adopted
- The method relies on the Munsell Value function (Vi), one of the oldest and most accurate mappings of differences in lightness
- The same functions are part of the CIE Lab space, where (X/Xn), (Y/Yn) and (Z/Zn) are converted to a visually uniform scale using a 1/3 power function
- To make the index simple to implement, all three functions are combined in quadrature since in regions where there is little to no influence to tone, the contribution is zero