Who can volunteer to be on an FQC project? You can! Each project is a little different and the team members may differ, based on those varying needs. It is the responsibility of the leader to determine what skill sets are needed for success.
FQC is chartered to provide the industry with a better understanding of the factors controlling the quality of the flexographic printing process. We investigate select process variables in order to further develop reproducible process concepts that will result in measurable advancements in flexo technology. Our members actively participate in global graphic standards committees and associations to research and represent the flexographic printing process and actively support the content validation of FIRST (Flexographic Image Reproduction Specifications & Tolerances).
The Consortium develops and evaluates proposed projects individually to determine their technical value to the industry and the FQC’s goals. We encourage open participation by qualified technical representatives from FTA member companies on a non-discriminatory basis. The FQC supports projects that are manageable, statistically sound and use commercially available materials and resources to provide qualitative and quantitative documentation through FTA and other industry vehicles for publication and dissemination.
FQC Project Participants
In general, here is an example list of the membership resources that work a project from beginning to end.
- Team leader: Can be any FTA member who has the skills to lead a diverse team
- Printers: May be needed to run trials, collect samples and data, supply experiences that help navigate the variables from a real-world perspective
- Consumable suppliers: If a project variable is a consumable (ex: plates, software, inks, etc.), then we need experts in this area to make sure we are including all facets of the products in our design of experiment (DOE)
- Premedia service providers: Prepress and plate making are critical components if the project is to go on press and the experience that service providers bring to the table with respect to brand owners is an essential component
- Equipment/press component manufacturers: We thrive on data and we get that data from measurement instruments (ex: spectros, opacimeters, etc.), press variables (ex: anilox rollers) and actual run data supplied from the pressroom
- Educators/students: We welcome educators and students to all teams to help conduct the research, gather information and provide an unbiased outlook to the project
- Statistician: It is all about the data. From the DOE all the way to final data analysis, we need statisticians to do the data crunching that tells us if our hypotheses are validated or rejected, and make sure our findings will stand up to the scrutiny of both the FIRST Committee and global regulating bodies
We want team members to be fulfilled and confident that what they are bringing to the team is important and their participation matters. For that reason, we’d like team members to have a significant interest in the project. Is every project right for everyone? Probably not, but we will make sure volunteers are paired with the project that suits their expertise and resources.
FQC Project & Participant Feedback
So, what is it like to work on an FQC project? Here is some feedback from individuals in specific roles and discussing specific parts of past projects:
- Project leader: “Being an FQC project leader is a commitment to seeing the project through to fruition. It requires project management skills, interpersonal skills and vision to motivate team members, corral them in at times, and run with ideas that align with the projects goals”
- Team member: “Project team members must bring their experience and expertise to the table during conference calls, press trials, data analysis and interpretation of the results. It is a team that conducts the research, and a team that delivers the industry impact of the results to the membership and standards organizations”
- Project concept: “This is the most important step of the process. Team members must agree on the goals of the project and how they intend to get there. These are inputs, outputs, methodology and scope. The projects must be manageable and utilize available technology and resources”
- Mission: “A project starts with a charter, or mission, that is approved by the FQC Executive Committee. The mission will guide the team as it designs the research, analyzes results and determines if the charter has been accomplished”
- Output data: “It is critical the data that is generated and collected during lab work, press trials or literature search is accurate. Teams make an effort to educate printers on the procedures for a trial, the type of data that needs to be collected and often provide spreadsheets to facilitate data gathering. Participants are fully engaged in the process and should contribute their knowledge as the process progresses”
- Statistical design: “The DOE is a roadmap that defines the conditions that may affect the process variation. It is intended to control variables and define the scope of the experiment as it pertains to the project mission and its outcomes”
- Data analysis: “Once the data has been gathered, it must be analyzed. This is not done in a vacuum. The team members must look at and interpret the data, and come to an agreement on the conclusions. Only then can it report and document the results”
The View from the Top
Miraclon Corp’s Alexander James and 3M’s Ann Michaud served as team leaders on the High-Resolution Project. “Working with Ann as a fellow team leader was a very rewarding experience,” James says. “Numerous challenges arose, one of which was the sheer magnitude of the project covering narrow web and wide web segments of the industry.”
Michaud recalls that “Early in the project, the team determined the scope of the project needed to be controlled to contain the variables. At that point, we decided to separate the project into two phases— narrow web and wide web—to keep it manageable.”
The first step, James explains, was forming a volunteer committee and coordinating regular conference calls to get the ball rolling. “Thankfully, Brian Cook of MacDermid Graphics Solutions stepped up and volunteered to lead Part B, once we completed Part A,” he says.
“At the outset of Part A, we focused on working with the industry volunteer committee to design a test target layout with which we could all agree,” James adds. “With everyone’s input, we established various test elements that could be used to evaluate the print performance level of any given imaging/plating technology.”
Once the test target was finalized, the team focused on defining a protocol for the completion of each print trial test, after which James says it turned its attention to finding printers willing to partake in the project by providing press time and material. “Coordinating press time availability can sometimes be a bit of a juggling act, especially when factoring in everyone’s travel schedule,” he notes.
So, if you think you have what it takes, we want you! You can volunteer by contacting any executive board member—the member list is found on the FQC page—or by submitting a form with your information and expertise—also found on the FQC page on FTA’s website. The Flexo Quality Consortium exists for the benefit of our industry and FTA membership. Get involved to make a difference!