FQC/SWG Updates: Projects Moving Along Amid COVID-19 Restrictions

What a year 2020 has been so far! From travel restrictions to Virtual FORUM, we have adapted our approach to information gathering and sharing.


The FQC session at Virtual FORUM 2020—FQC: Exploring Technology & Defining Value in Packaging—was well received. Our two current projects, the Ink Temp Project and the White Ink Opacity Project, provided updates. Unfortunately, they have had to operate under the same conditions we are all facing this year. Trials needed to be postponed, data gathering was hindered and the timeline for completion extended. The updates were intended to let FTA members know the projects are proceeding as planned and as soon as they are able, they will be full steam ahead! We appreciate your patience as we navigate this new world.

The session also featured our future workforce encapsulated in student research and projects: the FFTA Rossini North America Flexographic Research Scholarship recipient, the Gary Hilliard FQC Scholarship recipient and the Phoenix Challenge College Competition winning team. I hope you were all able to see these amazing presentations. Much like the rest of us, all of these students had to operate under this year’s restrictions. The schools went virtual and access to equipment was limited, yet the students brought their creativity to the challenge. They persevered and did an incredible job. In fact, feedback from attendees of the session echoed these comments and delivered well-deserved praise for their hard work.

Upcoming Projects

Two months since the end of Virtual FORUM 2020, restrictions are lifting and as a result, FQC project teams are already making significant progress on their deliverables.

Two new project charters were approved by the FQC Executive Committee and are actively working to bring the membership more information. The Magenta Conundrum Project will measure and document how the overall printed color gamut changes based on magenta pigment selection and determine how this affects print production practices. The variables are ink pigment selection, substrates and following recommended measurement standards. Brand owners want their print providers to run to CRPC6 (aka GRACoL 2013) as a global standard—which includes a magenta hue angle of 357 degrees (ISO 12647-6 flexo standard). A vast majority of printers are running out of specification at anywhere from 6 degrees to 12 degrees. The recommended pigment (ISO and FIRST) is R57 at a hue angle of 357 degrees. However, many ink makers are using R52 with a hue angle of between 6 degrees and 12 degrees for compatibility and print production practices.

Another new project is Redefining Photopolymer Plate Reusability. The goal of this project is to determine if the change in an easily measurable finished plate property can be used as a predictor as to whether or not the plate will print the same as the initial pressrun on subsequent pressruns. If successful, the printer would be able to measure the property and assess whether or not the plate should be replaced before mounting and incurring press downtime or print quality issues. The team is currently looking for printers who would like to participate in this important project. Let us know if you’d like to help!

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the membership for supporting the FQC’s mission by attending its Virtual FORUM 2020 session, providing actionable feedback and allowing your resources to support our project teams through leadership, participation and facility use. Our goal is to provide the industry with a better understanding of the factors controlling the flexographic print process. We could not do it without your support!

Visit the FQC web page to learn more about being part of an FQC project and sign up to help.

SWG Update

Standards work from the Standards Working Group (SWG) has been moving ahead (thanks to Zoom) throughout COVID-19.

CGATS and ISO both had meetings in May. The CGATS (Committee for Graphic Arts Technology Standards) and US TAG (US Technical Advisory Group) met prior to the ISO meeting.

CGATS US TAG discussed US positions for the upcoming ISO meeting. The main topic was ISO 12647-2, where an ad-hoc group is adding neutral calibration, known as G7, with equal weighting to the traditional TVI approach. Adding CGATS TR 015 verbiage and the G7 Pass Fail production requirements will provide a simple global solution allowing G7 to align to ISO print compliance.

“TR 012 was developed on how to understand client aims and optimize, fingerprint and characterize to align with those aims.”

We also discussed the new revision of CGATS TR 012. Our FIRST book is based on utilizing CGATS TR 011 and TR 012. FTA’s Director of Education Joe Tuccitto worked on this update for six weeks to refresh and enhance TR 012 to better align with methodologies defined in FIRST. TR 012 was originally developed in the late 1990s by many of the leading experts in the flexographic and packaging industry.

Robb Frimming from Schawk, Garrett Long from SGS and many others worked for years developing the original TR 012. TR 012 was a complementing document for CGATS TR 011 that defined how a designer could send all required information in a PDF/X document. TR 012 was developed on how to understand client aims and optimize, fingerprint and characterize to align with those aims. Our goal develops common communication tools that help designer, buyer and printers required a huge investment of commitment to develop.

CGATS TR 012 went out for a ballot for publication on June 12. Hopefully, this will be republished by ANSI in October.

TC 130 met for five days remotely in Berlin and completed many documents that are very important as flexographers.

Most important, ISO 12647-6 Flexographic Printing has been sent for publication. This revision includes SCTV for calibration of spot color inks as well as CMYK if you have to use nonstandard curves. It also better defines common aim and tolerances for alignment to client aims. The other update is editorial that caused much controversy. When ISO 12647-6:2012 went to publication, the ISO editors changed traditional inks to non-lightfast inks. The update has changed the naming of ink aims back to traditional inks and lightfast inks.

Another standard pertinent to our community is ISO 20616-2 PQX (Print Quality Exchange). This is huge for us as suppliers to CPCs! PQX allow us to use an XML schema to report press conditions, measurements, variation and register. This has been a four-year project headed by industry consultant Dianne Kennedy to align data required by various documenting and reporting systems to a common XML language. This means if the system you report into accepts the ISO 20616-2 XML standard format, we can use the quality management tool that provides us as printers the best process control and report metrics needed by CPC in a standard format. This has been a big issue for us as flexographers and our premedia facilities. Working for five major brands, we could have five different reporting tools to submit data in five proprietary formats.

“Two new project charters were approved by the FQC Executive Committee: The Magenta Conundrum Project, plus Redefining Photopolymer Plate Reusability.”

Our goal as ISO and as developers of this schema is that data can now (soon) be shared across systems.

ISO 20161-1 PQX (Print Requirement Exchange) had been approved as CD (circulated draft) and will send out for a DIS (distributed international standard) for final ballot this month.

This standard defines an XML schema that allows brand owners to specify quality requirements that can be communicated into reporting systems or, standalone, feed into printers’ MIS system.

With PRX and PQX, this should enhance communication from our CPC customers to print facilities with better communication, removing human errors from keystrokes, and clear definitions of printing aims and scoring criteria. PRX will not do the scoring, only transmit the requirements from CPC clients.

ISO 19303-1 has been sent to editors for publication. This standard is a compilation of ISO standards, ASTM methods and best practices (FIRST) for schema writers or brands to set their requirements for QMS (quality management systems). This standard allows brands, designers, premedia, printers and converters to add QMS to their ISO audits. This is a good standard for users to understand global requirements to improve workflow. This document has annexes for flexography, offset, gravure and digital best practices.

ISO has cancelled all face-to-face meetings through the rest of 2020. But rest assured, we are working on updating and providing better communication tools to improve our industry.

If you would like to review and comment on any of the upcoming ballots on these standards, please contact FTA Director of Education Joe Tuccitto.

About the Authors

Jean Engelke Headshot
Jean Engelke is chair of the Foundation of FTA’s Board of Trustees. She is also the chair of FTA’s Flexo Quality Consortium (FQC) and a member of FTA’s Board of Directors. She has earned an AAS in graphic and design technology, a B.A. in printing management, an MBA and an M.A. in industrial engineering management. Jean started her career teaching printing and paper science at Western Michigan University. She has held positions in R&D, engineering and global product marketing with Appleton Papers, Alcan Packaging and Kodak. Most recently, she served as the business development manager – packaging group for RR Donnelley. In 2017, she received the FTA President’s Award.
Steve Smiley headshot
Steve Smiley is a 40-year veteran of print, premedia and branding solutions. Working with numerous major consumer product companies (CPCs), he has developed tools to assure brand consistency throughout the world. His specialty is providing technical and production audits of print and packaging suppliers to CPCs. Currently, Steve leads a team of brand owners, participates as an ISO Expert to TC130 representing the packaging industry, and works with printers as a FIRST Implementation Specialist to improve their deliverables and moving to ISO compliance required by major brands. Steve is the co-chair of CGATS, convener of TC/ISO/WG2, and expert to WG3, WG4, WG11 and WG13. He is an ICC member, FQC Executive Committee member, and an Advisory Board member for Clemson University. In 2017, Steve was inducted into the FTA Hall of Fame.