FTA at 60: A Handful of Flexographers Look at the Association’s Past, Present & Future

FTA logoOn Nov. 13, 1958, the articles of incorporation were signed for a little thing called Flexographic Technical Association. Word had gotten out in the preceding months, and by September, outlets covering the nascent industry began reporting on the impending announcement.

“Organization of the new Flexographic Technical Association now is being carried out…” read a news item in Flexography magazine. “A charter committee has been formed to complete preliminary details and several printer, converter and supply firms in the industry already have joined.”

To make a long story short, over the next 60 years, many outlets would cover many announcements from FTA, many committees would go on to be formed to carry out the Association’s many endeavors, and many printer, converter and supply firms would join its ranks.

As FTA enters its sixth decade, FLEXO Magazine has collected comments from an assortment of individuals who have seen the Association through highs and lows, comings and goings of technologies, and the ascent of flexography into its present position of package printing dominance.

Headshot Mark CisterninoThe more things change, the more they stay the same. My high school social studies teacher drilled this trite saying into my head back about a billion years ago as I wondered, ‘What does this have to do with the real world?’

Well, all these years later, I can’t think of anything more appropriate to capture FTA at the ripe old age of 60. The flexographic industry today is vastly different than it was back in 1958. The technology is different, the people are different, the world is most definitely different. But one common element hasn’t changed, an ideal which has led to the unprecedented growth of the industry and the long-term success of FTA as a vibrant, member-supported technical society: Progress through collaboration! Over the years, thousands of people have contributed to that growth.

On this 60th anniversary, I respectfully recognize the commitment and dedication of everyone who played a part in achieving this milestone. We couldn’t have done it without you!

—FTA President and 2016 FTA Hall of Fame Inductee Mark Cisternino

Headshot Mary SullivanFTA has been an extremely valuable resource for the industry over the past 60 years. The in-depth technical education and reliable resources it provides to our global membership has not only helped businesses grow and succeed, but also has created a long history of a tight-knit network of collaboration. FTA is a cornerstone of the drive for innovation that allows all of us to continue pushing the envelope to advance flexographic technology into realms we could have never imagined even 30 years ago.

Here in our 60th year, 2018 is poised to see continued innovations from flexography. We will continue to see new automation that advances workflow processes and the printed output of flexo. In addition, pushing the extended use of color through expanded gamut (EG) will find itself becoming mainstream as its use becomes more widely accepted. UV LED has reached its turning point with ink development and cost of entry, leaving the door open for a highly efficient and much more sustainable method of curing. And finally, the industry will continue to see the integration of flexo with digital and other print technologies in a more prominent way. The inherent value of flexo is key to the future of label and package printing, so it will be an inevitable integration to other technologies. Hybrid print is poised to be a critical part of leading print platforms in years to come.

Happy Anniversary, FTA!

FTA Board Chair Mary Sullivan, Mark Andy Inc

Headshot Paul LancelleAs a trade association, FTA has always been and remains truly unique in several ways. One is that the association serves several segments within itself—wide, mid and narrow web, flexible packaging, tag and label, envelope, folding carton, corrugated, trade shops and suppliers—which represents many, varied “masters to serve.” The leadership has continually strived and focused on providing balanced representation and response to the needs of all these membership segments. Another is that FTA was founded upon, and remains as, a very grassroots, member-driven organization. Most other industry associations can’t claim the same today. I have always been most impressed by how FTA has remained flexible and adapted with the times in serving its member base.

These, among many others, are the reasons why we should remain proud of our history and excited about the future of FTA.

FTA Awards Committee Chairman and 2015 FTA Hall of Fame Inductee Paul Lancelle, Kodak

Headshot Howard B VreelandHappy Birthday, FTA. For 60 years, you have pushed converters to attain better quality through education, innovation and training.

From aniline to HD flexo printing, FTA has worked with suppliers and converters to elevate the quality of its namesake printing process. Now, that work extends to suppliers to create standards for our industry to follow, so we can “Print to the Numbers” and CPCs can expect the same quality from coast to coast and beyond.

It will be interesting to see how the next 60 years progress. Congratulations.

FFTA Board Chair and 2008 FTA Hall of Fame Inductee Howard B. Vreeland, Jr, Anderson & Vreeland Inc

Headshot Katie GrahamOver the past 60 years, FTA has become an invaluable part of our industry by helping bring people together from every segment of the market—suppliers and flexographic printers—to build relationships, educate and cultivate the sharing of information. Our industry has learned to look to FTA for the standards to match and constant inspiration; I don’t see that changing in the future.

With such a stellar background and aptitude for encouraging industry-wide growth, I look forward to watching the Association’s continued success in 2018, because I am sure it will prove to be yet another year of influential innovation.

—Katie Graham, Pamarco

Headshot Kevin BourquinFTA has been instrumental in providing a safe space for companies that want to collaborate and share to help the betterment of the industry. Flexography has come a long way in the last 60 years, especially in the last 20, where the industry has been transformed into a high-quality, competitive, primary print choice for packaging.

From educational to networking programs, FTA has helped foster relationships and manage constant industry change. Flexographic Image Reproduction Specifications & Tolerances (FIRST) certifications help bring into our industry and develop new talent, something that will be extremely important as the next generation of labor is introduced into the workforce. Using FIRST keeps industry best practices at the forefront of the supply chain to ensure CPC customers are delivered a consistent product across all their different package types. And events like Forum each year offer a place to share and vet out new research from the university or R&D level, while allowing other suppliers to build upon these developments.

Fall Conference 2018 Chair Kevin Bourquin, Cyber Graphics

When I was first introduced to FTA, I was a student at Clemson and it quickly became an important source of technical information that supplemented what I was learning in my graphics classes at school. FLEXO Magazine was (and still is) a very important resource in my print toolbox. Forums, which the Association offered to students for free, exposed me to networking opportunities to connect with the movers and shakers of our industry, gave me opportunities to both see and hear about what was up and coming in flexography, fanned into flames a passion for the process, and led to my first job after graduation. Now 25 years later, I still look to FTA as a beacon for our industry, a driver of education and change. FTA has had a long and prosperous relationship with Berry and through that relationship, our company has grown and improved in flexography, has implemented FIRST, has won quite a few awards, and regularly sends a number of employees to Forum and training seminars each year.

FTA embodies a terrific spirit of education, synergy with vendors, celebration of innovation and also productive competition with suppliers and printers alike. It brings together experts across the industry who truly make themselves available to openly answer questions.

FTA provides a valuable service to flexographic printers worldwide. The industry is able to keep on top of cutting edge technology and process changes which help make our organizations run more efficiently with improved quality. FTA also provides an outlet for collaboration with vendors and a formalized training platform for production employees. These elements are key factors in understanding our process variability and allows for more predictable and repeatable results.

Staff at 60-Year FTA Member Berry Global

Headshot Bob CoomesWe wouldn’t be experiencing growth and opportunity without FTA’s influence. The Association has provided a pipeline of information and resources via its membership, which has driven improvements and innovations within our industry. FTA keeps pace with the trends within the industry and is continually looking forward to keep us in the know.

FTA’s biggest contribution to our industry, FIRST, has been the beacon for optimization and standardization for flexography. Years ago, it was like the “Wild West” with long press setups, subjective approvals and inconsistency of color from run to run. Today, we can match the proof at press with one pull, without any adjustments and consistently reproduce it every time. This has been achieved by training and following the principles of FIRST throughout the process from graphics to prepress to print production.

Forum 2018 Chair Bob Coomes, Plastic Packaging Technologies