Both evolutionary and revolutionary, FTA’s Fall Conference 2021 and INFOFLEX at Fall Conference signaled the end of virtual venues for the Association’s conferences and events, and a return to the in-person experience.
Fall Conference 2021 served as the first in-person event for the association in two years. To mark the occasion, the meeting and exhibit was extended to four days, with a Welcome Back Dinner on Oct. 3. What followed was more than 20 technically focused presentations built around the theme of “Evolve or Die” and attesting to the evolution taking place at every step of the flexographic workflow.
The event’s traditional Tabletop Exhibit was expanded to include full-sized booths, a total of 65 exhibitors and additional time for networking, all branded under the storied INFOFLEX name as INFOFLEX at Fall Conference.
Compared to that last in-person event, printer/converter attendance to Fall Conference 2021 and INFOFLEX at Fall Conference grew by more than 50 percent, leading a 20 percent surge in overall attendance.
“Fall Conference has a reputation for delivering high-quality technical content, and this year was no exception,” said Fall Conference 2021 Program Chair John Gleich of We Are Alexander. “I believe everyone in attendance gained insight into modernizing flexographic workflows and walked away armed with solutions for navigating the future. I also sincerely hope people enjoyed their time in Frisco as well as being able to connect in person—I know I did!”
Fall Conference 2021
From a keynote urging flexographers to “go out there and take it,” to a closing discussion showcasing a new plate technology, evolution was at the heart of all 20+ Fall Conference 2021 technical presentations.
Following that motivational opening, Smithers’ Sean Smyth offered a look at the future of flexographic printing. “We are seeing significant innovations coming out of materials, out of press manufacturers, anilox, plate chemistries—a whole range of things that are helping convert this group of industries and make us more efficient,” he explained. Similarly, the leadership behind two of FTA’s most technical committees—the FIRST Committee and the FQC—gave insight into the future of their respective groups, as well as a roadmap to future research and resources.
New workflow methodologies were explored, including relevant standards, SCTV and MDTV, and those that led one printer to a 99.997 percent first-time on press score. Hank Welter of TC Transcontinental Packaging connected the dots from prepress workflows moving from artboards to the cloud, while Smyth Companies’ Kim Madigan recapped her company’s 24-year journey to control color.
On the pressroom floor, narrow web and wide web press manufacturers continually demonstrate how cutting-edge technology has led to extremely sophisticated machinery and affected what role operators play in the production process; as well as the ability to diagnose problems, improve uptime and reduce costs, all made possible through the use of Augmented Reality (AR). And who better to speak to evolution than recipients of FTA’s Technical Innovation Award. The three honorees from the 2020 competition detailed their award-winning solutions and invited customers to share testimonials and their real-world results.
All Printing Resources’ Catherine Haynes and Colorware USA Inc’s Dan Uress took a look at evolution in the workplace itself, specifically the shift to hybrid and remote work while maintaining productive packaging production.
“Twenty years ago, a lot of color measurement was done manually, by hand,” Uress recalled. “Now, we’ve got inline systems from multiple vendors who can track your work as its printing without tying up your operator. They can flash on screen, ‘You’ve got a problem. Pay attention.’ Check it out! It’s great stuff! It adds a lot of efficiency, it reduces stress, it keeps you informed. There are tools out there that can really help.”
John McDowell of McDowell Label sat for a candid discussion of his family printing business’ evolution from his father opening its doors in 1981 to its acquisition by Resource Label in late 2020. “There’s a lot of companies out there eager to open their purses and spend a lot of money. You need to know who you are and you need to very deliberately vet out who they are,” he said, offering advice to printers considering accepting an offer.
INFOFLEX at Fall Conference
Spread throughout the conference schedule, INFOFLEX at Fall Conference was the first live networking and exhibition opportunity for the entire package printing industry in two years. Adding the INFOFLEX brand name to the traditional Fall Conference Tabletop Exhibit brought full-sized, 10-ft. x 10-ft. booths, a larger roster of exhibitors and expanded networking time on the Fall Conference 2021 schedule.
“Abounding with intensity—that’s how numerous printer attendees described the INFOFLEX at Fall Conference floor,” explained FTA Director of Membership and Business Development Jay Kaible. “It was a thrill to hear! So many printers came up to me and mentioned that they could only get to half the exhibitors on Monday, and they needed to come back Tuesday to network with the other half, because there was so much information being shared.”
The sold-out show floor featured 65 companies spanning the entire package printing spectrum. Exhibitors connected one-on-one with printer/converters from various segments, sharing the last 24 months of innovations and evolutionary products and services.
“It was wonderful to be back in person at Fall Conference 2021, to speak face-to-face with old friends and new,” added Rick Guebert of GMG Americas. “Our R&D team hasn’t slowed down for a second over the past two years, so it was fun to be able to showcase our latest innovations and solutions in person.”
The full roster of exhibitors featured companies covering every critical point of the flexographic production process:
- Aalberts Surface Treatment
- ACTEGA North America Inc
- Adhesives Research Inc
- Allstein North America Inc
- Anderson & Vreeland Inc
- Apex International
- ARC International
- AV Flexologic bv
- Beta Industries – The Quality Control Co
- Bobst North America Inc
- Bottcher Systems
- BST North America/AccuWeb
- CAMIS SrL
- CleanPlanet Chemical
- Coim USA Inc
- Color Consulting SrL
- Comexi North America
- Cyber Graphics
- DIP Co
- DuPont Cyrel Solutions
- E.C. Shaw Co
- Eaglewood Technologies LLC
- Erhardt + Leimer
- EyeC-America LLC
- Fathom Optics
- Flexo Wash LLC
- Fujifilm Graphic Systems Division
- GAMA Americas LLC
- GMG Color
- Harper Corporation of America
- Heat Technologies Inc
- HYBRID Software
- INOMETA GmbH
- Interflex Laser Engravers
- ISRA Vision
- Koenig & Bauer
- Lombardi Converting Machinery USA – Matik
- MacDermid Graphics Solutions
- Mark Andy Inc
- MeasureColor/ Colorware USA Inc
- MECA (a Precision Roll Solutions company)
- MicroDynamics LLC
- Miraclon, Home of Kodak FLEXCEL Solutions
- MPS Systems North America
- OEC Graphics Inc
- Paper Converting Machine Co (PCMC)
- Phoseon Technology
- Printco Industries LLC
- Quantum Ink Co
- Retroflex Inc
- Rossini North America LLC
- Ship & Shore Environmental Inc
- Techkon USA
- tesa tape Inc
- Unilux USA
- Uteco North America
- Windmoeller & Hoelscher Corp
- XDS Holdings Inc
- XSYS Global