Ned Wier, 1937 – 2015

Ned, as "Professor Ned," in a SourceBook 2007 ad.
Ned, as “Professor Ned,” in a SourceBook 2007 ad.

MARTINSVILLE, IN—Ned Wier, a devoted flexographer and considered by some to be the father of the modern flat top dot, passed away on Oct. 14. He was 77.

Ned spent a total of nearly 60 years in the printing industry, working in many capacities. As early as the year 2000, PRP‘s Chris Green can recall having conversations with Ned about the future of dot structure. “This is the way it’s gotta be,” he remembers him saying. “We felt like we were this little lone stagecoach going one direction, and the whole industry was going in the other, shouting ‘digital!’ One day, we turned around and everyone was suddenly coming the same direction as us.”

Ned would later don a labcoat and adopt the pseudonym “Professor Ned,” appearing in PRP’s advertisements and at trade shows in costume to preach the benefits of flat top dots.

Here, colleagues pay their respects to Ned:

“My memories of Ned are many. As a rep for DuPont, I had many occasions to go see Ned in his work environment. Every time he saw me, without fail, he would salute me. I had never been in the military, but he knew my son was an Army soldier, and this was his way of showing respect not only to me, but to my son. Without fail he would also ask about my son.

“Ned was also very busy, but never, ever too busy to spend time with me, to show me the latest dot he had just taken a picture of and was analyzing. He loved his work and there was a goldmine of information stored up in his head. He knew flexography and was an incredibly smart man.

“He will be terribly missed. He always made me feel accepted and important in his discussions. He valued my opinion… and he valued me. He was a unique person, always positive—always—and incredibly friendly. I loved being around him.”

– Mark McCollum

“Ned Wier was hired at Precision Rubber Plate in 1961. He served as an artist, hand engraver, production manager and headed up R&D. Ned had a passion for learning, which drove his desire to improve flexographic printing by developing new plate technologies and sharing his knowledge with his peers in the industry.

Ned Wier lab
Ned, in a PRP lab

“Ned came to me in 2000 asking for the freedom to work on processes to produce better ‘flat top dots.’ This was contrary to the industry direction of the new ‘digital’ dot at that time, but he was very convincing. After about 18 months, he had developed a method to deliver higher quality flat top dots, with a patent being awarded in 2004. With the success of this new ExSpect® plate, Ned set his sights on the same flat top dots for digital plate making. Within months it was clear he could produce the same results in digital, and his results convinced the ownership of PRP to invest in their first CDI in 2005. The patent for Digital ExSpect® was applied for in 2007.

“With the entire flexo industry convinced the ‘digital’ dot was the preferred dot shape, Ned morphed into ‘Professor Ned’ to educate the industry about flat top dots. After a couple of years of attending trade shows as ‘Professor Ned,’ the industry began to recognize the benefits of the flat top dot. ‘Professor Ned’s’ likeness and caricature were used by PRP for all advertising from 2007 to 2013.

“Ned loved his home deep in the woods he shared with Wanda, his wife of 34 years. Even at 77 years of age, Ned traveled more than 45 minutes each way to rarely ever miss a day at work. Now with his passing, I wanted to tell our industry who the ‘father of the modern flat top dot’ really was and recognize his contribution! Sometimes those that contribute the most go unnoticed!”

– Chris Green

“As you might imagine, I could go on at length about working with Ned and how he helped so many people who were new to the industry, but I’ll be brief. Ned was a scholar, innovator and teacher of all things flexo. He had skills and abilities that simply are not taught anymore and a wealth of hard earned knowledge that came from experience. He was excited to share that knowledge with anyone who wanted to learn. He constantly searched for improvement and was always willing to adapt to new technology to reap potential benefits. He was an outstanding individual to work with and will be dearly missed as a friend.”

– Scott Simpson

“I dare say Ned rivaled the Dos Equis ‘Most Interesting Man in the World’—the world of flexography, that is.

Ned Wier dinner
Ned, with his wife

“His insatiable need to understand how the different elements of the printing press, inks, plates, press environment and substrates affected print quality results propelled him to research and eventually codevelop PRP’s ExSpect® flat top dot technology, for which he was awarded a patent. ExSpect® and PRP’s subsequent Digital ExSpect®, offered one of the most significant and compelling improvements to flexographic printing in decades.

“As interested as he was in the various technologies that assisted in flexographic advancements, he lived a ‘technology free’ and simple lifestyle, making a very rural area of southern Indiana his home and opting for a wood burning stove instead of a thermostat controlled heat pump. He was also interested in entomology and homeopathic remedies, and had a bloodhound quality of detecting any donut that entered the building. He came to work for PRP the year I was born, quietly and steadily contributing to the flexographic industry in a major way. Our beloved Professor Ned will sorely be missed.

“Stay thirsty for flexo my friends…”

– Kellie E. Green