The Next Generation of Flexographers Glimpse the Industry’s Future at Forum 2019

Forum 2019 logo

Forum 2019‘s “FQC: Research Is the Key to a Successful Flexo Future,” co-chaired by Jason Cagle, MacDermid Graphics Solutions and Jean Engelke, FFTA Board chair-elect, spotlighted research projects completed by a handful of students, as well as a Flexo Quality Consortium (FQC) project report and, for the first time, featured the Phoenix Challenge College Competition winning team presenting less than 24 hours after being announced at Sunday night’s Awards Banquet.

Engelke began the session by recognizing retiring FQC Committee members James Stone of Eurostampa and GoGetter, and Pam Dorrough of 3M Co. She then welcomed three new FQC Executive Committee members: Catherine Haynes from All Printing Resources (APR), Cori Devlin from DuPont and Joe Riccardella from Berry Global.

Optimizing Relief Height for Fine Features

Katherine Treadaway, a senior at Clemson University majoring in graphic communications with minors in packaging science and general communication studies, and the 2018 FFTA Rossini North America Flexographic Research Scholarship first-place recipient, presented her research on optimizing relief height for fine features.

Treadaway explained the purpose of her project was to “challenge the Flexographic Image Reproduction Specifications & Tolerance (FIRST)-recommended plate relief for narrow web 0.067-in. photopolymer plates to see if a decreased relief would better support fine features without printing the plate floor through increased impression.” Secondary objectives included back exposure testing to determine ideal exposure settings for the ranges of relief and an HD screening benchmark test to determine the best stickyback, plate, substrate and HD screening at a standard relief.

With two impressions, six reliefs, six anilox volumes, four linescreenings, 14 tint patches and a pair of runs, Treadaway had a total of 28,064 measured data points. With such a range of data points, she focused on highlight dots. After dissecting her data and analyzing it over a series of charts and graphs, Treadaway summarized her findings by revealing that, as plate relief decreased, highlight dots (1 percent to 10 percent) held consistently at a linear output across all reliefs—”A positive impact on combating dot gain,” she said. She noted microtype was not sufficiently supported but that her work could be used a solution for dot gain or holding highlight dots.

Treadaway concluded that though the decreased plate relief helped decrease dot gain, more research into the support of microtype must occur before FIRST specifications can be adjusted.

The Influence of Ink Formulation Specifications on Color Appearance Under Different Illuminants

Linnea Landgren, a third-year student at California Polytechnic State University majoring in graphic communication with a minor in industrial technologies and packaging and the second-place 2018 FFTA Rossini North America Flexographic Research Scholarship recipient, presented her research project that focused on emerging color reproduction technologies.

After an overview of spot colors and their goals, Landgren proposed a question: How does a printer get spot colors that look the same every time? Her research examined ink formulations and sought to determine whether using CxF/x-4 results in more consistent color across different lighting conditions. The experiment used L*a*b* values, CxF/x-4 files (spectral data), eight spot colors from two suppliers and a total 32 inks.

Analyzing the resulting data, Landgren said that 13 of the 16 CxF/x-4-spec’d samples showed a lower average deviation, and 12 of the 16 CxF/x-4-spec’d samples showed a higher correlation coefficient.

Landgren concluded with a call to further expand her dataset to develop a deeper understanding of the results. “CxF/x-4 data is important for ink companies, for printers and for CPCs,” she said. “There is more to learn!”

The Influence of Varying Anilox Roll and Tint or Coating Sleeve on Soft Touch Coatings and Consumer Preference of Results

Emily Anderson, 2018 Gary Hilliard FQC Scholarship recipient, senior at California Polytechnic State University and a member of Cal Poly’s Phoenix Challenge team completed the trifecta of scholarship-recipient presentations with a report of her investigation into the effects of press setup on soft touch coating results, with an analysis of the results to focus on consumer preference.

Anderson used choice-based analysis survey in a three-factor, two-treatment experiment with a pair of sleeves (55 shore A and 67 Shore A), pair of aniloxes (60 degree and 12 bcm, and a high-volume alternate geometry), and pair of substrate types (PET and polypropylene). Survey participants were asked to select a preferred sample from six pairs and were able to touch the samples.

Examining her results, Anderson found:

  • Polypropylene preferred over PET
  • 67 Shore A preferred on Polypropylene
  • The anilox had the least influence on participant choice
  • Substrate choice had the greatest impact on consumer preference

High Resolution Printing – Part B: Print Performance Comparison – Wide Web

Brian Cook, application development manager at MacDermid Graphics Solutions, delivered the final report on the FQC’s High Resolution Printing project, this portion focused on wide web printing (previous installments were presented at Forum 2015—Part A—and Forum 2017—Part B, Narrow Web).

Cook’s project objective was to compare the impact of various technical approaches to higher resolution flexo printing based on the output metrics in part A, and to report what kinds of end results could be anticipated for wide web.

Team members included:

The team adapted the print target and print comparison tools used in the narrow web of Part B for wide web, coordinated print trials with five participating printers and collected data from three repeats per condition. Cook spoke to the print comparison results by examining differences in solid ink density, mottle, print contrast, the sharpest minimum font, sharpest minimum line and circular vignette.

Cook concluded that high resolution for wide web increases solid ink density, improves ink coverage (and lowers mottle), and yields the smallest minimum highlight dot.

A Presentation from the Phoenix Challenge College Competition-Winning Team

Wrapping up the second Monday session was University of Wisconsin-Stout—the winner of the 2019 Phoenix Challenge College Competition—who presented their rebranding of a local bakery with flexographic printing.