A 'Win-Win' Situation for NAPIM, FVTC

By David Savastano, Ink World Editor | 01.13.06

Holding NPIRI's introductory and advanced courses at Fox Valley is providing attendees with hands-on printing experience.

Wisconsin is known for many things – the Green Bay Packers, cheese and dairy industries and Harley Davidson, among others – but when it comes to printing, the Appleton area is known as the Paper Valley, with more than $12 billion in annual sales.

As a result, many leading printers made Wisconsin their headquarters. Today, major corporations such as Quad Graphics, Banta and Bemis Curwood call the state their home.

Finding skilled people to run their operations is always a challenge for printers, and that is where Fox Valley Technical College (FVTC) comes in. FVTC has developed leading-edge courses focusing on litho and flexo. Its top-flight staff is made up of industry professionals who have decided to devote their careers to educating the next generation of printers.

Russ Sadowski of INX International Ink Company demonstrates the use of a Shell Cup to determine precise viscosity readings.
That focus on printing drew the attention of the National Association of Printing Ink Manufacturers (NAPIM), which had decided that its long-standing affiliation with Lehigh University to hold its National Printing Ink Research Institute (NPIRI) introductory and advanced courses had run its course. NAPIM wanted the opportunity to provide its attendees with press side experience.

FVTC turned out to be a natural fit. In July 2005, NAPIM held its NPIRI Introductory and Advanced courses at FVTC.

Response was strong, with approximately 50 students attending the courses. What was also  impressive was the breadth of the courses, which covered ink and printing, and the experience students gained throughout the printing process.

“It’s gone very well, much better than we expected,” said NAPIM executive director Jim Coleman. “They are a nice group of people with excellent facilities.”

“All of our hopes have come true, and it has been a win-win situation for us and for Fox Valley,” said Rich Incontro, NAPIM technical coordinator.


Selecting Fox Valley

The seeds for the switch from Lehigh to FVTC were planted in 2001. Dale Drake, department chair, Printing and Publishing program at FVTC, first met Mr. Coleman at a 2001 color conference. In 2003, Mr. Coleman visited FVTC with NPIRI leaders, and they were impressed with what they saw.

“What our business is all about is taking care of our customers’ needs, and Fox Valley is ideal,” said NPIRI vice president Joe Cichon, senior vice president, manufacturing technology at INX International Ink Company, and a member of the planning committee that decided upon Fox Valley. “They have a diversity of equipment there, and the school also has good facilities and training equipment to demonstrate on. In addition to their print capabilities, they have good prepress and digital printing areas, which is nice.

Students examine a proof of baseball cards with each of their pictures that were made on Fox Valley’s Heidelberg Speedmaster press.
“It’s an opportunity,” Mr. Cichon said. “There is more focus on hands-on training and troubleshooting. They could grow the course to include paper manufacturers and maybe even printers.”

Dan Delegge, vice president of Inksolutions and a NPIRI board member, worked previously with Mr. Drake and FVTC, and he also said this is an ideal opportunity.

“It’s outstanding,” Mr. Delegge said. “They have excellent equipment, and it is so well suited for what we are trying to do, which is to continue the education for the ink industry. We had a diverse attendance, ranging from ink manufacturers to suppliers and paper manufacturers, which made for excellent conversations.”

“I saw that Fox Valley had definite pluses for us, with a faculty that is active in teaching the graphic arts and access to real live equipment,” said Mr. Incontro. “The people are really nice, and the setting is ideal.”

For NAPIM, there are two keys behind the relationship with FVTC. First, NAPIM wanted to work with a leading institution that could offer practical printing experience for course participants, and FVTC’s background in printing is one of success. FVTC has been in the graphic arts since the turn of the 20th century, beginning as the Appleton Vocational School, and becoming part of the Wisconsin Technical College System in the 1970s.

“They call us the Paper Valley, and it was natural for printers to come here,” Mr. Drake said. “Our press operators are in huge demand, because everybody needs press operators and prepress specialists.”

Dale Drake uses one of FVTC’s Mark Andy presses to illustrate flexo printing.
One of the strengths of Fox Valley Technical College is its tremendous assortment of state-of-the-art equipment to educate future press operators. These include:

• One 5-color Heidelberg Speedmaster sheetfed press

• Seven 1- and 2-color Heidelberg presses

• One 8- color PCMC flexo press

• Two 6-color Mark Andy narrow web presses

• One 3-color 72” Grant Workhorse corrugated press

• Three Xerox Docutech Docucolor digital presses

• One Xerox IGen variable data digital press

• Creo Trendsetter for CTP for litho plates

• Complete photopolymer plate making for flexo

“We have 60 students in our lithography program, Printing and Publishing, and 25 in our Packaging and Label program, which focuses on flexo,” Mr. Drake said. “We have some outstanding equipment, and we use it to work on non-profit, non-political printing. We don’t want to compete with local printers, who hire our graduates. We do work for United Way, Harbor House, churches, police departments. It gives our students the opportunity to do real-live work that benefits our community.

Students who attended the NPIRI Advanced Course on flexo, left, and the Introductory Course, above, take a break for group photos.

“Working with NPIRI has offered some great benefits for both of us,” Mr. Drake said. “For us, it’s great exposure. We’re off the beaten path, and we have to stress that we have $13 million in high-end printing equipment here. We’ve very proud of it, yet we’re still a secret. We also received four $500 scholarships from NAPIM, and any time we can help students, it benefits all of us.”

“I thought Fox Valley was quite impressive,” said Michael Engel, president, Little Joe Industries, and a longtime NPIRI instructor. “They have a wealth of printing experience.”

The instructors are the second key for NAPIM. Mr. Drake, who has been at FVTC for seven years, worked for 15 years in the printing industry. Mark Keller, who is a nine-year instructor at FVTC and is a leader at its Packaging and Label program, worked for 10 years in printing.

“What led us to Fox Valley is that these people are industry people, working press people who are now educators,” said NPIRI director Byron Hahn, technical director for Braden Sutphin Ink and a member of NPIRI’s planning committee. “That’s a unique blend. They are oriented toward application rather than management, and they are very well versed in flexo and litho.

“We felt welcomed, and they want to educate people,” Mr. Hahn added. “This was our first full year, and they really worked at it. They were interested in how to further refine the course for next year.”

NAPIM’s leaders are thankful for Mr. Drake’s efforts.

“Dale is a great guy,” said Pete Notti, vice president of Ink Systems and a NPIRI board member. “He has an honest passion for graphic arts.  He wants to disseminate information on ink and lithography, and he makes it understandable for the layman.”

“Dale is a great people person who has tremendous energy,” Mr. Cichon said. “He knows what he is talking about, and this allows us to develop a better understanding of our customers’ needs.”


Students’ Thoughts 

Students examine the inner workings of the Grant Workhorse 72 inch corrugated press.

The NPIRI Summer Course was set up in two modules. From Monday to Wednesday, the paste ink course was held, with Tuesday’s emphasis on presses. From Wednesday to Friday, the liquid ink module was held, with Thursday the day for pressroom work; Wednesday was the common day for topics in classroom. The following week featured the advanced course focused on flexo.

“The advanced liquid course, Flexography Ink Problems and Solutions, was outstanding,” Mr. Drake said. “We created several different problems for the students to see and troubleshoot, such as switching between coated and uncoated papers. It’s an ink seminar, and it shows how your product will ultimately be used.”

While a class can look good on paper, the real proof lies in how attendees believe the course benefited them. The most impressive aspect is that in talking with attendees, they felt the emphasis on printing has already paid off.

“It was the first time I saw presses run,” said Kim Hoover, chemist for Siegwerk Ink Packaging, who took the advanced course. “Since then, I have been out in the field, and the class was very useful for understanding the terminology and working with the press people.”

“There was a lot of information that was very helpful for what I do,” added Dave Roach, QC analyst for Colorcon. “The course touched on almost every aspect of ink. Dale Drake is a phenomenal wealth of knowledge. It’s the first time I’ve been out in the field, and where else can I see the ink and equipment in action. They have a fantastic facility at Fox Valley, and I can’t imagine a nicer place to hold this course.”

Greg Shepard, lab manager and chemist at Braden Sutphin Ink, took the paste ink course.

Fox Valley has kept up with developments in digital printing, as Xerox has donated three Docutech Docucolor presses for students to operate. Above, Tom Gruenke of Xerox demonstrates these presses.
“I got to run a job on the Heidelberg press, which is real world experience, as well as working with formulating and fountain solutions,” Mr. Shepard said.

Hua Deng, manager, new product development at Colorcon, took both sides of the introductory course

“I think the course is very good and very intensive,” Ms. Deng said. “The access to the printing equipment is a big advantage. It’s a wonderful facility.”

Clark LaFever, technical service representative for INX International Ink Company, took the advanced flexo course. He has a unique perspective, having worked in sheetfed printing for 34 years.

“I thought the equipment was very modern and up-to-date,” Mr. LaFever said. “One of the things that I really liked is that we talked theory in class and put it into practice in prepress and the pressroom.”

NAPIM officials are understandably excited about the 2006 courses. The introductory course will be held July 9 to 14, beginning with the flexo module. The advanced course, Formulation for Problem Solving, focusing on piling and image loss in litho, will be held July 16 to 19. For more information, contact NAPIM at (732) 855-1525 or check out its web site at www.napim.org.