NPIRI Conference Review

By David Savastano, Ink World Editor | 09.06.05

Blend of new features, old favorites make for a valuable time for attendees.

If there was a time when the National Association of Printing Ink Manufacturers (NAPIM) could have anticipated a large shortfall in attendance for its National Printing Ink Research Institute's Annual Technical Conference, this would have been the year.

After all, NPIRI's 45th Annual Technical Conference was taking a risk by leaving its traditional eastern and midwestern locations and heading west for the first time, in this case Scottsdale, AZ's Marriott's Mountain Shadows. The economic downturn in the U.S. has severely impacted the ink industry, and the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 caused many companies to further cut back on travel.

In spite of all this, NPIRI officials, led by conference chair Dr. Joe Raksis, NPIRI president Bob Peters, who also served as co-chair of the conference, NAPIM executive director Jim Coleman and the rest of the NPIRI leadership put together a must-see program. The conference was complete with some old favorites (short courses, poster boards) and new twists (a print buyers' session, golf tourney at Camelback, a desert Jeep tour and a comprehensive look at new technologies).

When all was said and done, NPIRI had attracted 235 people to Scottsdale, a remarkable turnout considering the circumstances. It was a terrific blend of education and activities that earned rave reviews from the attendees.

First Day
The conference began with the Short Courses, a successful follow-up to last year's popular new approach. These provide an in-depth look at specific topics that are critical to the industry.

Above, Tom Rogers of Apollo Colors displays the NPIRI Technical Associate Member Award with his wife, Jeanne. At right, Flint Ink's Walter Zawacki, left, receives the Committee for Graphic Arts Technologies Standards' (CGATS)Roland Zavada Standards Award from Lawrence Steele, CGATS president.
"Advanced UV/EB Topics" featured Peter Weissman of UCB Chemicals, Sel Avci of Elementis, Miguel Dones of Cognis and Jim Volz of Kustom Group. "Theory and Technology of Pigment Dispersion" was led by Lisa Hahn of Flexo Tech, Byron Hahn of Braden Sutphin Printing Ink, Steve Boucher of Lawter International and Peter Braun of Johnson Polymer. Each of these sessions provided attendees with much to consider.

"There was a lot of positive feedback from people who attended the short courses," said Ms. Hahn, president of Flexo Tech. "We had a good mix of theory and applications. I felt it gave some variety, and it was a very highly respected group. We started the short courses last year, and it was very well received. It provides extra in-depth knowledge of issues that are important to the industry."

After lunch, Dr. Raksis, Flint Ink's senior vice president, research and new market development, welcomed attendees to the conference.

"I'm really pleased to see the audience we have," Dr. Raksis said. "This may be one of the steps that will help our industry come back to the new 'normal' way our country does business."

After a presentation by Peter Massolt of Testprint B.V. titled "Old Problem...New Approach" on laboratory testing methods for litho, the three Lawter Competition-winning papers were presented. Mark Latunski of Flint Ink, who earned second place, presented "Optimizing UV Coatings for Heatset Web Offset Printing."

William Arendt of Velsicol Chemical, who also received second place, followed up with "New Coalescent for the Graphic Arts Industry: 2-Ethylhexy Benzoate." The winning paper, "An Explanation of How Ink and Water Interact on Press," presented by John MacPhee of Baldwin Technology Co., capped the afternoon, followed by the Tabletop Exhibits.

Print Buyers and Concurrent Sessions
The Print Buyers talk was the most hotly anticipated part of the second day's program, as Anheuser Busch and Philip Morris each sent a representative to discuss their ink and printing needs.

Vonnie Shepherd, senior area manager, corporate quality assurance — packaging at Anheuser Busch, spoke of her company's printign operations. Anheuser Busch uses labels, cans, cartons, corrugated, ceramics and many other forms of packaging, and its inks have to meet tight standards.

"Our annual goal is 100 million barrels of beer," Ms. Shepherd said. "That's a lot of packaging and a lot of lot of labels." In order to maintain levels of quality, Anheuser Busch owns many of the printing operations that manufacture packaging for its products. Anheuser Busch also concerns itself with its' suppliers vendors, i.e. pigment, resin and additive suppliers.

Flint Ink was well represented, with, from left, Bill Peel, Joe and Mary Raksis, Stan Field, Kathy and Walt Zawacki, Diane Parisi, Graham Battersby, Greg Richards, Mark Latunski and Kathy Marx on hand for the conference.
"When we employ a new ink supplier, we're also involved with their suppliers," Ms. Shepherd said. "When our packaging suppliers use a new ink, we're very stringent."

Joyce Stargardt, senior packaging chemist, purchasing, packaging services at Philip Morris U.S.A., then discussed her company's needs. Ms. Stargardt noted that Philip Morris overwhelmingly utilizes gravure for its printing needs.

"I would say that 97 percent of our printing is gravure," Ms. Stargardt said. "We typically don't use fluorescent inks or other high-profile items, since our packaging is not glitzy. We qualify materials down to tertiary suppliers, the ingredients that ink companies use."

After the Print Buyer Expectations discussion, the conference broke into fluid and paste ink concurrent session. Steve Fischer, technical manager at Johnson Polymer, moderated the fluid ink session. The presentations included "Waterborne UV Curable Ink Resins" by Joel Gummeson of Solutia; "New High Performance Lamination Resins for Flexible Packaging Printing Inks" by Sobhy El-Hefnawi of Cognis; "New Generation of Inks for Rotogravure," a discussion about hot melt inks given by Alexandra Pekarovicova of Western Michigan University; and "UV Flexographic Inks: Correlation Between Rheology and Press Performance" by Robert Geiger of UCB Chemicals.

The paste ink session, moderated by Diane Parisi, technical director, paste ink research at Flint Ink, featured "Evolution of Hybrid Resins for Lithographic Inks" by Ken Cooley of Resinall; "Metallic Pigments: What Makes Them Different" by Jay Brooks of MD-Both; "Misting Project Update" by Jay Hilsenbeck of GATF; and "Alkali Blue: New Technologies for a Classic Pigment" by Ed daPonte of BASF.

"I tried to find papers that were at the cutting edge of new technology, such as waterborne, hot melt, UV and lamination," said Mr. Fischer. "All of the presentations were wonderful."

"I thought the paste ink session was excellent," said Ms. Parisi. "The print buyers session added a new dimension to the conference, and we want to continue that in the future. The papers in the paste ink session were very insightful. The conference keeps getting better every year."

Afterward, attendees checked out the poster board presentations by Air Products & Chemicals, Cognis Corp., DeGussa, Johnson Polymer, Lawter International and Sun Chemical. Carroll Scientific sponsored the competition, and presented honorariums to the three winners: Air Products & Chemicals, Johnson Polymer and Sun Chemical.

Awards Banquet
The NPIRI Awards Banquet is always a highlight of the conference, as NAPIM typically presents the Award for Technical Achievement and Technical Associate Member Service Award, along with a speech from the year's Ault Award winner, the highest honor in the industry.

From left, NAPIM's Jim and Sue Coleman and Kohl & Madden's Peggy and Bob Peters relax after a fruitful technical conference.
Circumstances were different this year. Bob Bassemir, Sun Chemical's senior scientist emeritus, was called upon to give the Ault Award speech for the late Daniel J. Carlick, Sun Chemical's vice president of R&D, who was posthumously honored last April. Mr. Bassemir gave a poignant speech, touching upon Mr. Carlick's countless innovations, and then gave voice to what he believes Mr. Carlick would say to the audience.

"Dan Carlick was the quintessential technical man's technical man," said Mr. Bassemir. "Dan was the type of man who was a risk taker, and he was an immensely practical man. I'm sure he would emphasize that we should constantly be aware of the impact of new technologies, be innovative, keep improving your products and emphasize to customers the high technical aspects and inherent value of the technical service that we provide on a daily basis, as well as the need to recover our costs directly or indirectly."

Next up was Walter Zawacki, senior scientist, color science at Flint Ink, last year's Technical Achievement Award winner. Mr. Zawacki told the audience that they should lend a hand in guiding newer employees.
"Mentors are very important," Mr. Zawacki said, adding that some of his mentors came from outside of his company. "They provided me with encouragement, and showed me the way. I'd like to encourage all of you to be teachers. I would also encourage you to give people freedom to explore new areas."

Mr. Zawacki received another award, this time from the Committee for Graphic Arts Technologies Standards (CGATS), which presented the Roland Zavada Standards Award, its highest honor, to Mr. Zawacki.
"I'm thrilled to present the Roland Zavada Award to Walt Zawacki," said Lawrence Steele, CGATS president. "I've known Walt for the better part of the past 12 years. Walt is a very dedicated individual, a visionary and an innovator."

Joyce Stargardt of Philip Morris, left, and Vonnie Shepherd of Anheuser Busch led the intriguing discussion on Print Buyers Expectations.
Mr. Peters next gave the Technical Associate Member Service Award to Tom Rogers, president and CEO of Apollo Colors, for his more than 40 years in the industry.

"He has given extraordinary service to our industry," Mr. Peters said of Mr. Rogers.
"Thank you very much," Mr. Rogers said as he received the award. "I certainly do appreciate it."
Finally, the Technical Achievement Award was to have been announced, but Mr. Peters said that the committee lamented there was no particularly excellent candidate to choose from this year.

"It is with regret that we didn't feel we had any suitable nominees this year," Mr. Peters said. "I hope this is the very last time." He called upon more ink companies to participate in the nominating process.

Non-Traditional Technologies
The final day of the conference featured the closing session, moderated by Mr. Boucher of Lawter, which focused on non-traditional, or "disruptive" as some prefer to call it, technologies that will impact the face of printing.

The presentations included "The Changing Face of Lithography — CtP — Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow," by Eugene Langlais of Presstek. "Printing with a Conventional Press without Plates," by Kevin Oakes of MAN Roland, discussed new press advances. Jeff Skolnick of KPG discussed "New Digital Proofing Technology," while Marco Boer of I.T. Strategies talked about "The Movement Towards Digital Printing in Industrial Markets, " in which he spoke of the opportunities and potential value of ink jet.

"Status of Closed Loop Color Control Ð Who Benefits" a talk about on-line spectrophotometry, was presented by John Sweeney of Graphic Microsystems, Inc., and Jay Parker of Westvaco closed the conference with "Anti-Counterfeiting Technologies for Branded Products and the Role of Printing Inks."

Mr. Boucher felt his panel provided essential information to the attendees. "We were trying to find something that ink makers would like," said Mr. Boucher, technical director, fluid ink for Lawter International. "We wanted new technologies."

A Strong Conference
NAPIM and NPIRI leaders alike said they were delighted by the attendance, which considering the state of the nation, was much better than they had anticipated.

Above, from left, Flint Ink's Dr. Joe Raksis, chair of this year's technical conference, congratulates Flint Ink's Mark Latunski (second place), Velsicol's William Arendt (also second place) and Baldwin Technology's John MacPhee (first place) for their NPIRI Lecture Competition award winning papers. The winners received honorariums from Lawter International. Below, Rick Tolin of Carroll Scientific, center, presents honorariums from Carroll Scientific to the winners of the Poster Session Competition, who are, from left, Sunil Jayasuriya and Theresa Washkuhn of Johnson Polymer, Sun Chemical's Richard Czarnecki and John Marsella of Air Products & Chemicals.
"It's not easy traveling these days, and it's really great to have 235 people here," Mr. Peters, branch manager of Kohl & Madden's Baltimore office, said. "It gets tougher and tougher to get better and better, but our NPIRI organizers continue to do it. We've really put in a special effort to provide special value."

"I am pleased with how the conference has gone," said Dr. Raksis. "I was initially concerned about the western location knowing that the bulk of our members are in the east and midwest, and then the economy turned downward. The terrorist atrocities also caused a lot of anxiety. Still, we retained most of our speakers, and the attendance was very good considering these factors."

"We've been really pleased with the conference," said Mr. Coleman. "The attendance was extremely strong considering it was the first time the technical conference was held west of Chicago, the travel conditions as they exist today, and the business conditions as they exist."

The quality of the conference was also strong, as the new features drew a great deal of interest and the general presentations were well received.

"We had some new sessions, including inviting print buyers and presentations on Ôdisruptive' technologies that were very good," Dr. Raksis said. "In the past, we tended to accept all papers that were submitted, but there has been a significant improvement."

"I'm most impressed by the quality of the presenters," said Mr. Peters. "The quality keeps improving."
In particular, the conference's organizers anticipate even better things from NPIRI in the future, as Mr. Peters and the rest of the committee begin to add more value to the services that NPIRI offers.

"NPIRI has made a commitment to improve what they provide to our members," Mr. Coleman said. "Under Bob's leadership, we'll continue to have a renewed sense of commitment and more activities."

"What's encouraging to me is that there's a real enthusiasm," Dr. Raksis said. "People are saying that they are getting a lot out of the conference. The feedback has been very positive."

If NPIRI can keep up the rapid pace of its innovations, then next year's conference, Oct. 2-4 at Marriott's Marco Island Golf Resort & Club, Marco Island, FL, should be an absolutely essential event for all.