The Foundation of the Flexographic Technical Association (FFTA) held its annual Flexo Forum in Washington, D.C.’s Marriott Wardman Hotel from May 5-8. Titled “Capitol Ideas,” this year’s Forum put an emphasis on flexo’s customers.
As with practically all events this year, attendance was down, although FTA president Mark Cisternino said that the Forum looked strong. “We do have a good crowd, approaching 1,100 guests,” Mr. Cisternino said. “Considering the circumstances, we are in good shape.”
The opening session included “Voice of the Customer,” a panel discussion featuring 16 consumer product companies (CPC) ranging from Frito-Lay to R.R. Donnelley. The panel, chaired by Ken Lowden of DuPont Imaging Technologies and David Haradon of the Haradon Group, this year’s Forum chair, examined the major issues facing flexo in the packaging market.
The packaging market is estimated at between $110 billion and $125 billion, with flexo holding a dominant share at 74 percent. In an industry where an estimated 11,000 products debuted in 2001, packaging is a key force in drawing consumer attention.
“Companies are looking for ways to have their products jump off the shelves,” Mr. Lowden said.
Among the areas that the CPC executives emphasized were just-in-time packaging workflows, graphic designs incorporating realism and getting retailers more involved in decision-making.
“If there’s a skip in the beat on press, we have no product on the shelves,” said Janet Brooks of Dr. Pepper/Seven-Up.
“It’s amazing how big a voice retailers have,” said Rob Harbin of Frontier Natural Products Co-Op. “If you can’t respond, they’ll move on.”
“Brand and market identity across multiple substrates is crucial,” said Barry Thompson of R.R. Donnelley. “It’s critical to have consistency.”
The panelists also discussed the key advantages and frustrations with flexo. The advantages included overall capabilities and the improvements that have occurred, the wide variety of substrates that can be printed on and the highly saturated spot-line colors and use of water-based products. The disadvantages focused on the lack of standards, consistency and the difference between proofs and press runs.
“The bar has shifted from capability to consistency,” said Keith McCartney of Frito-Lay, Inc. “We don’t have time to run graphics a second time. We do 15 billion impressions annually. If we have 99.9 percent accuracy, we lose 150 million impressions.”
The panel concluded that developing a total digital workflow and creating accurate proofs that predict the print run should be key goals.
Monday’s morning session offered concurrent talks on prepress, FIRST and FQC. Among the highlights was a speech by Dr. David Osten of 3M titled “How to Revitalize Your Company Using Six Sigma Principles.” In his talk, Dr. Osten defined the DMAIC roadmap: defining the problem and objective, measuring, analyzing the cause of defects, improving the operation and controlling the process through new procedures. He emphasized that it is critical to select the right people to run Six Sigma and to define clear goals.
The afternoon featured InfoFlex and Capitol Events, a reception followed by Capitol Steps, a comedy troupe.
Tuesday featured morning and afternoon sessions on tag and label and flexible packaging; morning-only sessions on folding carton and corrugated/preprint; and afternoon-only sessions on platemaking and towel and napkin.
In particular, ink companies and suppliers were well represented at the tag and label session. Ed Dedman, product manager, labels and plastic cards at SICPA, discussed “Optimizing Quick-Change Technology Through Pressroom Processes,” a way to improve changeovers to increase profitability.
“UV Flexo: Troubleshooting Ink Spitting,” presented by Charles Henderson, senior specialist, TSGAat UCB Chemicals, presented a checklist to end ink spitting.
“UV/EB Flexo Advantages – UV Flexo Update,” presented by Glenn Webster, marketing manager, energy curable liquid inks at Sun Chemical, discussed the effective printing solutions offered by UV flexo in today’s sophisticated tag and label marketplace, and the value and cost of alternative ink systems.
“You have to analyze the cost on total value,” Mr. Webster said., “The benefits are found in speed and productivity, flexibility, high print quality and total cost of print with UV flexo, which is more cost effective.”
In the corrugated/preprint session, David Callif, president of BCM Inks, discussed “Digital Evolution,” which featured a look at the changes taking place in wide format, and the impact ink jet ultimately will have in corrugated.
“High-end graphics are where the opportunity lies,” Mr. Callif said. “It’s definitely a leading-edge technology, an evolutionary process and niche oriented. This is going to be great for those who embrace the technology.”
At the afternoon towel and napkin session, Willis Reese, global business manager, household and specialty inks at Sun Chemical, appeared on a panel, “Roundtable One – Sleeves/Inks/Anilox Rolls/Printer,” which focused on the 3 percent to 5 percent growth that has been forecasted for this segment, along with much faster presses in this market.
“Consumers are tested, and we’ve learned that customers want stronger, more brilliantcolors, improved designs and improved rub/bleed,” Mr. Reese said. “As ink companies, we can never spend enough time on that. The ink market has to continue to look at new chemistries.”
On Wednesday, the closing session featured “Food Security Measures Related to Packaging” by Julia Love of the American Institute of Baking International, “Achieving Consistency Through a Certification Process” by Ms. Love, John Fulcoly of Frito-Lay and Lucinda Cole Semens of the FFTA.
The Forum closed with Bob Hirschfeld, a columnist and self-proclaimed “cybersatirist” who presented “Technical Bytes: A Satirical Look at the Digital Age.”
Ink Companies Active at InfoFlex
A number of ink companies introduced new products during InfoFlex, the two-day tabletop exhibition.
Sun Chemical was the most active, with its announcement of its new WetFlex EC wet trapping energy cured flexo inks (please see story on p. 8).
“We are really excited to see this kind of response,” said Dr. Subh Chatterjee, director, energy curables technology for Sun Chemical. “This is the first EB flexo ink. This is completely out of the box. A press manufacturer can dream of making a smaller press, shrinking it down without interstation units or the big footprint for the ovens. You could put more presses in. It’s really a win-win.”
“We’re getting a lot of interest,” said Mike McGovern, director, sales and marketing for energy curable products for Sun Chemical. “A lot of people believe this could be a revolutionary technology. We’ve had a few people come over to us and say that they are ready to go.”
Other ink companies also showcased new products.
Flint Ink introduced two new products: Sterling, a new solvent-based lamination ink, and also a new high-strength ink for paper towels.
“We have a new solvent-based laminating ink that is specially formulated for solventless lamination,” said Mike Impastato, vice president, market development, packaging division at Flint Ink. “It has consistently high bonds and low retained solvents.
“We also have a new ink for printing paper towels,” Mr. Impastato said. “With paper towels, people would like to have high-intensity color, but because of the rub, color is traded off. Our new ink has excellent rub resistance and high color strength, and we’re seeing that it also has good clean-up characteristics.”
“There’s been a lot of interest in our FoilBond TC ThruCure adhesive,” said Dave Hiserodt, president of Akzo Nobel Inks. “It offers a low cost alternative to hot foil stamping, and it can run at any station on the press. We’re getting good traffic and interest seems to be strong.”
“We’ve introduced UltraFlex 3 and also Aqualope inks for envelopes,” said Don Matthiesen, marketing manager for Environmental Inks and Coatings. “UltraFlex 3 is very low in viscosity, and can be measured in a #3 Zahn cup. It eliminates press problems. Our UltraFlex process set will be coming out during the summer.”
“We just introduced ProLink, four color process inks for lamination,” said David Cartwright ofFrontier Printing Ink. “It requires nearly zero cleaning, it’s excellent for high speeds and won’t lose color strength.”
“Through our licensing agreement with Agion, we have incorporated its anti-microbial technology into our No-Tox AM inks and coatings, which allows converters to coat a variety of packaging films and papers and render the surface anti-microbial,” said Michael Gettis, director of business development at Colorcon No-Tox Products.
“A year and a half ago we launched NewTrol, a pH-neutral system which offers excellentwater resistance,” said George Sickinger, chairman, CEO and president of Color Resolution International. “We also have our SPX fine graphics line for upscale corrugated, folding carton and labels.”
“We’ve developed our Focus ink system, a line of multi-colored bases and technology varnishes which can be used in multiple packaging applications,” said Martin Monaghan, SICPA’s senior account manager. “We presently are running trials with converters. We are also offering our Access laminating system, a nitrocellulose-based ink system which is high strength and is also cost effective.”
Eckart America introduced its Ultrastar line of metallic inks. “These ultra-brilliant silver inks are based on our aluminum dispersion Metalure,” said Oliver Crowhurst, director of business development – graphic arts. “They deliver eye-catching results by producing ‘foil-like’ effects for label, flexible packaging and cartons. This provides an alternative to using costly metallized substrates or foil stamping.”
Omnova introduced two new viscosity-stable products. “A lot of ink companies have told us they have trouble with rubine and red lake C with viscosity,” said Kim Deacon, director, graphics, tape and nonwovens business for Omnova. “Our VS vehicles are viscosity stable. We’ve had the most success with flexible packaging with Sequabond VS-9056. Our other new product is Secoat 7860, an FFDA compliant heat resistant top coating that’s ideal for paper plates and bakery trays.”
All in all, ink companies were fairly satisfied with the results of the show.
“I think the show has gone fairly well,” said Rick Gloeckler, vice president of Environmental Inks and Coatings. “It’s a good venue to see existing customers and also new people.”
“This is a particularly good organization,” said Mr. Sickinger, who received an award for his years of service to the FFTA as chairman of the FFTA Board of Trustees. “The opening presentation was outstanding, and the staff really makes it easy.”