Home' FLEXO Magazine : July 2015 Contents Morrison: What are the most notable changes you've seen across the
exo work ow? How have they impacted quality?
Woods: ere was a period in our industry when suddenly we
were focused on improving at every process. Anilox rollers became
di erent and better. Presses became better and tighter and could run
a higher quality at faster speeds. Ink improved and became more
consistent. For some number of years, all of those pieces of the process
were moving forward simultaneously.
Photopolymer was a drastic change, and some people had trouble
getting used to it at rst, but it paved the way for us to move into
the digital world and the electronic world. at's when things really
improved and became a lot more consistent.
Moving from Cromalins to digital proofs was very challenging,
because we were trying to move the industry from an art to a science.
When I rst went to our Searcy plant (with Bryce Corp.), we were
running line work exclusively and wanted to start running screens
and process work. I remember learning about printing to the numbers
and how to read and use dot values.
ere's an art to being able to look at a proof and know intuitively why
you were o ---your magenta is o , your dot gain is o , etc. But now
we were learning how to print to the numbers instead, and how that
could help us with what we were trying to accomplish.
Going back to the early days of digital proo ng and early pro ling, we
just did simple ngerprints of a press to get a curve. It became much
more complicated with the introduction of standards to get a press
pro le. Instead of small pieces of information for basic color manage-
ment decisions, you were capturing the essence of the press.
Even today there are still mistakes, but the level of sophistication and
standards around our decisions today is much more precise and con-
sistent than it was back then. Now our choices are driven by data and
a wealth of information, more so than gut instinct and experience.
FTA de nitely played a signi cant role in the history and dynamics of
how exography has evolved from the 1960s to where it is today. e
Association had the ability to pull people in the industry together to
move exography forward, with competitors working in concert to
raise the overall quality level.
Now, exo is an outstanding process where you can predict with a
high degree of consistency what the nal result will be. Plus, we've
added value with expanded gamut, which allows the customer to gang
jobs, run longer and reduce their number. We've come a long way.
Morrison: How have things changed working in the modern era, with
the adoption of standards and speci cations?
Woods: Today we have high de nition imaging and at top dots
making signi cant changes in the future of plate making. Flat top dots
were a legitimate step change for our industry. It just made things
better, especially for expanded gamut. Ink laydown is substantially
improved, which was always a big challenge.
Now there are options and other pieces that can be put together to
create the best printing solution for each job. It's still in ux and it's
Flat top is a signi cant positive change in what we do, and most print-
ers would agree that it makes things better. Right now we're in the
middle of an innovation cycle, as we try to re ne our strategies and
make each part of the process better. We're further optimizing at top
with plate texturing and di erent screening options---we're chasing
the smallest dot to create the optimal tonal range. We're constantly
improving and testing to try to nd the simplest, most reliable formu-
la to achieve the highest quality product.
Looking forward, I would have predicted that we'd be doing a lot more
round, seamless media at this point. It eliminates mounting in the
plants, which is a huge bene t to the printers, especially with tight
registering jobs. I still contend that in the near future, this will be a
major direction for the industry. It just simpli es the process, and
addresses process challenges.
Morrison: How has the face of the industry changed in the last 40
Woods: Some of our newer employees are coming in with completely
di erent backgrounds and experiences than we did. Now there are
printing and packaging focused college programs, which bring people
in at a much higher level than they started at in the past.
People come in to prepress now with graphics knowledge and an edge
in their education, already knowing programs like Adobe Illustrator.
ey can hit the ground running faster. But on the printing side,
there's still not a lot out there for formal training. FTA does o er
training modules (Flexographic Image Reproduction Speci cations &
Tolerances) that let people sit down at a computer and simulate di er-
ent press conditions and decision making.
Equipment has come a long way too. Back when I had to run a press,
it was di erent from how it is today. Now, we joke it's more like play-
ing a videogame than running a piece of machinery, and it is compati-
ble with those skill sets. Before it was kind of like a 1957 Chevy---with
some basic maintenance experience, you could gure out the mechan-
ics and diagnose the problem. Just park it under a shady tree and you
could do your own routine maintenance.
Now, the technologies have advanced passed basic mechanic skills,
so the presses have to be maintained in a more challenging way. e
reward is the presses are amazing today. e printing technology has
gone through the roof, and the presses are expected to do so much
more now, too.
Before, the press manufacturers didn't want to hear anything about
their press engineering. Over the years, I really believe the engineers
started listening to the press operators, because some of the features
we requested started showing up.
30 FLEXO | JULY 2015
Links Archive June 2015 August 2015 Navigation Previous Page Next Page