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FLEXO Magazine : June 2009
PLANTS & PROCESSES Countless hours of debate, discussion, and utter brainwork went into the development of the latest edition of the flexographic industry’s definitive guide for consistent print: namely, FIRST 4.0 (Flexographic Image Reproduction Specifications and Tolerances). An estimated 125 industry volunteers contributed time and knowledge to creating this groundbreaking new document. When all was said and done, a second group of volunteers stepped forward. These men and women set forth with the goal of putting words into action. Namely, they were determined to prove that the specifications in FIRST are legit by producing the famed demonstration projects. All in all, 15 people from 12 companies were recruited to assemble six samples of flexographic printing that is included with every purchase of FIRST 4.0. FLEXO recently reached out to these hardworking individuals to ask about the process of putting FIRST into practice. Out of the group, four took the time to respond: Greg Collins, CP-Flexible Packaging (and current FTA chairman); Malcolm Keif, California Polytechnic State University; Kim Madigan, Smyth Companies; and Rebecca Vanhandel, RR Donnelly. Q: What peaked your interest in assisting in the printing and development of sample packaging for FIRST? Vanhandel: Initially, the opportunity to work with wellknown businesses and individuals across the industry was just something I could not pass by. The possibility of hearing first-hand thoughts, ideas and reasoning from the Hall of Famers is education not available in any classroom or book. The idea of the sample packaging having a more functional purpose for the end users out in the industry added something new and exciting to FIRST, while at the same time presenting new challenges for the book’s contributors. Additionally, rather than duplicating the same artwork as done on previous releases of FIRST, the idea to create a line extension was proposed. Brand management and line items are not only required to communicate a similar message, but also maintain the aesthetic integrity and overall cohesive look and feel of the brand. The opportunity to demonstrate and apply the principles and practices of FIRST 4.0 added an entire new dimension to the previous versions. Come on—who doesn’t love a good mind-bender? Madigan: We thought it would be a great opportunity to assist the FTA and also further stretch our capabilities on our new press. Keif: I figured it would be challenge, a service to the indus- try, and a chance to give Cal Poly some exposure. Collins: When we were offered the opportunity to assist in the FIRST 4.0 project, we didn’t hesitate. It was an honor to be associated with the introduction of the most significant update of the industry’s only flexographic printing standards. We weren’t too upset either that this will allow us to showcase our printing capabilities. Q: What unique challenges did the project present to you and your staff? Vanhandel: As with anything outside of our normal day-today work responsibilities, time. Having great facilitators keep everyone on track and prompt with due dates was extremely crucial to the success of FIRST 4.0. Also, the logistics to make Madigan: Our only concerns were in achieving the rich black we wanted and the gloss and matte varnishes needed for this project. Keif: Not particularly. Because the label wasn’t one of the key design elements, it didn’t get as much attention as some of the other components. Collins: The cover of FIRST 4.0 has a pattern matte varnish to give a little more visual interest to the black background color. We needed to run additional trials on how best to simulate the cover’s appearance. We reformulated our matte varnish and used in-line two side printing to achieve the gloss from the reverse printing of the strawberry and the subtleness of the matte finish swirls around the product image and copy. the packaging actually function, yet remain in print/production tolerances, was a bit of a challenge in the early stages. Madigan: The Omet press we used for the run was only characterized for shrink film up until this material. We were excited to establish a characterization on the 18pt. tag stock for this specific project. We had no idea of the capabilities our configuration (inks, anilox and press) would create on this type of stock. Keif: For me, having little access to the completed guide was a challenge. Collins: Our initial press characterizations showed that we were unable to get enough color with our standard four-color process reverse printed on film to match the color of the guide’s cover, which was printed on coated board. So we evaluated seven-color extended gamut printing. The combination of the additional process colors with the right selection of plates and mounting tapes, proved to be the trick in getting mouth-watering reds in the strawberry and rich greens in its leaf. press? Q: Vanhandel: Everyone involved communicated openly and honestly throughout the project. When one couldn’t get something done, another was right there eager to help out. Madigan: We knew we needed a fingerprint, no matter what, to set our curves and catch issues to do with this stock, anilox, inks, and press. Collins: We worked closely with the prepress provider and designers at RR Donnelley to discuss each detail of the design and develop a game plan that would best reproduce the image. This team approach was critical to the success in getting from computer screen to finished package. Q: Did you have any concerns with the design? Vanhandel: The design wasn’t as concerning as achieving a deep, rich, smooth black background across the packaging pieces. After a bit of brainstorming and some creativity behind the separations, FIRST 4.0, in all its entirety, looks beautiful! How were those challenges addressed and resolved in the pre-production meeting, and subsequently met on www. f le xography. org JUNE 2009 FLEXO 31
Sustainable Spring 2009