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FLEXO Magazine : June2010
FTA TODAY 24 FLEXO june 2010 www.flexography.org Inmy role as an intern with the FTA, I recently had the op- portunity to sit in on a FIRST Press Operator Certification Level I class. At various times throughout the class, I found myself thinking back to when I was first exposed to the Level I course before I even knew what flexography was. Printing? Wasn’t that usually taken care of by clicking file -> print? My introduction to FIRST came during my first course at Dunwoody College of Technology ’s Graphics and Printing department, where it was integrated into the curriculum. This was my first exposure with flexography, and the interesting world of anilox rolls, inks, press types, and substrates. That Level I class was the catalyst for me to change my major from graphic design to prepress. The entire process instantly in- spired me to learn more; and I wanted to see how FIRST was applied from the very beginning of a job to the end product. Wanting to focus more on the technical mechanics of how it all worked, I left graphic design behind. However, delving into the technical side of prepress, made me curious about press operation as well. Getting the chance to learn how to run the Mark Andy 2200 10in. six-color presses was too tempting to pass up, and the decision to stay an extra year was easy. Although my exposure varied depending upon which major I was studying for, my experiences, both past and present, regarding FIRST optimization, fingerprinting, process control, characterization, and process improvement are what I want to share with you. OptimizatiOn prime Given that all of the curricula that is being developed for FTA’s certification courses are aligned to FIRST, having the opportunity to assist the team in putting together the curricu- lum is helping me to vastly expand my knowledge of FIRST, inside and out. My first introduction to optimization was as a prepress stu- dent; one of my teachers asked me to create an optimization chart to use with our banded anilox rolls. I was focused on making sure all of the test elements were precisely located, and that all of the elements we needed were included. I wasn’t exactly sure what it was used for, but was dedicated to making sure the project was laid out correctly. The next time that file crossed my path was in the form of photopolymer plates when I was a press student. After the optimization pressrun was finished and documented, together as a class, we looked at the results to determine the combina- tion of parameters that were the best for what we wanted to achieve. We chose to test two different mounting tapes with two different levels of cushion. Seeing the print samples in person really helped communicate the difference between the two; my head started to spin with how many different variables affect the printed result. Since we were going to continue the project to eventually reproduce images using four-color process, we chose the mounting with the greater cushion which yielded better results. After seeing how different the results with just two variables were, I really started to understand the importance of going through the steps of a FIRST-managed workflow. Fine Fingerprints Similarly, my first exposure to fingerprinting occurred in one of my classes where we had to work in a team. As part of the prepress team, I worked with other students to layout plates for our group’s fingerprint trial. We were required to build most of the test elements from scratch. This was an edu- cational experience, as we had to make sure everything fit within the width of the substrate. Just this year, I got to see the other side of the coin by running a fingerprint on one of the narrow in-line flexo presses. This was executed with the help of a classmate, and as a team we decided to use the UV lamp installed on print station six to utilize a UV gloss varnish. We had to make sure that all of our targets, including run targets in the bearer bars, were evenly coated by varnish. During set up, we had to ensure our doctor blades and print deck set- tings were even and repeatable. A critical part of this included making sure we had an optimum kiss impression that could be proved and repeated on all print decks. We documented our ten- sion settings, speed, dryer and lamp settings, pH and viscosity of our ink, ink type, mounting tape, substrate and of course anilox rolls. Measuring our density readings for the four process colors while on press added another level of multitasking. Once our First Hand Learning Benefits of early exposure to Process Consistency: A Student’s Perspective By Rose McKernon Elements of a FIRST-based Education • Optimization. • Fingerprinting. • Characterization. • Process Control. • Process Improvement. FLX_June2010_mech.indd 24 6/10/10 9:38 AM