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FLEXO Magazine : June2010
FTA TODAY www.flexography.org june 2010 FLEXO 25 densities were within specification, we started pulling samples to be used in determining our aim points and tolerances. Now that I have had this exposure to fingerprinting, it has become very helpful while I am assisting the TEST team. It allows me to see the direct relationship from what I learned as a student and what I think is critical for others to learn from the certification material. Process Under control Unlike my experiences with optimization and fingerprint- ing, I had very little exposure to process control as a prepress student. I knew that something was being done with the file that I helped create, but I wasn’t exactly sure what that was. After my team ran the target, I was involved with measuring and recording the following elements: solid ink color patches (used to measure density), tint color patches (used to measure dot gain), minimum type (normal and reversed), minimum line (normal and reversed), gray scale and also a visual inspection of registration, impression and slur targets. We then used these stats to create curves to apply to our next set of plates. Next, we used software to analyze our dot gain data and create the nec- essary curves to help adjust our process. Then, we used these curves and applied them to our next file, for the characteriza- tion run, to help keep our process within the control limits. In addition to everything I learned about process control while I was in school, my work with the FTA has showed me the major role press maintenance plays in the equation. It makes sense that a press that is in need of some repair or cleaning is going to have a hard time reproducing its previous results, which could be a factor easily overlooked. Between what I have learned in school and what I have learned in my internship, I’ve been able to apply these lessons to help the FTA incorporate the theme of FIRST related consistency in its training. characterization sitUation As with fingerprinting, my first exposure to characteriza- tion was as a prepress student. In the same class in which we had built and laid out the fingerprint press trial, we were also required to assemble a characterization pressrun. This layout was less complex than the fingerprint, since we were only running a randomized IT8.7/4 target along with our bearer bars, which included our standard run targets. We produced it on the same water-based press and used the same settings and anilox rolls documented previously. If we would have run it on a different substrate or press at this time, all of the work we had put into our process wouldn’t have applied. We maintained our aim points and tolerances from the fingerprinting run to ensure we were utilizing all of the work done previously. We also made sure all of our doctor blades and impression were at their optimum repeatable settings, just as with the fingerprint. Once we were up and running and were within tolerance of our previous densities, we started pulling samples to use for evaluation. These are the samples we would use to measure and then create an ICC profile of our process. The profile generated would show us the gamut of colors able to be produced using our workflow and equip- ment. This ICC profile then could be used, by the prepress department to calibrate monitors and output devices used to communicate color. Much like all of the other steps, I can really see being able to use the knowledge gained from FIRST down the road in my career. Who knows? One day I might be in a production setting working as one of the people respon- sible for maintaining a FIRST managed workflow. room for imProvement Unlike optimization, fingerprinting, process control and characterization; as a student in both prepress and press I had very little hands-on exposure to process improvement, mainly because I was not in a production setting. However, I did get the opportunity to tour print shops that do use FIRST and a con- tinuous process improvement system. It makes sense to use run targets on every pressrun to monitor the process, and then record those measurements in a process control database to help gain an understanding of that particular process better. It’s a great way to be able to tell if something is not right in the process, and hopefully give a clue as to where the problem is occurring. Using the ongoing run data to detect opportunities for improvement within the process is genius. This information can be used to detect improvement opportunities. Being able to measure those opportunities once implemented is satisfying since it allows you to be in control. Actually seeing the results of all the work put into the process, or changes made to the process gives me a sense of validation. What a great tool for maintaining and adjusting the process as necessary to keep it in balance. I have come to learn that this understanding gained from process improve- ment can help adjust specifications of jobs in the future, and also help production of a higher quality product using current equipment. The understanding that I have gained has not only helped me contribute to the FTA’s ability to develop cur- riculum, but it will also help me succeed in my future career. final thoUghts I am fortunate to have an understanding of the FIRST- recommended print workflow from a prepress, press, and FTA intern perspective. I have great respect for those who, day-in and day-out, produce consistency in their products, no matter what piece of the puzzle they are involved in. I hope that my experiences past and present regarding optimization, fingerprinting, process control, characterization, and process improvement, shared here, have given you some insight into how being exposed to FIRST from the beginning of my educa- tion through my experience as an intern has really shaped the future of my career. I truly understand the motivation behind the FTA’s desire to help create consistency within the flexographic industry. Seeing the process from start to finish has been eye-opening to say the least, and has really helped me grasp the con- cepts taught to me by both Levels I and II of the FIRST Press Operator Certification. Being able to use my experiences as a foundation to build upon has been a great opportunity, and I am thrilled when I am able to contribute. I am honored by the opportunity to assist the team that creates and teaches these certifications. Being new to the industry, I am excited for where the future of flexo will take us, and look forward to being part of this ever evolving field. n ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Rose McKernon is a graduate of Dunwoody College of Technology, Minneapolis, MN. She holds Associate’s Degrees in Prepress Operation and Press Operation. As of the completion of this article, McKernon has successfully completed an internship with the FTA, and has gone on to accept a full-time position with the Association as TEST Project Coordinator. FLX_June2010_mech.indd 25 6/10/10 9:38 AM