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FLEXO Magazine : January 2012
Plants & Processes INK IQ: MAKING FLEXOGRAPHY SMARTER How technology and Knowledgeable Pressroom operators complement one another By Bob Wolff Advances in flexographic print technology have led to increased productivity, efficiency and output quality. But preprogrammed settings, in-line monitoring and automated adjustments cannot do it all. In fact, automation may provide a false sense of security and mask issues which, if not detected and corrected, can even negate productivity, quality and efficiency. Let us begin by recognizing that in printing, and related businesses such as ink, we can’t be any better than the folks on the shop floor. All the upfront activities — engineering, equipment selection, design, workflow, etc. — mean little unless the operators can apply it all toward producing quality products efficiently. The job is only as good as they make it. We must ask: are we collectively doing enough to train, develop, and involve critical shop floor staff? The simple fact is numerous variables including ink-related issues can impact any run on a given day. Many pressroom personnel, whether trained internally or by press manufac- turers, plate or roll suppliers, ink companies or co-workers, lack the hands-on experience to quickly identify and resolve problems that inevitably arise. No operation is exempt: wide or narrow web, long runs or short ones. While many larger operations have in-plant assistance from ink suppliers other printers must be more self-reliant. ANTICIPATE, COMBAT, PREEMPT If output doesn’t match that “brand identity,” standard be- ing driven by the major consumer products companies, loss of respectability and business occur. In any shop, knowledge- able press crews hold the key to everything. From getting on-color with fewer pulls, to avoiding costly mid-run delays or reruns, only a well-educated group of operators can prevent disaster. Better ink IQ begins with communication. Making sure members are aware of what is happening from one job to the next is imperative. Preproduction meetings, once standard practice, are being seen as time taken away from production. Job sheets are no replacement for face time and discussions regarding upcom- ing runs, potential issues, and actions to take if the unexpect- ed happens. Crews must fend for themselves while dealing with multiple, related issues including but not limited to: • Traps, bleeds, reverse outs • Color sequence – rotation • Anilox rolls • Drying 8 FLEXO january 2012 www.flexography.org www.nag-detroit.com 586.486.1110 North American Graphics is YOUR source for Kodak Flexcel NX Ask about our Print Performance GUARANTEE Flexcel NX DigiCap plates to 60 inches #1SourceBook_NAG_Ad.indd 1-2 11/4/11 5:58:31 PM Technology cannoT Replace expeRience • New printing technology has made flexography fast and effective but relying solely on technology can have serious consequences • Printers are only as good as the crew they have on the pressroom floor; computer automation is only a tool • Continuous training and development of operators is key to maintaining high quality; experience cannot be overlooked • Trust in crewmembers’ knowledge is imperative to smooth and superior Flexo printing that can save a job from disaster—even if automated systems indi- cate otherwise