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FLEXO Magazine : August 2012
FIRST supports the methodical approach to process control, optimization, fingerprinting, characterization and process improvement as outlined in Committee for Graphics Arts Technologies Standards (CGATS) TR 012-2003 (Graphic Technology – Color Reproduction and Process Control for Packaging Printing). While each organization may use its own workflow based upon its specific needs, there are certain fundamentals uni- versal to the flexographic printing process. With a firm understanding and application of the FIRST methodol- ogy, flexographers can: identify potentially troublesome issues, benchmark press performance, utilize statistical analysis to maintain optimal conditions, perform accu- rate device calibrations, identify improvement oppor- tunities and preserve stable conditions for repeatable results –all with the end result of satisfactorily reproduc- ing the graphic design. The Press OPeraTOr CerTifiCaTiOn Akin to the other certification programs offered by FIRST, the Press Operator Certification Program is a three-level, self- paced, online course. Depending upon experience level, pro- ficiency, and other determining factors, firms can choose from three levels but need to complete them in sequential order. LeVeL i This is the jumping off point. From here, students learn the history and inner workings of the printing world as a whole. There will be segments on everything from the ancient beginnings of printing to the more intricate, modern printing methods. All students within the operator course complete this level. Designed precisely for the entry-level and non- production flexographic industry personnel, this initial step toward flexographic know-how will build interest, creativity and originality among employees. “FIRST has enabled us to develop a set of parameters. Now staff has the ability to set the presses up according to those guidelines, instead of doing it by guesswork,” stated Larry Ryland, printing department manager, InterFlex Group. Level I (which is the same for each of the certifications programs) consists of a six-week online-learning course that covers the history of flexography as well as brief introductions to the other types of printing processes. “Our staff has been extremely positive from the start,” said Tom MacInnes, print operations manager, Interflex Group. “Before, they didn’t understand they were affecting the pro- cess, but now they know what they are doing. They can see how and what they do affects the numbers.” LeVeL ii The Level II course is developed for those employees who have attained a basic level of press operations, including the printing of spot colors, line work, halftones, and one- and two- color printing. This level will define the foundational skill set needed by novice printer assistants and press operators early on in their careers. Before taking the Level II examination, individuals must meet all prerequisite skills and complete the Level I certification program. “ The FIRST Press Operator program gave me a solid foun- dation to base all my learning and know-how off of,” explains Vince McLaughlin, press operator at Lintec Label & Print Solu- tions. “ I learned right along with it. From the first level when I was running mainly blank labels, barcodes, and one-to-two color jobs, to the third level where I am now running 10-color jobs with adhesive and liner printing with flight registration and special tooling and procedures, I couldn’t have done any of it without FIRST. Glad my company put me through it and what it’s made me today!” The primary focus of Level II is to cultivate a base under- standing of flexographic press operations as it pertains to the art of flexography. This course covers flexo industry business factors; then reviews flexo market segments, pre-make-ready skills, make-ready skills, press skills and clean up proce- dures. Other subjects explained within Level II include, un- derstanding the press counter; understanding and preform- ing barcode verification; as well as final handling of a good product and web handling and hoisting. “ With Level II, our make-readies have gone down a bit. Hopefully, this will take 10-to-15 minutes off each one,” said Adam Snell, printing supervisor, Walter G. Anderson. “ F I RST gives you outlines that you can apply to your specifications for your market segment. It gives you guidelines so that you will be successful and get the job right with every run that you do. ” LeVeL iii The Level III course requires completion of Press Operator Certification Level I and Press Operator Certification Level II. This course is designed for those within the pressroom who have developed a considerably high level of technical skill rfiD: The printed method of RFID utilizes conductive inks which allow a circuit to be printed onto a variety of materials, including paper. www.flexography.org augusT 2012 FLEXO 23