Chaired by Paul Teachout, Nilpeter and Bob Coomes, Plastic Packaging LLC, Forum started with a session early Sunday, April 30, planned by the Flexo Quality Consortium (FQC) “Pre-Conference: #Research!” Members of the committee provided an abundance of data on high-res printing, CxF press characterization, flexo plate and mounting tape optimization and the continuously changing standards in the industry. One attendee shared, “The topics are all part of our company interests and needs. We are actively pursuing and processing most of the session topics in our operation.”
Forum’s next session for Sunday, “Flexo: Legals, Markets & Logistics” started with a presentation covering the recent Nutrition Facts label update and the importance it holds. Following, expert panelists offered their commentary during an interactive presentation about standardization, modernization and the innovation driving this industry forward.
Another relevant topic, discussed, “The ‘Press Crew’ Crisis: Now Who’s Going to Run My Press?,” sparked the attention of all those waiting to hear about the future generation of flexographers. Presenters derived some interesting findings for business owners to ponder as they embark on filling their open positions with a skilled labor force. One survey respondent shared, “This session covered all the bases, from startling statistics to recruiting, and from training to retaining professional talent.”
On Monday, May 1, the morning sessions opened with “Disruptive Technologies: Embrace the Possibilities.” Keeping on trend with the 2017 theme, the industry’s latest technologies were brought to everyday operations. One survey response revealed, “I found the enthusiasm of the speakers and their abilities to be extremely engaging. As a result, I learned a great deal about new technologies. The insight to circuitry was a true eye opener and an advisory of customer expectations in the not too distant future regarding smart technologies. We will all need to be prepared.”
Immediately following was “It’s All About Ink!” This technical session took on many aspects of the decorative process as a follow up from a 2016 FTA Process and Technology Survey. Presenters spoke about how to find a fresh trend of defining value through multiprocess printing and the importance of an emotional connection a consumer feels when deciding on which package to buy. As one survey response said, “Great overview of all of the inks used and where they are going in the near future.”
Tuesday, May 2, hosted three sessions on Forum’s trending topics. The day started off running with an overview of color management in “Let’s All Get RIPed: Practical Prepress.” From practical color workflows to using color conversion tools to determining a standard printing method, all in the name of consistency, “Having a happy customer is what it’s all about,” stated one presenter.
The next session, “Pressroom Pressures” ensued immediately after. Acknowledging the difficulties faced daily by printers, improvements such as adding automation to the pressroom floor were suggested to increase productivity and efficiencies. At the same time, learning to utilize this new technology will lead to employees’ time and skills becoming more valuable. One survey response revealed, “The presenters delivered highly relevant presentations with good suggestions.”
“Corrugated Direct Print – The Future is Now!” was the last session to close out Forum’s educational segment of the day. Keeping true to the Forum theme, trends such as applying new anilox technology to older presses kept the crowd’s attention for entire session.
May 3, Wednesday, wrapped up the educational sessions with two significant topics for all experience levels in the industry. The first session, “Not Only How to Use, But How to Choose: Flexo Consumables 101” got down to the nitty gritty of purchasing the right consumables to enhance printing capabilities. The “Optimizing for Production Performance: Flexography 102” echoed the first session by providing a walk-through of an actual press trial to learn what the winning combination of variables are for optimal output. Reviews came in that stated the topics discussed were “informative and we will use the information in future testing.”
Monday afternoon the show room floor was opened to attendees. It was the largest exhibit floor in its 35-year history. As the only event that features all nine segments of the package printing industry, the 2017 event featured 243 companies that occupied 306 booths. Throughout the nine aisles of the Phoenix Convention Center, hundreds of products and solutions from all segments of the printing/converting marketplace were at the fingertips of attendees during the two-day event.
Supplementing the unlimited networking and more than 30 live machinery demonstrations, the extensive show floor contained:
- 38 new companies exhibiting for 2017
- 37 conventional, hybrid and digital press manufacturers
- 80% of the exhibitors cater to the flexible packaging segment
- 85% of the exhibitors cater to the narrow web segment
- 25% of the exhibitors cater to the corrugated/carton segment
Aisle 900 of the exhibition hosted Solutions Theater, this year covering 15 presentations. Providing information on a wide range of topics, crowds listened in as companies introduced everything from film cleaners, waste control and plate technology to color control, emergent digital technologies and consumer friendly packaging.
Also found on display on the show floor, were the 2017 Excellence in Flexography Award winners. The 121 winning entries were showcased proudly at the red carpet of the Awards Gallery for conference goers to view.
On the first day of working the show floor, INFO*FLEX ended with a festive two-hour Monday Evening Social. The event took place outside the Phoenix Convention Center on Third Street and drew more than 1,300 attendees. The second day closed out the show with a bang, announcing the attendee who won $2,017 in 2017 by playing the new interactive game, Click, through the FTA App.
Diamond sponsors of Forum & INFO*FLEX 2017 were Esko and Kodak. Platinum sponsors were 3M; Anderson & Vreeland, Inc.: DuPont Advanced Printing; MacDermid Graphics Solutions; Polymount USA, Sun Chemical Corp. and X-Rite Pantone.
FTA’s 2018 Forum & INFO*FLEX will take place on May 6-9 in Indianapolis, IN, and will be chaired by Bob Coomes, Plastic Packaging Technologies and Ann Michaud, 3M Co. Anticipation for next year’s show is extremely high. The show floor is already more than 70% sold. The 2018 re-sign rate is good until Friday, June 2nd. More info: Jay Kaible, FTA dir.-membership and business development, at 631-737-6020, ext. 20.