FTA InfoFlex 2023: diving into the future of flexo

At FTA Forum, innovations in flexographic printing and the ever-evolving relationship of digital and flexographic technologies took center stage

Attendees gather on FTA’s bustling show floor at the Greater Columbus Convention Center

The Flexographic Technical Association’s (FTA) Forum and InfoFlex 2023 event held on April 17-18 at the Greater Columbus, Ohio, Convention Center brought together nearly 1,200 industry experts, professionals and enthusiasts to discuss the latest trends and technologies shaping the flexographic printing world.

With a focus on building relationships, expanding product offerings and improving production efficiency, the event showcased innovations in color management, UV-LED curing technology, digital printing and more.

Flexo and digital

For a show focused on flexography, it was undeniable that the future of conventional print and its place in the emerging digital printing landscape was a hot topic. Although digital printing has gained significant attention, Steve Schulte, vice president of sales and marketing at Mark Andy, and Keith Nagle, a sales manager at Bobst, both believe that digital technology will not replace flexographic printing.

Schulte says, ‘I don’t think flexography is going away because there’s still long-run jobs. Until digital gets to that crossover point that they can run fast and the cost per label gets much lower, flexography will always have a place.’

Nagle shares a similar view, emphasizing that there’s room in the market for both, ‘One doesn’t replace the other, but they complement each other very well,’ he says.

Nagle also made note of the increasing level of automation in the label and packaging industry, including the prepress portion and plate mounting.

Regarding the future of conventional technology, Nagle says, ‘It’s going to get more automated to help with the workforce issues that we have in the industry.’

Bobst recently released Bobst Connect, a cloud-based digital platform that enhances and improves packaging productivity. Bobst also announced an update to its Digital Master series, which integrates Bobst Connect. The company also expanded

its portfolio of die-cutting products. In addition to semi-rotary die-cutting, quick change rotary die-cutting was introduced, offering a 50 percent time saving to change magnetic cylinders.

Sanja Valentic, Esko’s general manager of North America operations, spoke about sustainability in packaging. She says: ‘Every year, sustainability is one of those topics that you see, people will post a green symbol on their website and after six months, it disappears. This year, sustainability has actually become a real, tangible part of everyone’s messaging.’

“The FTA provides the technical content and educational seminars to provide those opportunities for certifications and continued education for our customers while at the show”

Color management

Color management and efficiency were other key themes at FTA, with Bill Dewalt of GMG Americas highlighting the dramatic speed increase in his company’s new profiling software.

‘Some projects [used to] take hours, and it went down to minutes. The developers were very excited about that,’ he says.

Dewalt also pointed out that this technology, GMG’s OpenColor software, helps companies overcome the challenges of finding skilled staff members by allowing the existing workforce to work more efficiently.

GMG’s conversion technology offers the ability to simulate colors with pinpoint accuracy, potentially eliminating the need for test charts. It’s a comprehensive approach that considers multiple factors, including spectral color data, the printing process, substrates and even the sequence of ink application. The system’s adaptability is designed for situations where parameters change, allowing for swift calculation of a new profile without needing a fresh proof.

Color management continues to evolve, and Raymond Burnthorn from X-Rite emphasized the importance of adapting to these changes. As the industry shifts toward a younger workforce, Burnthorn observed that young people tend to perceive color differently than their more experienced counterparts:

‘The younger industry sees the depth of color,’ he says. ‘They have the ability to see the changes more distinctly.’ 

Other new products

The XSYS booth featured new products from the global flexographic specialist. Dan Rosen, a sales manager at the company, showed off the FTV, a printing plate launched in the second quarter of 2023, explaining: ‘It’s a special plate that has one-to-one reproduction to the image file.

The diverse perspectives from industry experts demonstrated that the future of the flexo industry is bright, with a continued focus on sustainability and automation.

For more information, check out our video review of the show at: https:// bit.ly/3CTxOHZ

Charlie Edward

Charlie Edward

  • North America Editor