Mobile Transparency: The SmartLabel™ Story


According to a recent grocery shopping experience and behavior survey conducted by Open Mind Strategy on behalf of Food Network Magazine, consumers are using their phones in-store for a variety of reasons. In fact, 39 percent are searching for recipes, 40 percent are checking prices, and 28 percent of grocery shoppers are using their mobile devices to check nutritional information.

Methodology: Food Network Magazine surveyed 1,957 consumers age 21-54.

VIEW INFOGRAPHIC: How Ads, Packaging and Smartphones Affect What Shoppers Buy at the Supermarket

Product transparency is incredibly important to consumers, and will remain important in the future. With consumer relationships and preferences changing throughout the years, it’s important for brands to continue to provide more product information so consumers can make informed purchase decisions and answer questions that arise.

Introducing SmartLabel™: A GMA Initiative for Product Transparency

Recently, our Michael Fox, director, client solutions, spoke at PackEx Toronto to discuss how to successfully implement SmartLabel™. The GMA SmartLabel™ initiative is a great example of how brand owners are investing in bringing greater transparency to consumers. It provides a standardized presentation of product information to the consumer, regardless of the brand or product.

Some of the information consumers can expect from SmartLabel™ implementation includes:

  • Nutrition facts
  • Ingredients
  • Allergens
  • Other information
  • Company/brand information

Although this is predominately a North American initiative, there are a number of stakeholders driving global expansion. According to Progressive Grocer, the GMA expects more than 30,000 products to be available in SmartLabel™ by the end of 2017.

Displaying more information on-pack creates design and space challenges. Alternatively, brands can offer non-mandatory information only, but link to the package with an easily scanned QR code or digital watermark. Welcome to the new connected package.

“The ‘connected package’ represents the next generation in packaging, and initiatives such as the SmartLabel™ program will certainly help drive motivation for future adoption.” – Bruce Miller, VP, Product Development, SGK.

While brand owners are increasingly expected to provide more information on a pack that has limited space, initiatives like the new nutritional labeling regulations are consuming more pack real estate. Brand owners are also looking at the Vermont GMO labeling experience, along with a general desire by consumers for more product information. A logical solution is to begin to move some of the communication off the physical pack and onto a mobile screen.

READ: The Connected Package: The Next Generation in Brand Efficiency, Interaction and Appeal

The regulatory and legal environment is always changing, so brands must take advantage of that to see what these changes have to offer. In terms of digital connectivity, some of the offerings are going to have unintended side effects. The federal government’s GMO law could potentially aid the GMA SmartLabel™ initiative, and when you think about where the GMO information can be displayed, it no longer has to just be on-pack. SmartLabel™ will serve as a key source for labeling information, so consumers might be driven from the pack, brand site, or retail site.

“In turn, the datasets for nutrition and GMO information is combined with other brand content that can be served up in a number of ways, thereby bringing additional tools and touchpoints to brand owners, which at the end of the day is a good thing.” – Michael Leeds, SVP, Client Engagement, Americas, SGK.

What is the business case for SmartLabel™

The GMA SmartLabel™ initiative is becoming the most obvious choice for many brand owners, as it also contains a link to additional information that can be customized by the brand owner. In fact, over 30 companies have already committed to using the SmartLabel™, including: Conagra Brands, Kellogg Company, General Mills, PepsiCo, and Procter & Gamble, to name a few.

According to a Transparency ROI Study, conducted by Label Insight, long-term trust and consumer loyalty starts with transparency. In fact, 94% of consumers surveyed said they are likely to be loyal to a brand that offers complete transparency, while three in four consumers say they would be willing to pay more for a product that offers complete transparency. These facts emphasize the opportunity brands have to reflect their consumer’s values.

To learn more about the SmartLabel™ initiative, view the recorded BrandSquare webinar: SmartLabel™ Technology for Shopper Empowerment and Trust

About Michael Fox: Michael brings 8+ years of experience effecting organizational change with Theory of Constraint and Lean/Six Sigma Methodologies. He has a broad-based technical background in System & Industrial Engineering and Product Life-Cycle Management.

About Bruce Miller: As Vice President of Product Development for SGK, Bruce Miller leads the practical application of new technologies to the brand deployment requirements of SGK’s clients. His deep expertise in graphic production and management has helped advance the application and performance of graphic workflows for many of the world’s most prominent brand owners. A champion of innovation at SGK for more than 25 years, Bruce has played a pivotal role in the company’s transition from conventional analog to today’s advanced digital technologies and processes.

About Michael Leeds: Michael Leeds has been optimizing brand deployment processes for more than 25 years. He evaluates marketing supply chains through KPIs and best/next practices, which provide insights into the effectiveness and efficiency of a supply chain’s tools, workflows, and resources.

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Filed under Labels, Printing

The Cost of Out-of-Round and Out-of-Parallel Corrugated Glue Rolls


By David McBeth, Apex International

It isn’t hard to understand that glue rolls for corrugated machines with excessive TIR (total indicated runout), or glue rolls that aren’t parallel, will cause your corrugator to consume more adhesive.  It’s trickier to calculate how much, and when it makes economic sense to correct the problem.  As long as board quality, productivity, and waste are acceptable, it is tempting to post- pone maintenance.  Reducing the question to a comparison of costs helps managers make informed decisions.

When the glue roll is out of round, the gap with the metering roll changes with every revolution.  As a result, the adhesive film thickness on the glue roll changes from thick to thin as the roll turns.  The gap between the lower corrugating roll on the single facer will also change with every revolution, which affects adhesive application.  To compensate for these variations, the operator usually adjusts the metering gap so there is enough adhesive applied where the film is thinnest.

The effect is to increase overall adhesive consumption; this increase is proportional to the TIR or the distance the rolls are out of parallel.  This proportion, or ratio, can be used to calculate the additional cost to the box plant that defective rolls create.

Out-of-round example

On a finger-type single face machine, with a glue system in good condition, the actual glue film thickness on the glue roll will average about .007” in normal operation.

If the glue roll has a TIR of .006”, the gap must be increased by this amount to maintain a .007” where the film is thinnest. Allowing for the film split between glue roll and metering roll, the film thickness will increase by some two-thirds of that gap increase, or about .004”.  The result will be a glue film thickness ranging from .007 to .011. The total volume of adhesive available is the same as we would have with a uniform thickness of .009. On a 10” roll, the increase in glue volume calculates to 27%. About three-fourths of that ends up on paper, for an effective consumption increase of 20% with a TIR of .006.  So, as a rule of thumb, we can conclude that every .001” of TIR will increase adhesive consumption almost 3.5%.

Out-of-parallel roll has the same effect

If the metering gap is .006” out of parallel, the change in film thickness across the machine would be about 004”, or 2/3 x .006. Assuming a .010” minimum glue film (fin- gearless machine), the film changes from .010” to .014”, and the volume would be the same as if there was a uniform film thick- ness of .012” So .006” TIR and .006” out-of-parallel result in the same increase in adhesive consumption.

What about double back glue machines?

On double back glue machines, we need to consider the cell count and size of engraved rolls.  Glue rolls with cell counts of 16 or fewer cells per inch carry the majority of the adhesive in the cell.  These rolls have a very thin surface film thickness, so the application rate is not increased dramatically when there are small changes in the TIR for this type of roll.

Glue rolls with higher cell counts—25 quad and up—are affected by TIR at about the same rate as the single facer rolls, or about 3.5% per every .001” TIR.

The bottom line

Corrugated Glue Rolls

With today’s modern equipment and high run speeds it is possible to produce large quantities of board, consuming great quantities of adhesive in a short period of time.  Out-of- round or out-of-parallel rolls increase adhesive application rate significantly.

A formula can be derived from the information in this study to reveal the true cost of glue-roll TIR or out-of parallel conditions.

Cost per .001” of TIR = (TIR x 1000) x .035 x Dry Pound Cost x Average web width factor.

Example: TIR=.005

Dry pound cost = $0.18/lb example

Average web width = 80”

Average web factor = 80/98 = .816

Cost = (5) x (.035) x (.18) x (.816)

Cost = $0.0257 per MSF

For a plant producing 50 MMSF per month, the TIR would cost $1,285 per month in excess adhesive application for only .005” of roll runout.

Daily checks of the glue-roll gap with feeler gauges are imperative to ensure board quality and even application of adhesive.  It is not uncommon for plants running high speeds or small flutes to check gaps once or twice per shift.  This ensures the rolls are parallel and the glue film thickness and subsequent application is even across the web.  In any case, the TIR should be checked for all stations at least once per week.

About the Author:

DaveMcBeth-e1430561815741David McBeth currently serves as Sales Director – North American Corrugated for Apex International. Previously, McBeth served as Vice President of Global Sales and Marketing for another anilox manufacturer and, more recently, as President and Owner of DTM Flexo Services.

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Filed under Printing

Improving Color Across Suppliers

x-rite-pantone logo

By Shoshana Burgett, Director of Corporate Strategy for X-Rite Pantone

“Sometimes it’s not enough to know what things mean, sometimes you have to know what things don’t mean.” 
~ Bob Dylan

Color is an integral part of every product we see and touch, and it elicits an emotional response. So, when a product fails to meet the intended color on the shelf or in the showroom, consumers step away from it. This causes a ripple effect of pain from the brand and design team all the way through procurement, suppliers and manufacturing.

The process of bringing a product to market is complicated. Like most things in life, the world of our imagination is broader and brighter than what reality will allow. It does not matter if it is a new product or a refresh; taking a product to market involves various parallel development activities, review and revision cycles and many meetings to discuss, review and align on design, color and materials.

This is reinforced by a recent X-Rite Pantone study of 625 designers, which found that color was their number one go-to-market challenge. When we sharpened our focus, color consistency across materials is the common theme. Concurring on color, defining a standard and leveraging technology to ensure consistent, achievable color can help remove the pain and frustration created by the constant back and forth between marketing design, technical design and suppliers.

Getting everyone to agree on anything, especially something that can be as subjective as color, takes time; and there are several steps across the development cycle required to understand not only how color will behave on a given material, but how the total look and feel of the final product will play in the market. Luckily there are new and innovative solutions on the market that help designers understand how color will look on various materials. These solutions can, provide a designer the tools to develop and gain agreement on palettes earlier in the design cycle.

A team effort

When verifying color quality, it is common for designers and suppliers to view items outside in natural daylight. But natural daylight varies wildly depending on geography, season, time of day and overall weather conditions. The best way and the most commonly overlooked activity is to evaluate color with controlled lighting provided by a light booth. Depending on the product or industry, D50 or D65 Daylight is the standard viewing condition for approvals. Designers should also view samples under the lighting conditions where the product will appear—for example, store or home lighting. Increasingly that also includes LED lighting, a lighting condition that many light booths still do not support, and one with no defined industry standard.

improving color

Clients or other team members may not be aware of how important this step is and may not have access to a light booth. That’s why we developed a simple tool, our Pantone Lighting Indicator stickers, that can quickly allow individuals to determine if the viewer is in appropriate lighting conditions. I’m always amazed at people who say they approved the color from their hotel room or office without understanding the negative impact that this decision can have, and the unneeded costs and cycles that result from approving color without using controlled lighting.

Color and Material Challenges

Another recent study from X-Rite Pantone reinforced the fact that getting to and maintaining accurate color is a top concern among brands and designers. Breaking the results out in more detail reveals that consistent color across suppliers and achieving accurate color on target materials/substrates are leading challenges.

For many designers, inspiration occurs in the real world and is often captured as an image. This image, usually an RGB image, is moved into Photoshop where colors are identified. At this stage, CMYK values, L*a*b or HEX values, or a Pantone color value can be used. There are many tools like Pantone Studio that allow a designer to quickly and easily capture an image and automatically send it to Adobe software, or promote their palette on social or email. The challenge is many of the most common color spaces used by designers only work within a physical realm.

Designs move between the digital and physical worlds during the development process. Designs are digital, physical samples are produced from those designs, digital designs are modified to better achieve design intent based on physical sample results, and so on. Even after products launch, there is a continued balance and having a physical and digital standard for products that will help streamline color communications and rework. The nature of a company’s products and materials, the complexity of a supply chain, and internal innovation will determine whether a brand works with a visual standard, a combination of visual and digital standards, or has moved to a completely digital color standard.

CMYK, L*a*b, and Pantone values can all help communicate color and guide a design team through the creation stage of the physical product. But with the back and forth between the physical and digital worlds, it is important to keep in mind that monitors and screens may not always reflect color and appearance of your product in the same way a physical sample does; they are simply a different vehicle for viewing color. Materials all behave differently, light will reflect and diverge, and formulations will vary by region and materials on hand. When designing, it’s important to choose colors that are actually achievable on the target material and colors and material that can be manufactured, not just colors that look good on the screen.

This can be achieved by working with color standards early in the process. This includes color standards like PANTONE TCX for Fashion and Home produced on cotton, or for a limited color set, even nylon. There are also many PANTONE standards for plastics, paint, metallics, and paper. Using these standards as a guide is a first step in ensuring that colors can be manufactured. Leading brands also engage the Pantone Color Institute to help develop unique brand colors or palettes on a wide variety of materials beyond the productized standards the company provides off the shelf.

Working with tools that simulate colors on specific materials is another great place to start. Tools like PantoneLIVE™ Color Book and Viewer allow packaging designers to create, simulate their color on the packaging material and finally specify those colors to suppliers. This way a designer can quickly see how a color will appear on Kraft board versus a white backing material or other materials that may be part of the total package or display. This gives designers the ability to accurately visualize their design in Illustrator and make color decisions much earlier in the process. Providing designers with tools that visually represent color on material minimizes rejects and rework, and the frustration that can be caused by getting too far down the path with colors that are not achievable on the target material.

There are even more innovative technologies underway that allow brands and manufacturers to capture not only color, but all of the appearance characteristics of a particular material, and incorporate that data into design decisions. X-Rite’s Total Appearance Capture (TAC™) ecosystem is an appearance measurement solution that brings a new level of accuracy and efficiency to the capture, communication and digital presentation of physical materials in the virtual world. TAC enables designers, 3D artists, material specifiers and marketers to bring their product designs to life with digital materials that have the exact same visual characteristics as their physical counterparts. Thought leaders in industries like automotive and leisurewear are moving rapidly to adopt this innovative approach to a seamless and realistic virtualization from design through product development.

Data is your friend

Once everyone agrees on a color, the final standard is measured using a spectrophotometer. There are different types of spectrophotometers, and the right type of spectrophotometer must be selected based on the products manufactured and the defined tolerances. Designers might start by working in RGB or HEX. They may make their way to a CMYK color or a spot color like Pantone. At some point, the color is measured, and L*a*b is the most frequent color space used at this point. However, everyone is better served by using spectral data that is the result of the color being measured by an appropriate spectrophotometer.

improving color spectrophotometer

Spectral data is device independent and all other color formulas like RGB, CMYK, extended color gamut or custom formulas can accurately be derived from spectral data. “When you measure a color with a spectrophotometer, the spectral data that you get is like the DNA of that color,” says Brian Ashe, solutions architect for X-Rite Pantone. “That data can be of real value for anyone because it gives excellent guidance hitting that color when it is run on different substrates using different processes, or predicting how the color will look under different lighting conditions.” Few designers, brands and even some manufacturers may know what spectral data is, but within a complex supply chain that requires accurate and achievable color, it is simply your friend.

In most supply chains, a variety of different brands and models of instruments are used, and results can vary. Laboratory managers or material specialists will use higher end equipment that holds to a fixed threshold. Doing so ensures that the most accurate color specification is communicated at the beginning of the process. On the other hand, a simple quality check tool may be used to check production, where the tolerance is not as tight. In either case, the instrument choice is key: once you make that decision, you set the standard for the balance of the process. A color-critical product like a best-selling men’s shirt that needs to coordinate with other apparel items may have a need for a tighter tolerance than, say, faux jewelry that has a lower development costs or may be a short seasonal item with simpler expectations. The determination about acceptable color variance is generally made between procurement, QA, and the Product Design teams.

Needle in a haystack; making data your friend

Data accumulated in Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) solutions can be confusing because many people are feeding information into the system simultaneously, and data entry may not always be consistent. Having a set of defined processes for color data entry, data management and supplier auditing can help streamline operations and avoid problems later on, for designers, brand owners, suppliers, retailers and ecommerce operations.

The other consideration is the fact that we operate in a global environment. This requires sharing data and verifying color quality across oceans and time zones. When something goes wrong, it can be time consuming to identify and correct the problem. Ensuring there is a standard process in place for entering PLM data (HEX, RGB, CMYK, spectral data or any standard like Pantone) across the entire supply chain is critical. We work in a digital and physical world where brand colors need to be consistent across a multitude of digital and physical products. A PLM serves several customers. The e-commerce team leverages the data in the bill of materials (BOM) to create the on-line experience, while suppliers need to understand the tolerances and production process steps to put the product together. Adhering to a defined process removes confusion that can occur when multiple standards are being used.

Instrument auditing tools like NetProfiler and those built into color measurement instruments and software can ensure the measurements at the supplier level are meeting standards and specifications. It’s great a supplier can meet your quantity and costs, but products that do not meet color tolerances can impacts sales. Having the ability to assess if a supplier is working to your specifications is of value and these types of tools offer the ability to trace back and identify the source of the problem. Software that monitors and checks the devices is like an engine light on a car, informing the driver when to take the car in for an oil change. Leveraging such tools enables brands and complex supply chains to operate with standard work processes, driving consistency and reducing costly color mistakes before they occur.

Marriage of color and material

Designs begin in 2D using apps like Adobe Creative Cloud, and many of today’s designs eventually enter the 3D realm. X-Rite has been innovating here by focusing on the automotive industry with its new appearance and visualization solutions. With the TAC scanner, physical materials can be scanned, capturing both color and material appearance, and easily migrated to the digital world. This approach streamlines the development process and significantly reduces the time that designers spend manually adjusting digital files. Designers can now move to photo-realistic digital assets that more accurately represent the appearance of the final color and material in a 3D design.


The TAC Scanner is one part of the TAC ecosystem. The ecosystem includes a controlling hub, called PANTORA, which allows users to store, manage, view and edit digitally captured materials and to exchange these materials, via the Appearance Exchange Format (AxF™), with today’s leading PLM and CAD systems. The TAC Virtual Light Booth can be used to evaluate digitized materials rendered on virtual objects under multiple lighting conditions and in direct comparison to physical samples.

By engaging the TAC ecosystem, the design to manufacturing process can be sped up even further. In the automotive space, it is projected that material appearance technology solutions will help reduce the cycle time for approving color on material and accelerate speed-to-market. Having a photo-realistic digital material library based on standard formats also provides color and material consistency in virtual designs from one platform to another. This offers brands a new way to communicate both color and appearance, internally and externally.

Innovation in manufacturing

Today’s manufacturing workflows are digital, but we work within a physical world. We need to help designers, both 2D and 3D, work seamlessly across both worlds by providing them with relevant insights that help them make reasonable and rational decisions up front. There is no magic wand that automatically ensures color consistency across materials and manufacturing processes, but today’s tools and solutions make it easier than ever to understand the limitations of materials, how best to formulate color for those materials, and why it is important to use spectral data to evaluate whether color conforms to the established standards. When you triangulate those three, a new world of color opens up that provides designers and brand managers with the color and material palettes that enable them to confidently and consistently produce products across a wide range of materials. That’s the end game, and that’s where this next-generation of color innovation is taking us.

About the Author:

Shoshana Burgett is responsible for leading the company’s voice of the customer (VOC) initiative across all industries, identifying market trends and helping the company create innovative products that support emerging customer needs, now and into the future. Burgett has served in a variety of roles related to print, packaging and color management since 1986. She previously held senior management roles at Xerox and has a master’s degree from Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) in variable data technology and international business, and a Bachelor of Arts degree from the School of Visual Arts. Follow X-Rite on Twitter @Xritecolor

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Filed under Color Management, Printing

Ink Transfer Technology — Dot gain and ink film thickness



In the world of Flexography printing, customers are demanding higher profiled printing while utilizing (4) color process, (7) color HD or expanded color gamut and line work bringing breathtaking life to many packages.

Whether it’s the most complicated printing job or the simplest line work, controlling the Ink Film Thickness is very critical when it comes to providing a high quality in a repeatable print job. Commonly known print problems such and dot gain and dirty print contribute to a loss of time and money with customer rejections and reprint costs, short stops for cleaning plates, press downtime for re-mounting plates, and additional job hours and materials to complete the order.

As a general rule, the smaller the doctor blade tip thickness in relation to the contact area, the cleaner the wipe resulting in less ink film thickness and a cleaner print.The doctor blade tip must be matched to the specific anilox line screen in order to maintain the correct ink film thickness. Today many companies are spending high dollars on state-of-the-art printing presses, anilox rolls, plate material and inks, often not taking into consideration how much of an impact the doctor blade has and the game changer it provides to improve quality, service and costs.

Download the full Ink Transfer Technology White Paper for more information. 

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Filed under Doctor Blades, Ink

4 Mistakes To Avoid When Buying Flexographic Printing Machinery


By David Lee, Focus Label Machinery Ltd

4 Mistakes To Avoid When Buying Flexographic Printing MachineryYou may think that, once you’ve decided to purchase a flexographic press in principle, that your work is done. However, getting  to the point of making a purchase decision – lengthy as this may be – is only part of the process. There are several common errors which can occur, both during and after purchase, that can make your new press more of a challenge to work with than it needs to be. This article will cover four of these commonly-made mistakes.

1) Choosing Surplus Features | Not Choosing The Right Functions

Modern flexo presses have many new technological options to choose from. From automation and colours to efficient drive systems and optional add-ons, you will likely be tempted by many features, but do you really need them? You will need to look at your current budget and needs, as well as into your business’s future growth plans for the answer.

What kinds of jobs do you currently complete for your customers? Do you expect the types of jobs you do to change, and if so, how? Finally, will those changes require a particular drying system, automation level or one or more optional components? It may be that you have some extra capital to invest in a conveyor system, web cleaner or additional drying system, but if it won’t add value to what you offer or provide you with long-term ROI, it could be money wasted.

On the other hand, not having enough of the right features in your press can quickly set you behind the competition. If this is the case, you will need to think about how far this may put you behind, and whether there is a way for you to make the additional investment and obtain those needed elements.

The process of choosing the right press can be frustrating. For many businesses, it can lead to choosing a press that has a lot of advanced features, but that won’t be used to its full potential. In order to choose the best press for you, you should match your features with your plans for growth and expansion over the next five years, and choose a press that can grow with you to maximise your production potential.

2) Not Choosing A Machine That Works With You

Many businesses will purchase a modern flexo press, and then modify their processes according to the capabilities of that press. This is a common error. The press chosen should be the one that’s most suited to your current process. The way to determine suitability is to test the press before you buy. A top priority when purchasing any flexo press should be to ensure that it can print at the level of quality you require for the substrates you will be printing on.

3) Going For A Bargain Press

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to save money, especially on an investment as large as a new printing machine. However, where it comes to buying a flexo press, going solely for the lowest possible cost is not advisable. Whether a machine is cheaper because it is used, was made in the Far East, or doesn’t have many features, not considering the long-term benefits of spending more will be to your detriment. As well, a lower-cost press may also not be as easy to set up, be able to complete jobs as quickly or be as energy efficient as a more expensive machine. You need to think in terms of total cost/benefit over the lifetime of the machine, and not simply about your initial investment.

4) Putting It Into Service Too Soon

Today’s flexo presses are impressive pieces of machinery, able to produce high-quality at incredibly high speeds and allow for many functions to be carried out automatically. Even so, they do require some time to master. Placing a press into service before your operators have had the chance to fully understand how it works can have many negative results, including inadvertent damage being done to the machine. Enough time must be given to ensure not only that proper training has taken place, but that what was learned was correctly retained.

In being sure you avoid the above errors, you can greatly reduce the cost of your flexo press without having to worry that you’ll be sacrificing the timeliness or print quality of your jobs. Improve your knowledge of the latest flexo-printing technology – and it’s investment benefits – by reading our new Ultimate Guide To Flexo-Printing. Download your copy for free by clicking here.


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Filed under Presses, Printing

Increase Press Speed!


What’s Required to Increase Press Speed?

In order to understand what is necessary to improve press speed, it is helpful to step back and remember the big picture. If you look at print growth over the years, the real issue with press speed has simply been a lack of technology. As knowledge and machinery abilities have increased, so has press speed. The machines coming out now are not as gear-driven as the presses that came out in the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s.

Press Speed

Colour printing is not what it seems, nor is it simple. To obtain full colour, the three processes (letterpress, lithography, and gravure) all depend upon printing only the primary colours (yellow, red, and blue, plus black), and precisely superimposing them so that all the other colours of the spectrum (orange, green, purple, etc.) seem to appear. Black adds the type, and some crisper ‘modelling’ to the colours. The final apparent printed colour is therefore a tone made up of one or more primary colours, where the tone ranges from the palest (highlight) tones to the darkest (shadow) tones.

The challenge with that growth has been finding ways to get more scientific data with the numbers that involve line screen and volume.

Along with the improved ability to harvest this data, the increase in press speeds can also be attributed to the advancement of plate technology, pre-press, and higher quality inks. Press speeds in the past were less than 800 feet, but now they’re close to 3,000 feet. Some CI presses are averaging speeds of 1,200 to 1,400 feet, and still looking to increase, and a few are even running 2,000 feet already.

I believe that these increased speeds are a result of five areas in which there has been great improvement over the years:

  1. Enhanced art work
  2. Thinner plates with better ratios of anilox cell to dot-on-plate
  3. High line-screens with more volume due to higher-wattage lasers
  4. Servo drive machines instead of chain driven – tailor made for the customer
  5. Cad cam designs from press to anilox with tighter tolerances

While growth in any of these five areas nearly guarantees improved speed and quality, it is impossible to get repeatability without correct and consistent equipment. Are you using the optimal gear for what you want to print? Do you have the proper anilox roll engravings for the volume you need? Take the time to find out what works for you.


The angle of the cells, the carrying capacity of the cell and the number of cells per linear inch.

I think banded roll testing is important to increase press speed because it will help you find exactly the right anilox roll for what you want to print. The anilox is known as the “heart of the press” for good reason. Choosing the right roll helps to create a good foundation for a variety of printing challenges. When it comes to increasing press speed and maintaining quality, finding the right anilox is a critical step.


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Filed under Print Technology, Printing

Tools of the Trade: Plate QC

APR Logo
by Catherine Green, All Printing Resources
Plates are an essential part of the flexographic printing process. The plate delivers a precise amount of ink to the substrate exactly where it is needed. Such a critical piece of the printing process must be measured and controlled to deliver consistent results. Selecting the correct plate measurement tool and implementing plate QC is essential to success in the pressroom. Let’s take a look into what tools are needed for accurate platemaking:

plate QCPlate Imaging QC Tools:

  • Transmission Densitometer: used to measure digital plate mask stain, analog film density, dot size on both digital mask and film. (ex: Techkon DENS)
  • 100x Microscope: used to inspect laser focus test results, general image sharpness. (ex: Optical Stand Microscope)

Platemaking QC Tools:

  • Micrometer: used to measure plate gauge, relief depth, and check for plate swelling. (ex: Bench or Handheld Micrometer)
  • 100x Microscope: used to visually check dot formation and fine image elements. (ex: Optical Stand Microscope or Digital USB Microscope)
  • Plate Measurement Device: used to measure screened dot size. (ex: Troika P2P Device)
  • 3D Plate Measurement Device: used to measure relief between dots, screened dot size, and quantify plate wear for used plates. (ex: Troika AniCam)
  • UVA Light Meter: used to measure exposure lamp intensity/lamp life. (ex: Kunhast UVA Meter)

What are the proper procedures for plate making quality control? How are these tools implemented in the plate room? APR’s Tim Reece explains in the following information from his document, Photopolymer Platemaking Quality Control Procedures:


Tools: Transmission Densitometer & Optical Microscope

Conventional Analog Platemaking

  • Inspect film negative for scratches or pinholes
  • Check copy and verify surface or reverse print
  • Using a B/W Transmissive Densitometer check Dmax and Dmin

Digital Platemaking

  • Inspect mask for scratches or pinholes
  • Using a B/W Transmissive Densitometer perform a stain test once a month or with every new batch, as well as a focus test.


Tool: Micrometer

  • Using a micrometer, measure and record raw material thickness of the sheet photopolymer


Visual Check

Conventional Analog Platemaking

  • Verify the film negative is wrong reading on the emulsion side of the film negative for reverse print. Verify the film negative is right reading on the emulsion side of the film negative for surface print. Clean film negative and vacuum coversheet of all debris. (Digital Platemaking)
  • Verify the black mask (face up) is wrong reading for surface print. Verify the black mask (face up) is right reading for reverse print. Clean plate surface of all debris prior to main exposure.


Tool: Micrometer

  • After the drying stage is complete, once again measure the plate thickness (micrometer) to insure the material is completely dry before moving on to post exposure and light finishing (detack). The plate should be swollen .0015” or less. At this point if “tiger stripes” are apparent, clean them off prior to post exposure and detach.


Tool: Micrometer

  • Once the plate is finished verify that correct relief has been established using a micrometer.
  • Example (.067 material); Line copy – relief .023” – .025”
  • Example (.067 material); Screen copy – relief .020” – .022”


Visual Check

  • Perform a paper test to ensure the plate has been adequately detacked (a sheet of paper should release easily from the print surface).
  • Bend plate to ensure the plate has no cracking as a result of over exposing to UV-C.

In addition to the procedures above, printers controlling process color will also benefit from measuring dot size on the finished plate. A control patch should be placed on each sheet of photopolymer coming out of the plateroom so that the dot size can be checked and recorded to prevent any possible exposure or curve issues from making it to press. The target must contain known dot sizes, at least a 100%, 50%, and highlight. Both the ablated mask and the finished plate can be measured using a plate measuring device to confirm the platemaking conditions are correct. The image below is an example of this type of plate control target.

plate QC

With a little training and the right quality control procedures in place, platemaking can be a reliable, predictable, and fully controllable part of your printing process.

About the Author:

Catherine-Green_200Catherine Green – Catherine has over 12 years experience in graphic arts. An honors graduate of Clemson University’s Graphic Communications program, she has held positions in prepress, platemaking, and technical support. Before joining APR’s Technical Solutions Group, Catherine worked for Asahi Photoproducts as their Technical Specialist for North America. She brings expertise in digital platemaking, prepress, and process improvement to the TSG. She is an active member of the FTA, serving on both the Excellence in Flexography judging panel and FQC groups.

About All Printing Resources, Inc. (APR)

All Printing Resources, Inc. (APR) is a proven resource for solutions, trusted service, and support to the flexographic printing industry. APR delivers measurable performance enhancements and total cost reductions, including the after sale attention needed to see optimal results. APR represents some of the most innovative product lines worldwide and takes a “team” approach to deliver process improvement and innovative solutions.

If you have any questions about the contents of this article or flexographic platemaking, contact Catherine Green of APR’s Technical Solutions Group at

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Better Medicine Labels: Get It Right The First Time


By Michael De Bari, Technical Account Manager, Schawk, Australia

Australia’s medicine labels are clearer with the new better medicine labelling requirements.

Prescription dispensing has gone unchanged for decades in Australia. The Australian Federal Government, through its Therapeutic Goods Authority (TGA), is drastically changing the way medicines and other health care products are to be labelled for sale in the region. The changes are in force for labels of non-prescription medicines, and labels of prescription and related medicines.

While the government has provided for a four-year transition period, astute brands and healthcare suppliers should start to make the changes early and in a managed way.

With the global pharmaceutical space undergoing drastic change, current and new healthcare brands will need to achieve both accuracy and efficiency with the new labelling changes. Brands owners who embrace these changes will benefit from the mandated transparency to help ensure consumer safety and patient compliance – patients who understand timing and dosage will ultimately take their prescribed treatments.

READ: Seamless Pharmaceutical Packaging Compliance

The changes regulated by the TGA are significant. They are designed to increase accessibility to information for consumers, especially when purchasing prescription and over-the-counter medicine, supplements, sunscreens and other healthcare products.

Major changes include:

  • Larger fonts displaying active ingredients and consistent placements
  • Critical information in distinctive and regularly placed tables
  • Mandatory allergen information prominently highlighted
  • More space for dispensing labels
  • Clearer product storage instruction, “Use By” date, batch numbering and company contact information

Studies have found that packaging that reminds people whether they have taken their medication, e.g. certain antibiotics, steroids and hormone replacement, increases compliance significantly among the elderly.

Clearer labels will improve consumer safety and healthcare outcomes. The mandatory changes also provide opportunities for brands to improve shelf appeal. There are risks however, if the changes are not done well and are not correct the first time. Design, pre-press, on-pack and technical capabilities must evolve to assist clients with managing the required changes.

It is in the best interest of the drug manufacturers and their brands to create packaging that facilitates compliance to ensure a positive brand experience. Affected businesses hence need to strategise early and intelligently to avoid costly and time-consuming delays in the TGA approval process. Key products in the client portfolio are being identified and created as a master to support the TGA submissions and approval, an integral part of the new legislation.

Management of regulatory compliant labelling is a specialism and requires methodology, expertise and processes that are purpose-built for the healthcare industry. SGK has designed a 4-tier solution that is modular, scalable and auditable, helping local and multinational healthcare companies to reduce costs, increase speed to market, whilst adhering to stringent quality compliance.

The new laws bring Australian medicine labels up to date with international best practice. They will help Australians to make more informed choices about their medicines and use them more safely.

The new labelling rules took effect 31 August 2016. With a four-year transition period, it is crucial for clients to get it right the first time and ahead of industry competitors.

For more information about the new medicine and healthcare labelling laws for Australia and New Zealand contact Michael De Bari, Technical Account Manager, on +612 9463 6708 or

Schawk! produces brand assets and protects brand equities to drive brand profitability. Leveraging its 60+ years of industry leadership, Schawk! identifies and deploys scalable solutions to address a brand’s complex production and delivery needs through proven expertise in workflow, resourcing, colour management and imaging. Schawk! is part of the brand deployment group of SGK, which is a division of Matthews International Corporation (NASDAQ GSM: MATW). For more information visit: and

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A Revolutionary Reinvention of Anilox Ink Transfer


By Jeanine Graat, Apex International

In flexographic printing, the anilox surface where ink meets plate has always been one of the prime limiting factors in print quality, press speed, and workflow. “Apex has met that challenge head-on by reinventing the very concept of ink-to-plate transfer”, says Nick Harvey, Technical Applications Director at Apex, describing the continual improvement and growing success of GTT since its introduction in 2007. “We have established well over 20,000 installations worldwide so far. Anilox manufacturers are paying Apex the ultimate compliment now by actually trying to emulate our patented Open Slalom Ink Channel anilox surface geometry by coming up with (semi-) open cell engravings and all variations of cells with removed walls.”

But GTT cannot be copied, explains Harvey: “GTT is about much more than its unique open cell structure. We have been constantly enhancing and fine tuning GTT over the last ten years, both internally and together with partners in projects like REVO, where packaging industry leaders have joined forces to optimize the flexo process. As a result, the GTT rolls and sleeves produced today are actually already the next generation GTT.”

Revolutionary technical innovations

During the conceptual development of GTT, Apex investigated all possible engraving structures, both cellular and open cells, to weigh every benefit and disadvantage. Harvey: “By combining three revolutionary technical innovations, Apex has been able to reinvent ink transfer. GTT’s low-porosity hybrid ceramic composition provides the highest-density, hardest and most ink-repellent ceramic surface layer available. Instead of a pulse laser, we use a constant beam laser to create smooth and precise channel walls for our Open Slalom Ink Channel geometry that lets the ink flow uniformly and calmly onto plate – thus reducing pinholing, mottling, haloing  that occur in print.

GTT is the industry’s only guaranteed anilox solution against spitting, which is a major advantage for the label industry in particular.”

Anilox Ink Transfer

Repeatability and consistency

GTT has three basic benefits over any other anilox engraving. 1-It ensures high repeatability in manufacturing – from roll to roll, month after month.

2-GTT significantly reduces cliché wear. And it provides a better controlled print performance and guarantees print consistency for over 100,000 meters (see images “Consistency” and “AniloxWear” accompanying this article). 3-GTT is the ultimate technology to be used in HD Flexo and Fixed palette printing from four up to seven colors. Harvey states: “Fixed palette printing should be truly ‘fixed’: no ink changes, no anilox changes, no ink adjustments – just plate sleeves out and plate sleeves in.

My question to printers is always: ‘What is your press uptime?’ – meaning the time their press is producing saleable product. The industry standard is only 35% to 40%, because most printers still have to adjust, modify and set up their presses for each job. GTT facilitates true Fixed Palette printing and enhances press productivity improvements, that enable uptimes of 65% to even 70%”

Continuous improvement

Apex’ continuous improvement project has enabled the development of the GTT 2.0 next-generation technology. It also allows Apex to constantly re-evaluate our production of all conventional engravings as well. This ensures that a conventional hexagonal cell or any other market trends in engravings are also continuously optimized and improved .

Therefore if a printer determines that the benefits of GTT exceed his production requirements, Apex is in the position to offer any conventional cell form engravings to a world class gold standard”, concludes Harvey. “Every printer can count on Apex quality, precision and reliability for all his anilox requirements.”

Apex offers solutions for the concerns outlined in this article. Its Accora glue roll and doctor roll are made from stainless steel and ceramic, respectively, and provide benefits that include glue savings, easy cleanup, faster speeds and longer roll life. Its GTT laser-engraved anilox is known for its ability to achieve consistent ink-to-plate transfer. Thanks to its patented open slalom ink channel geometry, it allows a precise volume of ink onto the plate, rotation after rotation and job after job. Learn more at


Jeanine Graat is the Marketing Manager for Apex Europe, specializing in cooperative marketing strategies and is an 18 year veteran of the anilox industry.

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Mind Your Graphics: Labeling Requirements & Regulations for Package Printing (Part 2:2)

APR Logo

by Catherine Haynes, All Printing Resources

Labeling RequirementsAre you ready for more fun with regulatory compliance?  Actually this part is pretty cool and a little more fun. In the first part of this discussion I talked about where labeling regulations are derived, the types of package/labeling elements that are regulated and how prepress providers can use software to aide in meeting many government labeling requirements. Remember, my focus in this article is regulations related more specifically to the graphics, for things like font specifications, barcodes, ingredients panels and nutritional panels. These are especially important considerations to Flexo prepress and packaging prepress. As an example, I mentioned the recent Nutritional Panel change that introduced the most significant change to this type of information in many years.

If you did not see the first part of this article, you should click this link to learn more about the FDA Proposed Nutrition Fact Changes. I also talked about the first layer of defense everyone should use when opening an art file – preflighting. Some solutions are very intuitive and act as a guide allowing the user to move through the file and correct elements as needed. But preflight is really only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to most graphic related regulations. I now would like to discuss using dynamic content to build things like intelligent barcodes and nutritional panels.

How Smart is your Barcode Builder?

Barcode generating programs have been around forever and are essential to successfully creating a barcode with the correct bars and spaces, size, magnification, bar width reduction and height. There are a variety of applications you can purchase and use to build a barcode, which can then be placed into Adobe Illustrator®. Since you are creating a [raster-based] image file a change to that barcode requires going back to the barcode application to generate a new code. The bad barcode must then be deleted from the Illustrator® file and the corrected code placed and repositioned where needed within the design. Though a bit tedious, this is a familiar process to most prepress artists.

One well-known software developer is Esko. They have a barcode solution that is unique for three main reasons:

  1. 04-UPC-Settings-243x300

    Image 4: Barcode Generator

    Image 4: Barcode Generator

    It is a tool you can use within Adobe Illustrator®. No more jumping in and out of different software solutions to create, import, and make changes. The artist works within Illustrator® to create and/or make changes.

  2. What really sets it apart, is that the barcode generated is not an raster image file, but rather vector art that is automatically placed in a separate non-destructive art layer. Since it is vector art it is easy to change things, like the barcode’s color for example, similar to how other vector art is manipulated using native Illustrator® tools.
  3. But even more impressive is the barcode panel, which allows the user to dynamically create or update a barcode. Using this panel, the operator can conveniently edit the barcode’s color, size, magnification, number, etc.. They can even customize the font and placement of the human readable characters (see image 4).

Let me reiterate, all of this is accomplished without ever leaving Illustrator® and is built on a non-destructive art layer. Every change made in this panel is immediately reflected by the barcode within the art file.

Pretty nice, but you may be thinking that it would be even better if the prepress artist didn’t have to enter the UPC code at all. It would be great if the art could be dynamically linked to a code provided by the CPC, right? With Esko’s suite of tools, this too is possible, by creating a vector barcode as a placeholder using their dynamic tools. This can then be linked to a customer provided XML file with the correct code information, which usually comes from the brand manager (see image 5). As you can see, each part of this dynamic tool set allows the artist flexibility and yet builds in layers of protection to minimize errors and maintain regulatory compliance.


Image 5: Linking Barcode to XML Data

Consumed With What We Eat

So I have already mentioned, a couple times now, the recent nutritional panel changes. This marks the first major change since 1993, if you don’t count the 2006 change to add trans fat to the nutrients. Now released, our industry will have two years (26 July 2018) to make sure labels and packaging are in compliance. As CPC’s start to define changes for their product lines, we can certainly expect a to see a gradual escalation in urgency to adopt the new regulations and ensure all product labels conform.

For those of us in packaging who actually generate these tables the thought of changing ALL the nutritional panels for ALL the products we manage may be a daunting and tedious task to face. These changes will involve the shifting, adding, removing and rekeying of a lot of information, not to mention potentially having to adjust positioning of text and other art elements that surround the nutrition facts. …Ugh!

Are there options to automate this too? Well, YES there are! …

 Image 6: U.S. Linear (embedded) format

If you have been building these tables manually, this would be a good time to consider investing in a solution that will allow you to dynamically build and populate this information. Many of you may already be using a cloud-based solution or other software specifically developed for building nutritional panels. Once again, Esko offers a unique tool for easily building and changing nutritional panels in a non-destructive art layer. This dynamic tool is another Adobe Illustrator® plug-in and includes access to all types of panel formats for which you can manually type in the desired values or link the table with XML data to automatically populate the information. Since all the tools reside within Illustrator® the operator can effortlessly move between tools and does not need to open other applications or go through the process of placing images and then repositioning the art.

Image 6 shows the U.S. Linear nutritional panel format. It is easily dynamically customized to remove the cholesterol measurement field or convert it to the U.S. Standard Full format (see Image 7). While the nutrition data stays the same you can see the style in which it is displayed is very different. Similar to Esko’s barcode tool, the changes are made via the panel and the art immediately reflects the changes so the artist never has to leave Illustrator®, thus making the art itself dynamic.

06d-Nutrition-Changes-720x277Images 7: Changes to Linear format to remove Cholesterol data. Also a change from the Linear format to the Standard Full format.

My Art is Smarter then Your Art

Image 8: Quickly tag the placeholder type objects, table objects and barcodes that are created in an Illustrator® design. These can later be linked to the final content.

Image 8: Quickly tag the placeholder type objects, table objects and barcodes that are created in an Illustrator® design. These can later be linked to the final content.

I get the feeling you’d rather consider governmental regulations and the implementation of all these standards as “opportunities”, but to do that, you need to be able to manage your frustration, confusion and fear so that it is as simplified a process as it can be. While the brand colors and images are definitely important, as this is what grabs the consumer’s attention from the shelf, errors with simple line art (like barcodes, ingredients, nutritional info, etc.) can sting way more then any color shift. There are plenty of resources you can research and purchase or use online, but removing as many touch points as possible is the ultimate key to success. This is why dynamic content makes so much sense. The ability to draw XML data from other systems and then link the XML data to placeholders within your file helps to eliminate additional touch points. That is one less thing the operator has to key-in and that means one more chance to make a mistake is averted.

I have already touched on this briefly with barcodes, but any art can be made intelligent and dynamic. By tagging the art element as dynamic, it becomes a placeholder (see image 8). This placeholder then acts as a bridge linking it with intelligent content (XML data created by a CPC’s content management system) to the file. In essence the design is made “smart”, triggered by dynamically linked art elements. A placeholder barcode (made of all zeros) becomes a live barcode. A nutritional panel or ingredients list is populated with content. An image element is replaced with the correct or updated art. Multiple versions of a product are dynamicically adapted (see image 9).


Image 9: Dynamic links can be used for product versioning.


But wait! It gets even better! The next stepping stone is to connect this to a web-portal to make this a cloud-based solution. Combining a web-portal with dynamic art, the operator can invite and collaborate directly with the CPC and others. This especially makes good sense when it comes to governmentally regulated art for things like barcodes, nutritional panels and ingredients list. Lawyers, brand managers, marketing groups, these are the people in the know and why not try to streamline this process and allow them direct access to help mange specific content.

Wrapping Things Up

Here are a few key things to consider when selecting your ideal solution:

  • Tools reside within Adobe Illustrator®
  • Art is built on a non-destructive art layer
  • Content is locked so it is protected from accidental, non-deliberate changes
  • Changes are instantly mirrored within the art file via dynamic links
  • Elements can be linked to XML data provided by the brand owner/manager
  • A window can be opened allowing the prepress supplier to link other key individuals and decision makers as the package/label is being created

These things will all go a long way to improving efficiencies. Think of the time an operator can save by not having to jump back and forth between applications, removing the old and then adding and repositioning new art. Hopefully these solutions not only provide a little piece of mind, but also make the prepress supplier an even more valuable asset to the CPC. Regulations are going to continue to change as these groups (like the FDA, USDA, GS1, EPA, etc) work to improve and adapt packaging to our evolving understanding of business needs, consumer health and the products being packaged. Most software developers are doing their part to stay in the loop and keep their solutions relevant. What helps protect you as the prepress supplier is having solutions and tools that make it simple and keeping those systems current so you have access to new formats and requirements based on the latest and greatest regulations.

CatHaynes2About the Author:

Catherine Haynes is a member of the Technical Solutions Group for All Printing Resources. She has more than 18 years of experience in the printing industry and has been a certified G7 Expert for more than six years. At APR she assists sales technicians as a technical representative for various customer projects related to training, characterizations, prepress and pressroom assessments, color management, digital workflows, platemaking and implementation or expansion of in house prepress capabilities.

About All Printing Resources, Inc. (APR)

All Printing Resources, Inc. (APR) is a proven resource for solutions, trusted service, and support to the flexographic printing industry. APR delivers measurable performance enhancements and total cost reductions, including the after sale attention needed to see optimal results. APR represents some of the most innovative product lines worldwide and takes a “team” approach to deliver process improvement and innovative solutions.

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