INFO*FLEX 2014: Great Info. Less Hype. All Good.

Just a stone’s throw from Baltimore’s inner harbor, INFO*FLEX, the annual forum of the Flexographic Technical Association, set up shop at the Hilton and adjoining conference center. A couple hundred attendees started each day with a 7 a.m. continental breakfast, then filled the morning sessions for an informational fix that powered them through lunch and onto the busy show floor in the afternoons. The show floor featured the FTA Excellence in Flexography Awards, showcasing some of the best flexographic packaging work being done today. The awards were given at a Sunday night banquet, with the Best of Show awards going to:

  • Sunshine FPC: Seafood Medley In A Ginger Noodle Broth Wrapper
  • Marvaco Oy: Falcon BBQ Wrapper
  • Cellotape-Landmark Label: Ron Teeguarden’s Dragon Herbs Tonic Alchemy Label
  • Lewisburg Container: Boulevard Brewing Co. Pale Ale Box
  • RockTenn Co.: Hartz Multi Cat Litter Box
  • Mac Papers Envelope Converters: Dish Cinema Multi Sport Pack Envelope

If you weren’t in Baltimore, you can see the packages in all their glory at

Sunday opened with a session on increasing customer satisfaction with expanded gamut printing, followed by discussion on increasing pressroom efficiencies.

The Monday sessions offered up a wealth of information covering flexography basics in Flexography 101 and 102. The Flexo 101 session covered anilox basics, aqueous and UV inks, and the what, why and how of photopolymers. The 102 segment dove into optimization, fingerprints and characterization of devices, and ways to address process improvement and control of that optimization and characterization.

Those with a solid grasp of the basics took a separate track for a look at emerging markets and how printers and converters can determine whether their business is positioned for future growth. Then we got a look at groundbreaking designs that are in front of the trends.

Still more Monday sessions also included talks on protecting brand identity, process efficiencies in laser marking, and a look at tomorrow’s packaging today—printed electronics and intelligent packaging.

Tuesday morning stepped up the pace with a two-hour Flexo Mythbusters session that played to a packed house. Using about a dozen examples, hosts Pepper Stokes from Robbie Fantastic Flexibles and Jessica Harkins Harrell of Anderson & Vreeland shed light on what was fact and what was fiction from anilox rolls to food packaging to UV inks. This was followed by talks on quality control that delved into anilox cell measurement, curing processes and G7 color management. It was a lot to take in, but the content kept most attendees in their seats all morning.

The information just kept coming on Wednesday, with talks on the graphic demands and decision points for corrugated packaging and a look at new trends and approaches to increase the visual impact and shelf appeal of packaging. White inks and metallics are all part of the mix, as are special effects and use of new inks and coatings.

When the sessions ended, the show floor was ready and attendees had plenty to see, with a wide range of suppliers offering information and insights into new products and offerings targeting the flexo market. The show floor also featured a theater where 20-minute presentations from about a dozen vendors ran continuously, providing a deeper look at products and technologies.

This kind of information-focused, low-key event is a flashback to the old-school-style trade shows where you could learn a lot in conference sessions, then connect with companies to find out about products and services. Absent the hype and hoopla of big shows, this type of event is affordable for vendors and attendees alike and tends to cull out the tire kickers. Our industry—and the printing industry, in general—needs more events like this.

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