Taking A Second Look at FIRST'
The second edition of Flexographic Image Reproduction Specifications and Tolerances includes nine sections of new guidelines. Will more printers take the plunge and implement it?
by Susan Friedman
If there's an earthquake, scientists look to the Richter scale to gauge its magnitude. If there's a flexo job in the works, the FFTA hopes printers will turn just as automatically to FIRST (Flexographic Image Reproduction Specifications and Tolerances) for concrete technical indicators.
The FIRST guidelines, originally released as a 95-page booklet in November '97, are designed to improve flexo quality and consistency, reduce cycle time, control costs, and put flexo on a level (or better) playing field with offset and gravure.
Almost immediately after FIRST made its debut, a committee was formed to hammer out the second edition, released at the second FIRST conference in November '99. Additions include new specifications for inks, substrates, digital photography and color management, as well as expanded specifications for plates, bar codes, anilox rolls, and communications.
Tom Cooper, prepress team leader at Rock-Tenn Company/Alliance Group and co-chairman of the second FIRST conference, says highlights of the second edition include the bar code specifications, which address the increased accountability inherent in using UPCs; ink specifications, which pursue customer-driven color management demands; and implementation/communications, which outline key players for pre-production meetings and how to establish project timelines and approval tracks.
A force behind the new ink/pigment specifications that caused so much excitement was David Argent, product manager at Progressive Ink. Argent says many flexo printers are in the chaotic position of having different pigments for the same color targets in different dispensers from plant to plant. The root of the problem is the practice of specifying pigments by street name, e.g., cyan blue, which in addition to causing pigment inconsistencies, can lead to the use of 20 pigments when 10 to 12 would suffice.