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The International Printing and Graphic Arts Conference

Since 1982, the International Printing & Graphic Arts Conference (IPGA) has attracted experts on the technical aspects of paper/ink/press interactions and has shown how these factors relate to pap...


January 1, 2005
By Pulp & Paper Canada

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Since 1982, the International Printing & Graphic Arts Conference (IPGA) has attracted experts on the technical aspects of paper/ink/press interactions and has shown how these factors relate to paper quality and new product development. The 2004 conference was held in Vancouver, BC, from October 4th to 6th at the Hotel Vancouver. PAPTAC hosted the conference, while TAPPI, ATIP (Association technique de l’industrie papetire) and TAGA (Technical Association of the Graphic Arts) were co-sponsors.

Delegates

Almost a hundred delegates attended this year’s conference. Although attendance was similar at the 2002 conference, it has dropped from a high of about 200 between 1982 and 1998. The decrease over the past few years reflects the continuing mergers of paper companies and the associated decline in the number of paper company R&D centres.

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As in the past, the audience had a distinctly international flavour, with delegates from Canada, the U.S., Sweden, Finland, Switzerland, and one representative each from Australia, Columbia, Germany, Japan and the UK. As might be expected, most participants were from paper companies (27%) and their suppliers/consultants (24%). Industry research groups (25%) and universities (16%) were major contributors, especially to the technical program.

PAPTAC Committee Meeting

Twenty-one members and guests of the PAPTAC Printing & Graphic Arts Committee spent Sunday afternoon at a three-hour committee meeting. The meeting included an excellent presentation by Dan Blondal, Dave Williams and Troy Anderson of Vancouver-based Creo, on stochastic screens and their impact on paper requirements for offset printing. Stochastic screens offer many advantages over the traditional halftone screens we are used to seeing everywhere. They are making their way from the realm of very high quality annual reports and advertising, into more mundane products such as telephone directories. The very small dots used in stochastic screens require adjustments in inks and water fountain etch, which may result in problems. The frank exchange of information in the course of the afternoon was valuable for all participants.

The conference committee, under the leadership of conference chair Dan Kleemola (Weyerhaeuser) and program chair Linda Kim-Habermehl (Dow Chemical) developed a strong technical program for this year’s IPGA Conference. The committee members, who represented paper companies, Paprican, universities and major suppliers to the paper industry, did an excellent job of balancing the program with papers, tutorials and panel discussions that satisfied a diverse audience of research scientists and people closer to the daily mill and market realities.

Keynote Addresses

After a brief introduction by conference chair Dan Kleemola, David McDonald, vice-president Research and Education, Paprican, opened the conference with a stimulating keynote address entitled: “The changing role of R&D in the paper industry.” McDonald attributed the decades-long decline in corporate research for most industries to the failure of these programs to deliver near-term financial return to the sponsoring companies. Although there has been significant benefit to society or to industries, the sponsoring company often failed to benefit. McDonald cited the invention of the transistor at Bell Laboratories as a good example of this. The transistor gave birth to the vast semiconductor industry that dominates today’s world, but it did not do much for AT&T, the owners of Bell Laboratories at the time.

Continuing changes in the business environment will require a greater focus on understanding the competition and on collaborating with customers. The world faces several resource challenges and the forest products industries have to broaden their product/market vision to ensure they derive maximum value from the renewable forest resource. The greatest value may be found in fundamentally new products that do not use trees simply to make paper as a substrate for printing. Innovative applications must be found that address profitable needs with significant growth potential. The increasing complexity of the paper manufacturing and end-use processes requires a team-oriented approach, since no single individual or group can possess the knowledge required to address all aspects of a proposed change in the manufacturing process.

Dan Gelbart, chief technology officer at Creo, gave the second keynote address on Tuesday morning. Gelbart presented an overview of some innovative product development work in the security market where “tagged label” and scanner systems are being developed to distinguish genuine designer products from counterfeits. Counterfeit products have become a serious problem not only in luxury goods, computer software and recorded music/films, but also in a large number of other areas such as drugs and expensive replacement parts. Using in-house expertise, Creo is exploring potentially profitable markets where there is a clear need for secure, positive identification of genuine products. The actual cost of the materials used in producing the secure identification is not an issue because of the extremely low application levels. Users of the system would be charged a licensing fee rather than being charged on a price-per-pound basis, as is the norm in the paper industry.

Technical Program

The technical program was spread over three days and included 31 technical papers, two tutorials on print mottle and two panel discussions dealing with offset and rotogravure print testing on full-size printing presses. The technical papers presented at the conference covered the gamut from offset and rotogravure to flexography and ink jet, from print mottle and colour measurement to spray coatings and novel calcium carbonate structures.

Papers

Over half of the technical papers at the conference dealt with offset printing, which is to be expected from the economical importance of this process. The ink films that are applied to paper in offset printing are only about one micron thick, and there are rapid interactions of the ink with the paper surface. In the case of coated paper, there is a fast penetration of the lower molecular weight oil component of the ink into the pores of the paper coating layer. This results in an increase in solids level and tack of the remaining more viscous ink materials, and will affect factors such as printed gloss, scuff resistance and picking. Controlling ink oil penetration into coatings is important not only for the papermaker, but also for the producers of the pigments and binders used in coatings.

Douglas Donigian (Specialty Minerals) presented a very comprehensive study entitled, “New mechanism for setting and gloss development of offset ink” that provided a model to explain the greater sensitivity of some inks to changes in paper coatings. His hypothesis provides a route for the ink maker to design inks that are less sensitive to coating pore size.

David Smith (Dow Chemical) presented a thorough analysis of a laboratory method designed to measure offset ink tack dynamics, substrate failure and ink transfer mechanisms. This international project involved Dow contributors from the U.S., Switzerland and Australia. It included a focus on the economics and reliability of testing, while explicitly emphasizing the safety requirements of the method — something not seen often enough in scientific studies.

Jouni Marttila (M-real) presented a very detailed investigation of ink scuff in heat-set web offset printing of silk finish coated papers. The study was carried out in cooperation with Imerys, and involved a thorough benchmarking study on a commercial press, with a sampling program that clearly identified the problems that arose at different stages of the printing/finishing process.

Tutorials and panel discussions

The more applied portion of the conference included two tutorials on mottle and two
panel discussion sessions dealing with the planning of full-scale offset and rotogravure printing trials.

Nancy Plowman-Sandreuter (Plowman & Associates) and Ron Van Gilder (SAPPI Fine Paper North America, with Dow Chemical Company when the work was done), presented back-to-back tutorials dealing with print mottle as seen from the paper-ink viewpoint and from the coating formulation side. These presentations gave an overview of a very complex problem affecting some coated papers and printing systems.

Monday afternoon’s Offset Panel featured Bill Garno (RIT), John Lind (GATF), Christine Canet (Institut des Communications Graphiques du Quebec), and Jim Kohler (International Paper). These four experts in the fine art of full-scale offset print testing discussed items to watch out for while planning, carrying out, and evaluating such a study. As paper product development progresses from the lab bench to the realities of a market launch, it must pass through the rigorous print testing stage that is typically done in one of these centres of printing research. The complexities of the printing evaluations mean that a trial program can fail because someone forgot what appeared to be a minor item. The cost of full-scale print testing makes such failure an expensive proposition that should be avoided. Audience members participated in an active discussion, highlighting their interest in benefiting from the panelists’ experience.

The Rotogravure Panel on Tuesday afternoon consisted of Jan Walter, representing Western Michigan University’s Rotogravure pilot plant, Mark Bohan of GATF and Hans Heintze, consultant. Rotogravure printing trials have some very different issues from offset and the panelists did a good job in highlighting these. Cell skipping in light/medium tones, caused by paper roughness, is an important issue for papermakers and there is a need for guidelines on the preferred test pattern to show this problem and recommendations on how to quantify it. The cost of a set of rotogravure cylinders is high enough that paper companies tend not to have their own test pattern made up, as they would normally do for offset trials. Also, the press and ink variables in a rotogravure trial are not immediately obvious to people often more familiar with offset printing.

Closing comments

It is impossible in such a brief summary to do justice to the many excellent papers presented at the 2004 IPGA Conference. The presenters, their co-authors, and the organizing committee are to be congratulated for an interesting conference that stimulated active audience participation and discussion from the beginning to the very end. Participants generally had a very favorable view of the conference. Depending on their background and interests, some people wanted more fundamental papers while others wanted more time for discussion of applied topics such as press testing. People making uncoated papers thought there was too much discussion of coated paper issues, and someone with a particular interest in rotogravure would have liked more time devoted to that process. Poster sessions were mentioned as something to add again at the next conference, since they provide a good opportunity for discussion. A frequent comment was there was insufficient time for discussion. This was a bit surprising, since the question and answer periods were very active and the discussions extended into the coffee breaks, meal times and receptions. The International Printing & Graphic Arts Conference only comes around every two years, and people obviously want to make the most of it! The conference preprints give an excellent overview of the conference. They are available from PAPTAC and would be a useful addition to the reference library of anyone working in the field of paper and printing technical issues.

The 2006 IPGA Conference, sponsored by Tappi, will be held at the Westin Hotel in Cincinnati, Ohio, September 17-19, 2006. Philip Plouffe, of Papier Masson, is the program chair and anyone wishing to present a paper should contact him at philplou@papiermasson.com.

Hans Heintze is a freelance consultant specializing in printing and product development issues. He has extensive experience in R&D, marketing, and technical service troubleshooting. He was chairman of the 1998 IPGA conference and is the current Chairman of the PAPTAC Printing & Graphic Arts Committee. He can be reached at heintze@sympatico.ca.