In the last 20 years, the flexographic printing process has experienced a fast technological evolution and today it is one of the most popular printing technologies within the packaging and flexible packaging industries with lots of possible future developments for example in printed electronics or biomedical applications.
The flexographic boom, though, was not recognizable for schools and government institutions, which were unready to prepare the young generations for working in such growing niche market - at least 3% per year - and didn’t provide them with any flexographic best practice tool boxes. Most of the schools and universities all over the world continue to teach only about graphic design and offset technology, so converters are taking the responsibility to train their new operators and employees, investing a lot of time and money.
Therefore, one of the past, present and future goals of FTA Europe is education thus provides:
- Advanced courses for teachers
- Courses for students
- Requalification courses for offset printers
- Refresher courses for flexo professionals
- Flexo best practice toolboxes
Just to mention some figures, in Italy, FTA Europe client house training normally arouse great interest and the association also organizes four meetings dedicated to flexographic training that register more than 120 attendees.
In this sense, in UK has been tested the remote flexographic courses with lots of success. In general, the feedback from attendees is highly positive and some companies are satisfied with this kind of formations and have already enrolled additional employees. Moreover, in cooperation with Swansea University, FTA Europe has been organizing a summer course opened to 20 students every year. Besides, Salerno University is planning a Master that will be called ‘Sustainable Materials and Print Technologies for Polymeric and Cellulose Packaging’. There are already ten converters supporting this master with several scholarships.
Furthermore, FTA Europe is currently incentivizing its members, the national Flexo associations, to organize and promote these kinds of seminars and courses and also to establish Flexo Technological Centers. In this sense, several flexographic courses at different levels, both theoretical and practical, have already started in some European countries with the support of schools, universities, institutions and private foundations like the Swansea University (Wales), the BrobyGrafiska Polytechnic (Sweden), the Salerno University (Italy) or Ripamonti Foundation (Italy), just to name a few.
Besides, in order to increase knowledge about flexographic printing, FTA Europe is also planning and developing the following courses:
- Flexo courses managed by national associations with their consultants
- Flexo courses with the collaboration of technology suppliers from the packaging market
- Flexo technologies courses with remote attendance
- Flexo summer courses
- Two years flexo and design technologies courses
- University masters, also with remote attendance.
Taking into consideration the current moment, after the automation and now with the industry 4.0 interconnection, the packaging and flexible packaging market demands new professionals such as:
- Process operators, able to manage the whole printing process
- Process engineers, capable of interpreting production data and of updating the printing methods in order to improve the processes and to develop new printing products for an evolving market.
Nevertheless, our way of living is rapidly changing and brand owners are always looking for new packaging suitable for latest needs, therefore people involved in this industry must be ready to adjust quickly to all consequences that these changes may entail. For example, in the US, in the last years repetitive jobs decreased from 25,5% to 20%.
FTA Europe is ready to help the flexo community in facing the challenges of the future Industry 5.0, based on the “human technology oriented” model, where professional knowledge and “lifelong learning” will be crucial for all the people involved in the packaging manufacturing.
By Sante Conselvan
Sante Conselvan is an Industrial Chemistry graduate at the Molinari Technical Institute in Milan and is involved in several Associations in the Packaging and Graphic Arts. He is the President of ATIF (Italian Flexographic Technical Association) and President of FTA Europe (European Flexographic Technical Federation). A part from that, is part of the Advisor Board of ACIMGA (Italian Manufactures Association of Machinery for GA and Converting) and is also a Member of GIPEA, ATICELCA and TAGA Italia where he has been involved in the Board for several years.