An FTS plate mounter from JM Heaford, a supplier of mounting and proofing systems for the tag and label, flexible packaging, corrugated and gravure markets, has created a stir in the graphics communications department of Clemson University. Since installation in October last year, it has been achieving massive pre-press time gains and become the equipment of choice for students studying flexographic printing.
The Heaford FTS mounter was installed at Clemson University by Gregg Gayle of US Flexo Solutions, JM Heaford’s representative in North America, to boost throughput following the recent introduction of a new seven-color Nilpeter FB3 press on site.
‘If you have a state-of-the-art press you need a state-of-the-art mounter,” states Kern Cox, senior lecturer at Clemson. ‘Mounting had always been a bottleneck for us. Every four to six weeks per semester, there’s a flurry of prepress activity as deadlines approach for students to produce flexographic print pieces for their coursework. Plate mounting is definitely not a bottleneck now. The FTS mounter has cut mounting time by, easily, 75 percent. The continued support of JM Heaford and US Flexo Solutions has been instrumental in advancing the education of our students.’
According to Cox, the reduced plate mounting time is a factor in changing habits among students, but the ease-of-use of the Heaford FTS is more significant. ‘Students prefer the FTS mounter because it has a shorter learning curve and they can very accurately mount plates quickly,’ he explained. ‘We still have a more manual version of mounter, a Heaford ELS model, which we encourage students to learn to use so that they develop the correct skills and techniques and fully understand the rudiments of what they’re doing. We find that understanding the equipment helps the students to become better problem solvers. Nevertheless, they very quickly gravitate towards the FTS once they realize the quality they can get with ease of use.’
The FTS mounter at Clemson features a user-friendly design and laser guides to help position and mount the plate quickly and accurately. It uses high-magnification cameras situated below a cushioned table to line up the register marks through a viewing slot on the table. Once the plate is positioned on the table and alignment verified, the action of sliding the table back and forth takes over the mounting process, this reduces the risk of plate damage, eliminates RSI from manual rolling and prevents human error.
‘The robustness of the FTS is phenomenal. With so many students coming brand new to the mounters, they suffer a lot of abuse,’ added Cox. ‘The quality is very important for the students – their grades depend on accuracy and we enter work into a number of competitions, so the solid precision build of the FTS is really appreciated.’
Around 100 students per year train in the flexographic printing process at Clemson, which involves creating their own portfolio of printed pieces. The hands-on modules of the curriculum aim to give them a thorough grounding in every task of the process so that they can recognize the need for proper tools and procedures and can understand the benefits of different technologies for improving production efficiencies and quality. Graduates of the school go on to work in every corner of the graphic communications world, including sales and service, purchasing, estimating, marketing and web development, as well as more the technical and production-based roles where their practical equipment skills are used every day.