The state of West Virginia is not known as a mecca for narrow web converters, but a strong effort is under way today to change that. A major institution of higher learning in the state has installed a flexographic printing laboratory and has ramped up its flexo education program to offer a new wave of talent to the industry.
The new flexo lab is in the West Virginia University Institute of Technology, located in Montgomery. The program has been made possible through the combined efforts and contributions by school officials, the state government, and suppliers throughout the industry.
WVU Tech has offered classes in printing since the 1920s, and BS degrees in printing management since 1947. The focus over the years has been on commercial sheetfed and newspaper web offset, but WVU Tech dreamed of preparing students for the world of flexographic printing ever since 1983 when print faculty member Jack Nuckols (now the department chair) attended a flexo orientation program at Rochester Institute of Technology.
That dream became a reality in October 2004 when Nuckols was successful in receiving a grant to fund flexographic equipment and laboratory facilities from the State of West Virginia Economic Development Office to the tune of $192,200.
Gary Potter was a student at WVU Tech years ago, and remembers Nuckols' eagerness to get a flexography program going at the school. Today Potter is assistant professor in the department of printing. "I was hired with the understanding that this was more than just a wish list. We would make it come to pass." Nuckols and his team worked closely with the state's economic development people, and the lab is now in place. "I credit our state development people with creative thinking," Potter says. "We aren't a huge state, but we have significant printing. We have little if any flexo printing here, and we seem remote, but we are strategically located."
The university has a three-pronged mission for its flexo program:
* First is student education and preparation for supervisory and management positions in the flexographic industry;
* Second is the establishment of a national industry flexo training facility, to include press simulations, ink and substrate testing/validation and emerging technology seminars; and
* Third, to encourage and promote local and statewide business and industry development in the flexo printing field.
The school now boasts a Mark Andy 2200...