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While job growth in the printing industry has been rather slow in the early 21st century, the flexographic printing field is an exception. The flexographic press, also known as a flexo press, is capable of printing on a wide range of surfaces and the job prospects for someone seeking to become a flexographic press operator are quite good. Some post-secondary vocational schools teach flexographic printing and apprenticeship programs of two to four years are also available. A high school diploma or its equivalent is usually required as minimum education by most flexographic printers. Basic knowledge of science and math, plus computer and communication skills will help to prepare you to become a flexographic press operator.
High school students and those enrolled in General Education Development (GED) High School Equivalency Diploma programs should focus on the fundamental work skills that are needed to become a flexographic press operator. Written and oral communication skills are important tools that will help you to perform well. Learning computer skills is also important, as flexographic printers expand their use of computers, especially in the areas of workflow, job management, and color control.
Typically, entry-level jobs in flexographic printing plants are offered in cleaning, maintenance, and materials-handling roles. Taking one of these jobs and performing well can create the opportunity to become a flexographic press operator through promotion. Other parts of the printing plant that can offer valuable experience leading up to a press operator position include -, packaging, and press cleanup.
Due to the versatility of the flexographic process, an important phase of on-the-job training is learning how to set up print jobs. Since flexography can be used on a wide range of materials having varied shapes and compositions, understanding the correct setup processes to ensure a smooth-running job is critical. Feed issues involving the cardboard or other materials to be printed on can often present challenges and are thoroughly addressed during training. To become a flexographic press operator requires resourcefulness and a strong attention to detail.
Most flexographic printing trainees are usually first given maintenance and cleaning jobs. As the trainee's knowledge grows, he or she will receive training on all the positions surrounding the flexographic press. These include monitoring ink and paper levels, adjusting ink flows and proportions to produce correct ink densities and colors, ensuring color registration is maintained, and cleaning up or replacing plates and blankets. Over time, the successful flexographic press operator will accumulate substantial knowledge about printing on a great variety of surfaces.
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