A Arulmozhi: It’s a challenge to keep the curriculum current with evolving technologies

Other challenges include securing funding for modern printing equipment and striking the right balance between theoretical knowledge and practical skill training, says Dr A Arulmozhi, associate professor and head, Department of Printing Technology, School of Engineering, Avinashilingam Institute for Home Science and Higher Education for Women, Coimbatore in the Print Guru series

08 Jan 2024 | By PrintWeek Team

It’s a challenge to keep the curriculum current with evolving technologies 
Other challenges include securing funding for modern printing equipment and striking the right balance between theoretical knowledge and practical skill training, says Dr A Arulmozhi, associate professor and head, Department of Printing Technology, School of Engineering, Avinashilingam Institute for Home Science and Higher Education for Women, Coimbatore 

What is the USP of the print and packaging industry in India?
The USP is its combination of cost-effectiveness, a competent workforce, and various skills. Due to lower labour and operating expenses, India's print and packaging sector offers competitive pricing, making it an appealing location for international enterprises seeking high-quality yet economical printing and packaging solutions. Furthermore, the country has a big pool of qualified designers, experts, and craftsmen capable of producing sophisticated and customised designs. The print and packaging sector in India also serves a diverse range of industries, from pharmaceuticals to textiles, by providing versatile solutions to fulfil a variety of customer needs.

As an educator, what have been the three biggest problems you have faced?
Three significant challenges I’ve faced as a printing technology educator include keeping the curriculum current with rapidly evolving printing technologies, securing funding for modern printing equipment to provide students with hands-on experience, and striking the right balance between theoretical knowledge and practical skill training to ensure graduates are well-prepared for the industry’s ever-changing demands.

Adapting to the field's dynamic nature, obtaining sufficient resources, and maintaining an effective educational approach are continuing challenges that necessitate regular attention and innovation in the ever-changing world of printing technology education.

How do you think these obstacles could be tackled creatively?
Educators might use a diversified strategy to creatively handle these problems in printing technology teaching. Adopting an agile curriculum development methodology that integrates micro-credentials and just-in-time learning can enable rapid adaptation to technological changes.

Developing industrial relationships and internships that provide access to equipment and financing while bridging the theoretical-practical divide. Even with limited resources, project-based learning and simulation tools can provide students with hands-on experience. Using digital platforms for virtual labs and collaborative learning can also improve the pedagogical approach while integrating alumni and industry experts in mentoring programmes can assist in retaining relevance and keep curricula in line with industry demands. Educators can nurture innovation and adaptation in this way to effectively address these problems.

Which is your favourite subject and why is it important?
Colour reproduction and colour management are both fascinating and important subjects in the world of printing technology. These subjects are essential because they address the intricate science and art of achieving accurate and consistent colour representation in the print production process. Effective colour reproduction and management are paramount for ensuring that printed materials, whether in marketing, branding, or other applications, convey the intended message and maintain visual consistency.

Colour reproduction techniques and the use of colour management tools are critical in achieving vibrant, high-quality prints that resonate with viewers, making these subjects not only personally engaging but also critical for the success of the printing industry and the visual communication of ideas in various fields.

Today, you are a teacher. Who was your guru, and why so? 
The Late Dr BN Malar Selvi, the former head of our department, was not just a teacher but a true guru who imparted invaluable knowledge in the realms of typography, design, and colour science. Her teaching methods, enriched with real-time examples, illuminated the intricate world of colour science, providing me with a profound and clear understanding of its principles. Dr Selvi's guidance and mentorship not only instilled in me a deep passion for this field but also ignited a desire to pursue research in the domain. Her legacy continues to inspire and drive my journey in the fascinating world of colour science.

One innovation you implemented after listening to your student?
I implemented Gamified learning. This provides various benefits, including greater student engagement and motivation via game aspects such as prizes and achievements. It delivers immediate feedback, develops a sense of success, and improves knowledge retention, all while encouraging problem-solving abilities and collaborative teamwork. Gamified learning also enables personalised, adaptive learning experiences, making it an excellent tool for enhancing educational outcomes and preparing students for 21st-century critical skills.

Were you the minister of printing and packaging, how would you tackle the industry's problems creatively?
If I were the Minister of Printing and Packaging, I would address the industry's challenges creatively by implementing a multifaceted strategy. First, I would form a public-private partnership to invest in R&D, supporting innovation in sustainable and eco-friendly printing technology. Second, I would advocate for skill development programmes to ensure a highly skilled workforce. Third, by granting tax breaks for eco-friendly activities, I would encourage enterprises to adopt responsible printing practices.

Finally, I would create industry-specific regulatory agencies to assure quality control and compliance with environmental standards, as well as encourage worldwide collaborations for knowledge exchange. This complete approach would propel the printing and packaging industry's growth, sustainability, and competitiveness.

What ingredient do you seek among your young disciples?
I expect dedication, active participation, attentiveness, and receptiveness to comments, as well as the ability to take responsibility for their own learning by following deadlines and asking for assistance, when necessary, a friendly and cooperative classroom environment in which students encourage one another is also essential.

An article/listing in a publication that impressed you?
The publication authored by Ufuk Yilmaz, Ahmet Tutuş, and Sinan Sönmez in the Journal of Graphic Engineering and Design, Volume 12 (3), 2021, titled, Investigation of colour values of inkjet and laserjet prints on recycled papers, stands out as a significant contribution to the field of sustainable print technology. This research delves into the crucial intersection of recycled paper production and the assessment of colour values in inkjet and laserjet printing, shedding light on the practical challenges and opportunities in achieving high-quality prints on eco-friendly substrates.

Your present preoccupation in the field of research?
I am currently involved in the realm of biomass paper production, with a specific focus on assessing the print quality of digital prints on these sustainable paper substrates. This role combines the principles of both paper manufacturing and digital printing technology to ensure that the final printed materials meet high standards of quality. By evaluating factors such as ink absorption, colour values, and print durability on biomass paper, I contribute to the development of eco-friendly and top-tier printed products. This work not only aligns with the sustainability goals of using biomass materials but also emphasises the importance of achieving exceptional print quality in environmentally conscious printing practices.

One project you are excited about?
I'm quite interested in the expanding subject of printed electronics inside printing technology. This novel concept involves printing electrical components such as sensors, transistors, and conductive traces onto a variety of substrates such as paper and flexible materials. The possibilities are numerous, ranging from low-cost, flexible electronic displays and sensors to smart packaging that may deliver real-time information about the condition of a product. The capacity to produce electronics using printing techniques holds the promise of lowering manufacturing costs and enabling new, innovative solutions in fields such as healthcare, consumer electronics, and even the Internet of Things (IoT). It's a dynamic and disruptive convergence of traditional printing and cutting-edge technology, with far-reaching consequences for a variety of businesses.

Assuming you can align with a print or packaging association, what would be the three most important things you would expect from it?
If I were to join a print or packaging association, I would look for three crucial things: One, I would anticipate the organisation providing current and relevant information about the latest trends, technology, and best practices in the print and packaging industries. This covers new printing techniques, sustainability practices, and market data to help you stay competitive and inventive. Two, the association should enable networking and collaboration among industry professionals, including access to conferences, workshops, and knowledge-sharing forums. Opportunities for members to connect, share experiences, and work on projects together are critical for professional development and assisting in the dissemination of print education awareness. Three, an effective association should campaign for its members' interests, whether on regulatory concerns, industry standards, or other matters. 

The industry needs skilled professionals on the shopfloor, and different printing education institutes have been churning out printing professionals for decades now. Still, there seems to be a disconnect between industry and academia. Why? What do print teachers want from the industry? Read more in this series where PrintWeek asks 13 print gurus.