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Archive for the ‘Graphic Imagers’ Category
Tuesday, June 29th, 2010
Passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act included a grandfather clause for those employers currently offering health care. With the release of interim final rules on June 14th, the grandfather clause has been further clarified and defined. One begins to ask, is any plan truly grandfathered under this legislative package.
Under the interim final rules, a group health plan or health insurance coverage will no longer be considered a grandfathered health plan if the plan sponsor makes ANY of these changes.
- Elimination of all or substantially of any benefit to diagnose or treat a particular condition. For example, if your plan provides benefits for a mental health condition that includes both counseling and prescription drugs, and then eliminates the counseling portion of the benefit, then your plan is no longer grandfathered. Or, if you eliminate benefits for any specific illness, such as muscular dystrophy, then your plan looses its grandfathered status.
- If you increase the cost sharing requirement, such as co-insurance, above the level set on March 23, 2010, then you loose your grandfather status. For example, your plan has a coinsurance requirement of 20% for inpatient surgery. In June 2010, your plan is amended to increase this requirement to 25%. Grandfather status is lost.
- Your plan’s fixed amount cost sharing requirements, other than co-pays, increases to more than the maximum percentage identified in the final rule. This one is a bit more complicated to explain as it is tied to the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U). It is recommended that you talk to your insurance provider to determine your status under this requirement.
- You increase your plan’s fixed amount cost hshare requirements for copayments more than the allowed amount. Again, this is tied to medical inflation as measured from March 23, 2010. To determine if this provision impacts you, consult your insurance provider.
- If you have a group health plan and you decrease the employer’s contribution rate by more than 5 percentage points below the contribution rate that was in effect on March 23, 2010, then you loose your grandfather status.
- Your plan makes changes to annual or lifetime limits. If your plan changes to comply with federal or state legal requirements, changes third party administrators, or makes changes to voluntarily comply with the provisions of the Affordable Care Act, THEN, you do not loose your grandfather status.
This is just a quick synopsis of the interim final rule regarding the grandfather status of health plans. I encourage you to work directly with your plan administrator to determine your status under these requirements, as there are documentation requirements for plans that are considered grandfathered. Essentially, you need to prove that your plan meets the grandfather criteria.
More information to come on the implementation of this new legislation.
Submitted by Marci Kinter
Wednesday, May 26th, 2010
There are some interesting developments percolating through wide format inkjet.
Take for example the silver ink that Roland introduced last year. Really interesting in terms of what can be achieved by printing various shades of color over a silver metallic ink. By taking the technology learned and used in white ink applications, silver or other heavy pigmented inks can be jetted as well. Metallic silver is similar to White ink and has a tendency to settle in the cartridge, making it necessary to agitate the cartridge before installing in the printer and before each use. The XC-540MT automatically performs routine ink system maintenance to ensure ink lines remain free of sediment. If the unit sits for an unattended period of time, the ink in the dampers and heads must be purged and refilled. It’s really taken inkjet into a new design area that has stymied inkjet users in the past.
What about Latex ink from HP. Word has it that sales of those machines has been really good. Being able to tout ink that has no VOC content is a good achievement. It has its strengths and weaknesses, as does every other ink system. But this ink is specific for the HP thermal head technology. What about third party latex ink developments and latex inks for piezo heads? I believe these are in development and will surface in the near future. Personally I would use any non-VOC ink system, if it were compatible with the inkjet heads in my systems. I know UV curable inks are a solution to VOC inks, but this is not a simple chemistry to manufacture and there are associated health and safety issues.
While everyone waits for universal latex ink, SepiaX ink has been introduced. Sepiax Ink Technology GmbH is a company belonging to the Gernot Langes-Swarovski Group. They manufacture water based resin ink that also has no VOC content. Graphics One is the sole North American distributor. Specifically developed for printers using EPSON piezo print heads, SEPIAX ink works with printers from Mutoh, Mimaki, Roland and EPSON. The media does have to reach a temperature of 55C for optimum adhesion to the substrate. It has good compatibility with Epson heads, but what else is out there for non-EPSON head machine owners. The answer is, …nothing really.
Until third party ink manufacturers start to make variations (or hear market demands for it) on ink chemistries for the various heads out in the marketplace, there will be no other ink options. There are a lot of printers with heads by Ricoh, Toshiba, Xaar, Spectra/Dimatix, Konica Minolta, etc. These heads and printers need solutions too. Hopefully the European Union legislation on the emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOC) will give alternate ink systems a shot in the arm, starting in the EU.
Alternate inkjet inks are in the early adopter phase of the technology lifecycle curve. The next few years will be very interesting, what do you think?
Submitted by Jeff Burton
Thursday, May 6th, 2010
First, the official name for the Health Care Bill is the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Definitely a mouthful. Now, with more information published, we can start to look at the impact of this landmark legislation. Let’s talk about grandfathered plans.
What is a grandfathered plan. Simply stated a grandfathered plan is an individual or group plan, either self funded or fully insured, that was in existence on the date that the President signed this legislation into law, March 23, 2010. A new plan that is created after March 23, 2010 is not considered a grandfathered plan. Further, if your plan is grandfathered, this status may be jeopardized if any significant changes are made, however, there is still quite a bit of gray area regarding what changes would be deemed acceptable to retain the grandfathered status.
However, it is clear that a plan will continue to be considered grandfathered if family members of employees and new employees are enrolled in hte plan and the terms of hte plan are consistent with those in effect on March 23rd of this year. It is also clear that a plan may be renewed during the annual renewal process without loosing its grandfathered status.
While grandfathered plans do not have to comply with some of the requirements in the new health care legislation, there are certain provisions that do have an impact. Specifically, annual and life time limits, pre-existing exclusion requirements and the requirement to cover adult dependent children until the age of 26. Additionally, grandfathered plans must comply with changes to the Flexible Spending Accounts and the employer mandates. It is recommended that you review your plan’s provisions with your benefit advisor to determine the true impact of this legislation.
Submitted by Marci Kinter
Wednesday, April 28th, 2010
The term “law” as it pertains to physics or logic comes from the idea that long ago, the gods (whomever they may be) decided how our universe works. Therefore gravity and other forces are known as divine “laws.” This notion has been abandoned by science in general as these “laws” can often be bent or broken.
In our industry, “laws” are broken (or at the very least, bent) because all too often the salesperson makes a promise they can’t keep. “We can get a perfect color match, no problem” is one example that is commonly used in the print sales vernacular. I’ll let you in on a little secret. There is no such thing as a perfect print-to-proof color match. If you need a refresher on color theory, subtractive and additive color, or the human perception of color, give me a call.
Fortunately, screen printing is an accommodating process because matching let’s say, a corporate color is easily done using a custom ink formula printed separately from traditional CMYK. Customers are hesitant, though, in approving a fifth screen due to costs. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been on the phone with a press operator (in panic mode) who tells me that the salesperson guaranteed that their company can get a perfect corporate color match AND will do it using no more than four colors. The job is out on the press and they can’t get the color and need to know what to do. I break into my color spiel and after a few minutes, the caller realizes the position they are in and the fact that they will most likely lose money on the job, not to mention the risk of having an unsatisfied customer.
The scenario usually goes like this. The artwork not only includes a photograph of a person holding the advertised product, but also has a field of the corporate color (of course, with the legal jargon in reverse 2 pt. serif type). The order hits the press, the press operator achieves a neutral CMYK print with balanced color and…guess what…the corporate color is off. So the press operator begins to turn each of the dials on the press: squeegee pressure, angle, and speed. You know the story. Two hours later, the corporate color is “close enough” but the skin tone is a nice shade of chartreuse. The press operator goes back to troubleshooting and, after several screen changes, modifications to the ink (most likely undocumented), and countless press adjustments (not to mention the downtime and loss of profits), a “balance” is achieved. The CMYK portion of the print is close to neutral, and the corporate color is acceptable. The customer isn’t exactly ecstatic but they reluctantly approve the print because their ad campaign may suffer if the job is delayed.
The same often happens in wide-format digital. While digital technology has literally been a blessing for four-color process it, unfortunately, does not afford us with the luxury of matching a corporate color that can be printed separate from CMYK. Wal-Mart “blue” is one example. Wal-Mart rarely approves their “blue” when it is printed via inkjet using CMYK (or expanded CMYK). It’s too dirty. Yet, sometimes they are oversold on the premise that it can be done by a salesperson that, of course, bases the pricing on a fabricated notion – “We can get a perfect color match, no problem.”
If production were allowed to use an additional screen in the example above, the corporate color match would be much closer AND the photographic portion of the design would not have suffered. When a Wal-Mart “blue” digital match is promised and is then rejected, the printer is faced with paying for all the media that was purchased for a job intended to run on a digital line. Unfortunately, events such as these happen all too often and are usually at the expense of the printer.
When a salesperson understands the limitations of print production and communicates efficiently and effectively with the customer, they are able to convey the nuances inherent to print and can sell appropriately to their customers. Jobs are often oversold, however, and the burden is placed on the shoulders of the company to make it right for the sake of customer satisfaction.
We all know that Quality is defined as meeting the customer’s requirements. But we often find ourselves in a position where something has been sold that can’t be delivered. Plato said, “The first and greatest victory is to conquer yourself; to be conquered by yourself is of all things most shameful and vile.” Of course, we also have Law VII of the Cartoon Laws of Physics: “Certain bodies can pass through solid walls painted to resemble tunnel entrances; others cannot.” Trust me, you can’t pass through solid walls painted to look like a tunnel.
Submitted by: Johnny Shell, SGIA
Wednesday, April 7th, 2010
With the passage of the landmark health care legislation, it is time to turn our attention to implementation and what can be expected. This will not be a short process as pieces of the legislation do not become effective until 2018. Many provisions in the package focus on changes to the insurance industry, such as coverage of dependents until they are 26 and elimination of the pre-existing conditions for both children and adults. To help our members, SGIA plans to focus on those changes that impact the employer community. If you do have questions about other elements, please give us a call.
So, what is the overall impact. It is estimated that 44% of all workers employed by small businesses could be impacted by the employer mandate provisions. This equates to approximately 26.4 million people and 22% of the entire private sector workforce. 220,000 small businesses could potentially be subject to the employer mandate. In 2014, the employer mandate comes into effect. Depending on the number of employees you have, whether or not you offer insurance, and whether or not any of your employees receive premium subsidies determines whether or not you will be required to pay a penalty.
To help our members begin to understand the impacts of this legislation, SGIA has partnered with Printing Industries of America on a webinar set for April 20th at 2 pm eastern. This program will cover, among other things:
- What needs to implemented this year and in years to come
- Coverage/contribution requirements (Individual and “Employer Mandates)
- Status as a small employer
- What is a “qualified” health plan
Speakers from Ogletree Deakins and Margolis Becker provide insights into these and other topics such as small business tax credit, employer penalties as well as changes that impact individual taxpayers.
For registration information, please click here http://www.sgia.org/training_and_education/webinars/healthcare_0410.cfm. If you have any questions, please contact Marci Kinter at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wednesday, March 31st, 2010
Have you ever noticed how hard it is to make some things go away? Not that I’m complaining here, but I just heard someone a few weeks ago, compare screenprinting to cockroaches. I was pretty sure I knew where they were going with the comment but I wanted to hear their take on it. It went along the lines of there is always a new breed or variation that shows up just before you think the one you were working with has died out. This comment is especially true with regard to industrial and printed electronic screen printing.
Expanding on that odd thought process, I personally tend to think of it from another direction. Like the cockroach, screen printing is hard to exterminate because the chemistry is constantly changing. Yes, I realize that it’s a genetic issue with our six-legged buddies, but with screen printing, especially industrial screen printing, the chemistry of the inks and substrates we use are the genetics of the breed. It’s what we can put through mesh that keeps the process constantly evolving and viable. Just realizing what industrial and printed electronic products are screen printed can give you an idea of the scale of the industry.
One of the most obvious (and not so new) areas of ink chemistry is the conductive inks. These have been around for a while, even longer for that matter than rear window defroster grids on automobiles which are about the limit of the average person’s knowledge of conductive ink. Think about that one for a minute and then we’ll look at the rest of the car before we get out and move into the house.
Every car has a rear window defroster grid now but the first ones appeared only in the late 1950’s. They were and still primarily are, screen printed lines of metallic compounds that are fused together with heat while the windshield is being shaped on a mold. When it’s complete, they conduct electricity and generate heat. Some are also printed with inkjet now but most are still screen printed. Other examples of basic screen printed conductive inks in cars are the radio antennas. Many are printed along the edges of windshields under the black or dark red shading areas that cover the gasket material (which are also mostly still screen printed). Much of what used to be wiring under the dashboards of automobiles, connecting the instrument lighting and other components are now flexible polyethylene film with screen printed conductive pathways. These changes, which are not brand new, are constantly improving as both the metallic ink chemistry and the plastic substrate improve.
One of the first conductive inks, screen printing plants I ever visited was printing silver-based conductive circuit traces on ceramic circuit boards for anti-lock brake systems. I thought that was quite novel until I saw the screen printed electronic automotive gauge division, where the anti-lock circuit board printers did their training, three weeks later. These were electroluminescent. They glow in the dark when power is applied. They were not simply backlit with little light bulbs like older automotive gauges always had been. Was I intrigued? I was floored! I always knew that most automotive dash instruments were screen printed. That’s how the numbers (the ones I don’t pay attention to) get there. I had also already seen electroluminescent dials and instruments starting in the late 70’s (think about your Indi-glow clock). What I had never really put together was the fact that these were not just gauge faces that had graphics screen printed and then stuck onto some miracle electronic glow-pad. That glow-pad…..the electroluminescent circuit part itself…..is screen printed. The learning curve was fast and uphill from there.
Aside from the myriad of other non-electronic components on modern cars that are screen printed (logos, faux-wood grain, decals etc.) virtually every electronic part inside of a modern car that is not actually a physical wire, has some form of screen printing used in its manufacture. About half of the electronic components in a car are using either a conductive or dielectric ink. Many of those printed electronics components that do not use a conductive or dielectric simply used screen printed enamels or epoxies to create patterns on plastics, ceramic or metal. These substrates are first plated with Tin, Copper, Gold or other metals, then screen printed with patterns and then etched by acid, caustic base chemicals or abrasives to form circuit patterns. It’s getting deeper in here and I have not even gotten out of my car yet. I haven’t even touched on (and won’t get to) the screen printed adhesives that hold panels and components together or the sheets of laminated, screen printed, vacuum-filled ceramic micro-spheres that are used to create certain types of sound deadening and insulating materials.
I’m out of my “print-mobile” and in the kitchen now. I am literally surrounded by screen printed products and much of them use not only conductive and dielectric inks but inks who special chemical properties allow for extreme water, chemical and heat resistance. The control panel face or graphic overlay of virtually every appliance in your house is screen printed. Even deeper than that, underneath every one of those soft touch buttons on your stove, microwave oven, food processor and for that matter, television remote, cell phone, I-pod, computer and virtually every other device with switches and keypads……is a multilayer screen printed membrane switch using conductive inks and sometimes even screen printed adhesives, spacers dielectric masks, resistors, capacitors and LED’s.
If all of these screen printed electronics are starting to make your head spin and give you shortness of breath, it doesn’t stop yet. When you get to your doctor, most of the control panels, circuits and electrolytic sensors of many of the devices they connect to your body are screen printed (some also use pad, digital and flexographic printing as well). Hopefully the anxiety of all of this will not drive you to shoplifting at the local drugstore. Many of the products on store shelves have screen and flexographic printed, anti-theft, RFID (radio frequency identification) antenna tags on them made from conductive inks. Yes, sadly when that lands you in jail, even your county prisoner ID bracelet will probably be part or completely screen printed. Probably in the same shop that makes your license plates and prints your orange coveralls.
So back to the chemistry set. With so many forms of digital inkjet printing, why are so many products still being screen printed and why are so many new products choosing screen print? It’s a combination of the ability of screen printing to deposit particles of virtually any material and size, in very precise unbroken layers……and the chemistry. It’s a constantly renewing food chain. As specialty ink particles, additives and pigments evolve to create different products, eventually these particles or additives change the ink rheology and printability enough that the screen printing process no longer works well to keep making a specific product properly. Metallic and conductive inks have this problem. The metallic or functional particle content of the inks will change enough that the inks no longer print normally with screen print. In most cases the printing techniques themselves first evolve to fix this problem (better squeegee, mesh, set-up and stencil techniques). As the design of the printed product evolves from those processing changes (small, thinner, lighter, cheaper and more durable) the chemistry of the ink evolves again to simplify the process and the evolution starts over.
It is the ability of screen printing to adapt to virtually any ink chemistry, particle type and deposit thickness that keeps it constantly reinventing itself. If you are a professional or printer in the wild-wild-West of Screen and digitally Printed electronics, you already know far more about all of this than what I wrote here so I expect to see you all at the 2010 SGIA printed Electronics and Membrane Switch Symposium. For the rest of you, when the big one finally comes, all that will survive is chemicals, cockroaches and screenprinting, working together for you.
Submitted by: Ray Greenwood, SGIA
Wednesday, March 17th, 2010
>The Professional Decal Application Alliance (PDAA) represents the leading graphics installers in the marketplace. Last year, PDAA’s founders saw the benefits of bringing the organization into the SGIA community to create a close connection with graphics producers. This is proving to be a very positive move for both installers and graphics producers. But, there is still work to be done to maximize the relationship.
I often ask graphics producers about their working relationship with installers. And, I ask installers about their relationship with graphics producers. One thing I’ve learned is that graphics producers don’t always get installation input before imaging a job.
There are countless variables when it comes time to apply the vinyl to a surface. Maybe countless is an understatement. From what the installers tell me, taking these variables into account before the materials are selected and the job is imaged would save a lot of difficult conversations and reprinted graphics.
I urge graphics producers to draw on the expertise of PDAA members earlier in the workflow. Give them a seat at your planning table. You’ll find they can help you maximize your value to the customer and avoid costly mistakes. Also, by bringing them into the workflow sooner, they are in a better position to complete the project the way you intended.
Oh, and watch out for Rain-X® — it’s great for visibility, but a challenge to applied graphics.
Wednesday, March 3rd, 2010
>Customer Service vs. Lowest Price
What does customer service have to do with pricing? I must profess that here I am at a loss to describe any linkage between the two. But here’s the rub, I really expect a different level of service as the price goes up for similar products. Is that realistic given the marketplace and the seeming lowball pricing of discounters and no frills business models?
When I see a low price on an item I am interested in purchasing I definitely check it out. But realistically, can you do that with a low cost banner purchased over the internet? Very difficult indeed. Low pricing does get my interest, it may even entice me to purchase if I my budget is constrained. Is this type of business model something that I will be loyal to. What is brand loyalty anyway?
To me brand loyalty conveys a connection that is strong between the consumer and the producer. I know when I buy/purchase brand X, I am getting a top notch product, made at a consistent level, meeting or exceeding my expectations. It’s all about the expectation isn’t it? Digressing a moment here to the low price scheme. Low prices have a mixed bag of returns until tested. This goes for anything that is low-ball priced, from services to cameras to bulk breakfast cereals. I have not yet to date bought a low-ball priced item blind (I just couldn’t pass it up, it was half the cost), that was above my expectations. I must admit though that when I do go down this road, and we all have, that one usually lowers the value in advance. As humans we feel better when expectations are surpassed, rather than lowered. Who likes to feel jipped, any hands?
Gain Loyalty With Customer Service
Case in point. I went shopping with my significant other recently to a well known department store, starts with the letter N, that still caters to customers, making them seem more like clients actually. That is a concept worth watching in action. Helpful sales people, in interactive mode, helping you make decisions, checking stock in the back-room, calling other stores for inventory, offering to ship one to you for free. My wife bought a purse, and I really think that if no one had appeared, the sale would not have happened. To test this sales attention theory, could be a fluke or just a happy new hire, I went to the mens department to check things out. Surprisingly, I received the same level of attention. By the sales persons actions, I was ready to take receipt of a shirt that cost more than I would usually pay. Was the shirt significantly superior to another department stores brand? No, it really wasnt, so I decided to wait. But the more important aspect of the trip was that I would go back to that store, just by the action of an attentive salesperson, that person bonded me to that store and the expectation level. Back to the business at hand, your business.
Don’t Forget the Follow Up
A week or so later, in the mail, my wife received a hand written note card form the sales person stating thanks for shopping with us, I hope you are enjoying the new purchase, anything I can do please contact me, pleasure meeting you, etc. My wife exclaimed, WOW, did you see the note? I have never, in my life to date, received a note from any store as a follow up to a purchase. By the way, this was not some outrageously expensive, multi-thousand dollar designer purse mind you.
They made her feel cared about, and as humans, we all want that right?
How is Your Customer Service Operating?
Business that are service oriented should have great customer relations, sadly I have found this in general to be the exception. But a happy medium needs to be reached. A couple of tips I can proffer up are to; operate interactively with all customers, don’t be an order taker, listen to all concerns, even if they are the same concerns over and over. Make suggestions that speak to budget minded clients, levels of expectation, and warranty or guarantee protections. Take the time to personally thank (no email, please), call me and ask how the product worked out. If you want to pull out all the stops, a hand written note card.
Does really sound customer service mean you can’t offer the lowest price?, or that you are expensive, will clients pay more for superior service?
It has been my experience that the offering of a first rate customer service will build customer loyalty, its only human nature. Can service make a company stand out, even in the face of commoditization? Yes it can, from a marketing perspective, its a vital core of building and sustaining a competitive advantage that is very much brushed aside by printers.
There will always and forever be start-ups, or internet companies, that have little overhead, or whose products can be got cheap. When was the last time you got a hand written note from one of those folks. The ability a company has to change perceived values in a customer is enormous. Embrace brand awareness, integrate building a loyal customer base, create word of mouth,personalize your customer service, hand write a thank you note.
Submitted by: Jeff Burton, SGIA
Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010
>Many businesses believe that finishing is an essential step to protect the inks before the prints are sent to the customer. Yes, this is an important reason for laminating images. However, I would not view it as the only reason if I were you. “The best way to make money is to keep the inkjet printers running.” is a misleading, but common notion I hear. Often, finishing is under appreciated and money is literally left on the table. When unfinished, a print may struggle to stand on its own for the desired effect to be achieved when it reaches its final destination. The “value” lies in its aesthetic appeal. However, when the print is mounted, routed, and/or laminated, the piece transforms into an integral component of its final surroundings. That very idea is the confidence many customers are seeking from a print provider that can mean higher margins for your business. Providing a variety of finishing opportunities for a customer can increase the perceived value of their product. When finishing is viewed as a necessary evil, the potential for business growth will greatly diminish.
First and foremost, make your customers aware of the wide variety of finishing materials and options available to them. Train your sales staff to offer solutions, not prints. You want to enlighten your customers and spark their imagination. Otherwise, they will continue to think their only option is a 2-mil gloss simply because they do not know what options are available that are a “best fit” solution for their product. It is the salespersons job to educate customers so they know what choices are available to them. To accomplish this, you may need to have your sales team spend some time in the finishing department.
Show your customers what you can do by putting sample packets together showcasing some of your more exceptional finishing techniques. Showing your customers what is possible, and charging appropriately, will transform your finishing department into a rewarding profit center for your business. The key is to know what your capabilities are with regard to the equipment and finishing options you have. I think the real trick is to pick a solution that will make business growth possible. I would start by picking a solution that complements most of your existing products, and then grow into more exclusive solutions that offer customers product uniqueness. Constant attention must be given to efficiencies in order for a business to grow and be profitable. While it is important to buy the right digital printer, buying the right finishing option is just as important.
Today’s most successful print providers differentiate themselves from the competition by offering the benefits of total finishing solutions to their customers. From trade exhibits to outdoor signage and fine art, print providers can see financial benefits from print finishing technologies. Finishing the job improves the performance of the product, and can make a positive difference to your bottom line…and you can take that to the bank!
Johnny Shell, SGIA
Wednesday, November 18th, 2009
>Last May, President George Bush signed the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA). This legislation protects Americans from discrimination based on their genetic information when it comes to health insurance and employment.
What does this mean for imagers? Those based in the US will need to display a revised Equal Employment Opportunity (EEOC) poster by November 21, 2009. You can order or print your own copy of the poster at the EEOC’s website.
Additionally, this means that any information about an employee’s genetics cannot be used in hiring, firing or promotion decisions or health insurance access. For example, if you have an employee that has tested positive for the gene that causes a specific kind of cancer, this information can not be used in employment-related decisions. Nor can this employee be denied access to your health insurance plan if they are otherwise qualified for it.
If you have any questions related to this, please email me at email@example.com.
Submitted by: Katy Lellelid