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FLEXO Magazine : February 2010
34 FLEXO FEBRUARY 2010 www.flexography.org • Minimal contact minimizes damage. • UV light filters should be used over all lights and windows. • Boxes of raw material should also be equal to or smaller in size than the pallet used. • Avoid stacking plates more than 6in. high. • Storing or staging: Wrap plates in a black or opaque poly with the edges sealed. • Understand how your ink system, extenders and cleaners will react with the plate material. • Do not store near direct heat sources. • Boxes should be kept dry. TECHNOLOGIES & TECHNIQUES Proper handling, storage and cleaning will ensure significantly reduce wear and damage to plates. One of the most difficult questions to answer in our industry is, "How long should my plate last?" Or, in other words, "How many feet should I expect to get out of my photo- polymer plates?" Considering the number of factors that must be taken into consideration, certainly anyone faced with this ques- tion should hesitate at least momentarily before answering. There are a number of people who have an effect on the life of a photopolymer plate. The raw material handlers are charged with controlling both the way material is stacked and the atmosphere in which the material resides prior to its delivery to the plate room. Actions taken by the platemaker can affect image quality, plate thickness and relief, along with tackiness and final durometer. All of these aspects can affect the life and longevity of the photopolymer plate. The mounter selects the mounting tape, which could have very little com- pressibility, or maximum compressibility and resilience for screens and process work. The skilled press operator deter- mines the ink setting and impression, while the press helper can hold the responsibility of controlling the type of solvent added to maintain viscosity. While prepatory personnel may be in charge of cleaning, removal, and filing of the photopoly- mer plates once the order has been produced. RAW MATERIAL HANDLING If plates are being made in-house, it is very likely that ship- ping and receiving personnel will be the first individuals who can have impact on the life of the finished plate. When the raw sheet material is received, it is import that we consider this product as a semi-solid, or being in a Jell-O like state. Therefore containers or boxes of raw sheet material should be transported and stored flat and never on end. Raw plate material stored on end will begin to feel the effects of gravity, and the polymer will naturally want to flow downward. The results are sheets that become fused together on the edge facing downward and can also have an effect on the unifor- mity of the sheet thickness. When storing the raw material, the area temperature may range from 40° to 100°F (4° to 38°C). However, do not store The Life Expectancy of Plates Tips for Improving Longevity through Handling and Care By Tim Reece