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FLEXO Magazine : June 2012
relatively brittle, ceramic coating surface. In the case of the sodium, plastic pellet and dry ice systems, these factors in- clude air pressure, rotation speed, traverse speed, and nozzle distance. Each of these factors can also be limited to the line count that can be successfully cleaned in — usually — the 700 lpi and above range. Media systems can also cause contamination to the ink and coating system. There is also the possibility of seepage into bearings and in between the sleeve and air mandrel surface. Generally, only single rolls can be cleaned at a time. With a simple traverse system, some cleaning systems can be retrofitted onto the press. This is particularly popular in the corrugated industry because of the difficulty and time re- quired to remove a roll. High-pressure liquid systems are also popular. These systems use water mixed with a concentrated cleaning solution to blast away the contamination from the roll, sleeve or other component. Ultrasonic systems have become popular for many markets. Although, single and dual frequency systems have tended to rely on aggressive caustic solutions to assist the cleaning process. More modern “frequency sweep” systems are able to clean any line count for longer without fear of damage and using much more environmentally friendly cleaning solutions. Multiple rolls can be cleaned at the same time. Newer systems have preset cleaning cycles, frequencies and rotational speeds. All the operator has to do is press the start button, allowing the roll or sleeve to be automatically cleaned. New into this arena are laser cleaning systems. These systems use a laser beam to literally vaporize the contamina- tion from the anilox surface and the engraved cell and do not require any other form of cleaning solution to carry out the pro- cess. They can also be retrofitted to machines for cleaning of anilox in situ, rather than having to take them out of the press. CONSEQUENCES So, what are the consequences if you fail to maintain your anilox on a regular basis? Apart from the cost of having to replace anilox more frequently, one will never produce consis- tent print quality; will have higher waste; makeready will be slower; run speeds slower; labor costs higher; and the ability to repeat a result will be almost impossible. This will result in a competitor, who does acknowledge the importance of regular anilox maintenance, to be more profit- able. Even though most companies that I consult with indicate they are aware of the net result of poor maintenance, the vast majority rarely plan for regular maintenance. Instead, these firms carry out anilox cleaning and evaluation on an ad hoc basis. This “plan” will all but guarantee the premature failure of any anilox, regardless of its cell configuration. Whether you are printing solid and line work or process, the ability of each individual cell to be able to carry its theoretical volume of ink or coating is vital. But, that cannot be achieved if the anilox is full—or even slightly filled—of hardened resins, pigments, paper dust or other contaminants. Instead, some firms turn a blind eye to the constant adjustment that has to be made to their inks or coatings at press side. CONCLUSION Avoiding anilox maintenance can add thousands of dollars in cost of inks and coatings throughout a year—apart from the day-to-day frustration on press. One has to ask: is anilox maintenance, care and handling (or lack thereof) the issue? If the answer is “ yes,” a firm must first acknowledge that it needs to do a better job of maintaining the heart of every press: the anilox. n About the Author: Steve Wilkinson is president of SJW Associ- ates or “The FLEXO Factor,” a Charlotte, NC, consultancy providing technical support, training and offering world-class products and solutions to all markets within the flexographic industry. He has 40 years experience and is a past chairman of the European Flexographic Industry Association. Plugged anilox cells Worn ceramic anilox cells 96 FLEXO june 2012 www.flexography.org