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FLEXO Magazine : March 2013
Taking a step back with one eye on the wide web platform and one eye on narrow web allows for a very interesting machine design approach. It creates a project not centered on developing bleeding edge technology, but merging robust proven technology from two similar industries that never both- ered to look at each other that closely. The result is a machine platform designed from the ground up with the sole purpose of being efficient and profitable. NEW SPEC The wide web industry doesn’t even turn its head at machine specs like 1,000 fpm, 32-in wide web, color-to-color registration of +/- .0 03 -in to .005-in, gearless servo technology, and automatic job setup systems. To the narrow web world these are all dreams... that have now become reality. These specs, as well as many other features mentioned below, com- pletely change the game and the return on investment model that has been accepted in the narrow web industry. No longer does the operator need to bounce around the machine monitoring and adjusting. Automation allows certain systems to be set to “cruise control” while the operator fo- cuses on other things. DECK CONTROL Line shafts and hand knobs are a thing of the past. Control technology has advanced to the point where the machine may have hit the peak of low maintenance safe operation. Using direct drive servo motors, the print mandrel now has become part of the motor. No gears, belts, pulleys or flex couplings are needed. This means no routine maintenance and industry leading print registration. Add five axis of precision control motors with integrated absolute feedback per color deck and you have the foundation required for hands-free automation and push-button control. INK SYSTEM “Set it and forget it.” A phrase made famous by the info- mercial industry definitely applies here. Having a closed loop ink flow system, utilizing automatic viscosity control, peristaltic pumps, and a force controlled doctor chamber ensure the ink flow is maintained per specification, automatically. A flexible system capable of running solvent, water based, or UV inks, or a combination of some at the same time, allows for more production options and print capabilities. Adapting the force-loaded doctor chambers from the wide web industry offers a huge waste saving advantage. Now air cylinders maintain the doctor blade force to the optimal setting, versus an operator turning a knob and guessing. This extends the blade life by as much as 50 percent, which converts to more run time and less consumable component waste. Visual indicators alert the operator when the blades are getting low, instead of an ink leak doing the same. When it’s time to transition to the next job, an automatic wash-up mode (also borrowed from the wide web product line) kicks in and cleans up for the operator in less than five minutes. Take that Ron Popeil. DRYER SYSTEM Running at 1,000 fpm requires a high performing dryer system, but not when the system was originally designed to run 2,500 fpm on a 75-in wide web. Scaling down is all that’s required, but all the performance benefits still remain. The ELS-Max in-line press as it typically looks. www.flexography.org March 2013 FLEXO 49