Stafford Corrugated to Promote TruPoint Green® Doctor Blade at CorrExpo 2017

Plymouth, MA, October 13, 2017.  Flexo Concepts’ distribution partner, Stafford Corrugated Products, will promote the TruPoint Green doctor blade at Tappi’s CorrExpo event this fall in Providence, Rhode Island. Green is a drop-in replacement blade for printers who want to produce mid-level graphics without having to run steel.

As graphics requirements continue to grow, corrugated printers are looking for a doctor blade that will meter anilox line screens between where UHMW is effective and where steel is required. TruPoint Green offers printers an easy alternative in these applications. The custom-compounded material demonstrates better stiffness and only half the mechanical creep of UHMW in addition to better wear rates and safety than steel. As a replacement for UHMW, Green can be installed with no shims or other clamp modifications.

To learn more or obtain a sample, visit Stafford Corrugated Products at the show (booth #930) or go to www.flexoconcepts.com. A complete press kit can be obtained at www.flexoconcepts.com/media.

About Flexo Concepts

Headquartered in Plymouth, Massachusetts, Flexo Concepts manufactures TruPoint® doctor blades and wash-up blades and MicroClean™ dry media anilox cleaning systems. All products are designed to improve print quality and reduce operational costs for flexographic and offset printers. Flexo Concepts maintains distribution locations in North America, South America, Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia. For more information about the company and its products visit www.flexoconcepts.com. For regular updates, follow Flexo Concepts on Facebook and Twitter.

TruPoint Green® to Make Debut at FEFCO Technical Seminar 2017

Plymouth, MA, October 4, 2017.  Flexo Concepts® is excited to introduce its latest doctor blade innovation, TruPoint Green, at FEFCO’s Technical Seminar this year in Vienna.  Green will fulfill corrugated printers’ needs to produce mid-level graphics without having to run steel blades.

As graphics requirements continue to grow, corrugated printers are looking for a doctor blade that will meter anilox line screens between where UHMW is effective and where steel is required.  Green offers printers an alternative to steel in these mid-level graphics applications.  The custom-compounded material demonstrates better stiffness and only half the mechanical creep of UHMW in addition to better wear rates and safety than steel.  Green is also made partly from recaptured carbon monoxide, thereby helping printers reduce their carbon footprint.

Kevin McLaughlin, Flexo Concepts’ CEO, will explain the market’s need for this product and why it works during his presentation, “TruPoint Green Doctor Blade ‘Fills the Gap’ for Corrugated Printers.”  The presentation is scheduled to take place during Session 3 of the Spotlights on October 11.

To learn more or obtain a sample, visit Flexo Concepts stand #055 at the show or go to www.flexoconcepts.com.  To access a complete press kit, go to www.flexoconcepts.com/media.

About Flexo Concepts

Headquartered in Plymouth, Massachusetts, Flexo Concepts manufactures TruPoint® doctor blades and wash-up blades and MicroClean™ dry media anilox cleaning systems.  All products are designed to improve print quality and reduce operational costs for flexographic and offset printers.  Flexo Concepts maintains distribution locations in North America, South America, Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia.  For more information about the company and its products visit www.flexoconcepts.com.  For regular updates, follow Flexo Concepts on Facebook and Twitter.

 

 

The 5 Ws of TruPoint Doctor Blade Tips [Infographic]

This infographic is a beginner’s guide to Doctor Blade Tips, providing a brief overview of the 3 main tips offered with TruPoint doctor blades. Viewers will uncover the following 5 Ws of TruPoint doctor blade tips:

  1. Who – Who (which industry) predominantly uses this blade tip option?
  2. What – What does this doctor blade tip look like?
  3. Where – Where is this doctor blade found in a chambered ink system?
  4. When – When a certain anilox line screen is used, which doctor blade tip is the best option?
  5. Why – Why is this doctor blade tip used for all of the above?

TruPoint Green®: The New Kid on the Block Anilox

What is TruPoint Green?

TruPoint Green is a next generation polymer doctor blade for corrugated printers producing mid-level graphics.

Why was TruPoint Green created?

UHMW has always been the “standard” doctor blade used in corrugated applications.  However, as graphics requirements grow, many printers are finding that UHMW can’t meter their mid-level line screen anilox rolls effectively.  There is a “gap” between where UHMW is effective and steel is required, on anilox line screens roughly between 300 and 500 LPI (or 120 and 200 l/cm).  Corrugated printers are reluctantly turning to steel in these applications even though steel blades don’t last as long and can easily cut press operators.

Anilox line screen gap between UHMW and steelTruPoint Green is a blade that can handle these metering requirements while delivering the added benefits that polymers are known for.  In other words, TruPoint Green is ideal to fill this “gap” while providing longer blade life and a safer alternative to steel.

Why won’t UHMW work in these applications?

UHMW is fine for basic graphics, but it lacks the precision for the higher graphic requirements today’s brand owners expect.  Why?  Because of the contact area between the blade and the anilox roll.  A general rule of thumb is the smaller the contact area, the better the metering.  (Or, the larger the contact area, the lower the metering quality.)

When it’s received from the manufacturer, a new UHMW blade touches the roll with a nice small contact area.  But as the blade wears, the contact area gets very large, growing to as much as twice the blade’s thickness.

The large contact area is made worse by the poor mechanical creep characteristic of UHMW.  “Creep,” or “spring memory,” is the ability of a material to maintain its shape under force.  For doctor blades, it represents how well a blade is able to maintain its original shape after being flexed.  (View the Doctor Blade Mechanical Creep infographic to learn more)

UHMW has poor creep; it relaxes under a constant load and doesn’t spring back very well.  In fact, it loses 70% of its reaction force in the first 30 minutes of being used and 78% of its force over a 14-hour period.  To maintain blade contact with the anilox roll, press operators have to increase pressure as the blade loses its elasticity.  This increased pressure further increases the contact area and restarts the creep cycle (while accelerating blade wear).  Ink film thickness grows and printers end up with dirty print and ink waste.

Who created TruPoint Green?

TruPoint Green was created by and is exclusive to Flexo Concepts.  Being a doctor blade innovator, the company set out to fulfill the market’s need for a corrugated “in between” blade.  The company began a two-year journey to develop a product that could function as a drop-in replacement for UHMW with the right amount of creep to maintain contact area in these mid-level graphics applications.

How was TruPoint Green created?

Flexo Concepts started by developing a material that was stiffer than UHMW but with enough flexibility to achieve a good contact area with the roll, better mechanical creep and superior wear properties.  After two years of testing and refining, the company found the solution it was looking for:  a custom compounded material that combines two different polymers.  In lab tests, our engineers were happy to find that the material demonstrated better stiffness and only half the creep of UHMW and a much lower wear rate than that of steel!  As a result, press operators see better print quality and don’t have to stop their presses as often for blade adjustments and changes.

Where was TruPoint Green created?

The proprietary material was developed and extensively tested in Flexo Concepts’ state-of-the-art Doctor Blade Innovation Lab in Plymouth, Massachusetts.  Our customers spent over a year conducting additional trials of TruPoint Green in their plants to help us refine the material.

Is TruPoint Green “green”?

In addition to filling the line screen gap, Green also helps printers reduce their carbon footprint!  The main polymer used to make Green is created from recaptured carbon monoxide from a steel mill.  If this vapor were released into the atmosphere, it would break down into carbon dioxide, a well-known greenhouse gas.

To sum it up, TruPoint Green offers a blade option for corrugated printers challenged by the “gap.”  With better stiffness, creep resistance and blade life, Green is the best alternative to UHMW and steel in mid-level line screen applications.

So… When will TruPoint Green be available?

It’s available NOW!  Visit www.flexoconcepts.com/TruPoint/Green and try it for yourself.

REQUEST A SAMPLE!
 

Consultative Selling: What It Is and Why It Works

Listen and Learn with Consultative SellingToday, successful sellers act as trusted advisers to their buyers to help them find the best solutions.  By adopting a consultative selling strategy, salespeople create value in the selling process and benefit from better sales results, stronger customer bases and referrals.

What is consultative selling?

Consultative selling is defined as “personal selling in which a salesperson plays the role of a consultant” by www.businessdictionary.com.  It’s a sales method where the salesperson gains a solid understanding of the buyer’s challenges before recommending a solution.  An important distinction from other methods is that the main objective is helping the prospect find the right solution, not just getting him to “sign on the dotted line.”  The key elements of consultative selling fall into four categories:  research, relationship, resolution and reward.

Research

Today’s customer is much savvier than in the past and is doing his homework before buying.  The explosion of digital media has made it easy for people to access information online and share experiences with each other.  The buyer has already explored solutions, competitors, and prices and is well educated by the time a vendor comes calling.  The salesperson has to do his research, too, and can take advantage of “lead intelligence” to learn about his prospects and hone in on the most qualified leads.

Ask Who, What, Where, How, When and Why with Consultative SellingRelationship

The consultative salesperson is an industry expert who “gets it” and wants to help.  He continues to learn more about his prospect’s challenges and obstacles by asking open-ended questions to uncover his real motivation for buying.  He builds trust by sharing his knowledge without asking for anything in return.

Resolution

If the seller’s products are determined to be a good fit for the buyer, the salesperson presents the customer-specific benefits of his products, figures out the next steps in the purchasing process and establishes a timeline for closing the sale.  If it is clear that he can’t meet the buyer’s needs, it is completely acceptable for him to recommend an alternative solution, even if it’s a competitor!

Reward

No matter the outcome, consultative selling results in a valuable experience for both sides.  The buyer is able to get advice from an industry expert who helps him understand his obstacles and navigate a solution.  By investing time to provide tailored, customized solutions, salespeople will enjoy better closing rates, higher value sales, increased customer retention and referrals.

In the end, consultative selling is about helping prospects find solutions.  Salespeople who take the time to fully understand their buyers’ needs and challenges are in the best position to recommend the right solutions.  They will be rewarded with satisfied, loyal supporters.

Anilox Roll Scoring

anilox roll score lineThe anilox roll has been referred to as the heart of the printing press.  It carries the huge responsibility of delivering the precise amount of ink required to create an image exactly according to the customer’s specifications.  That’s a big job! If anilox rolls are taken care of, they are your workhorses:  consistently and repeatedly executing the desired image, job after job.  They can last for years and provide a great return on your investment.

So the “health” of your anilox rolls is extremely important.  There are several steps you can take to maintain their integrity.  First, follow a good cleaning regimen to prevent ink from drying in cells.  Plugged anilox cells can’t carry the volume of ink for which they were designed.  (Read “Anilox Roll Cleaning is Essential to Effective Ink Delivery”)  Second, make sure to handle the rolls properly to avoid damaging the ceramic coating.  Once the edges become chipped, ink and solvent can leach under the surface and ruin the roll.

Protect your rolls from scoring

A third way to get the most out of your anilox investment is to protect your rolls from scoring.  Anilox scoring occurs when a piece of metal becomes trapped against the doctor blade as the roll rotates.  The fragment causes a deep scratch, or “score line,” destroying the cells in a stripe around the circumference of the roll.  Not only is this expensive in terms of repairing or replacing the roll, but also costs a lot in substrate and ink waste, press downtime and unhappy customers.

Photo courtesy of Harper

If the roll’s surface becomes scored, the defects will show in the printed image.  Sometimes a score line is a deep gouge across several cell widths.  The band of damaged cells results in a dark streak in the print as more ink is delivered in this area.  More often, the metal fragment wears down the walls of the cells, resulting in a “polishing” score line.  In this case, the affected part of the anilox roll is not able to carry as much ink as the surrounding cells, and the corresponding area of print appears as a light streak.

Photo courtesy of Harper

Causes of anilox scoring

While there are many causes of anilox scoring, the most common ones relate to the use of steel doctor blades.  Large pieces of the blade can break away as it wears or if the blade is installed with too much pressure.  An excessive amount of pressure on the tip will cause it to bend back and eventually fracture off.  Excessive pressure can occur when an operator neglects to adjust the blade holder setting when replacing a worn blade with a new (wider) one.  Sometimes an operator will intentionally over-pressure the blade to compensate for other problems such as chamber leaks, chamber misalignment or warped or rippled blades.

Some ways to prevent anilox roll scoring are:

  • Ensure proper chamber alignment and blade installation
  • Use non-metallic doctor blades
  • Do not over-pressure blades
  • Clean anilox rolls regularly
  • Do not run the press dry or let ink dry in cells
  • Filter ink to remove metal fragments

Once a roll is scored, it must be reconditioned or replaced at the cost of hundreds to thousands of dollars.  Not to mention lost substrate, ink waste, press downtime and being without the roll while it’s being reconditioned or replaced.  Treat your anilox rolls like the important parts of the press that they are; in addition to proper cleaning and handling, preventing score lines will go a long way to ensure that you get the most out of your anilox investment!

Kanban 101

 

Kanban

In today’s competitive marketplace, manufacturers are looking for ways to improve efficiency and wring costs out of the production process. By adopting lean manufacturing concepts, companies can eliminate waste and operate more efficiently. One way to do this is to implement kanban, a Japanese inventory scheduling system that promotes just-in-time production by delivering parts on an as-needed basis.

In a kanban system, the production process is seen as a “chain,” where each “process” becomes the supplier for the next (“downstream”) process in the sequence and a customer to the previous (“upstream”) process. This approach extends all the way to a company’s external suppliers and customers. It optimizes production flow and minimizes inventory levels by directing the supply of parts and components to workers exactly when and where they need them.

The advantages of using a kanban system include:

  • Lower inventory costs
  • Quicker response to changes in demand
  • Increased productivity and efficiency
  • Reduced waste

Kanban Origins

Kanban originated in Japan in the mid-20th century by Toyota looking to increase the efficiency of its factories. Its engineers were inspired by the inventory replenishment process used by supermarkets. They observed that customers purchase only the items and quantities they need, and store employees restock their shelves with only as much product as they expect to sell. This began an important distinction between a “push” system of manufacturing and a demand-based or “pull” system.

Push vs. Pull Inventory Control Systems

With traditional push manufacturing systems, companies produce what they think their customers will order and make items to stock in batches. While there are economies of scale, the downside is that inventory costs are high and companies can end up overproducing if sales forecasts are incorrect. Excess inventory ties up working capital, increases storage costs and exposes the company to the risk of parts becoming obsolete.

A pull strategy, on the other hand, ties production directly to actual customer demand so there is little risk of overproduction and little excess inventory. Tasks in the production process are completed when requested by the next process down the line so parts or components are “pulled” into production only when needed. With a pull system of inventory management, a company may find itself slow to respond to a sudden increase in demand but very little capital is tied up in excess parts and storage.

Kanban Cards

kanban_cardIn order to facilitate its just-in-time manufacturing system, Toyota instituted a method using cards in its factories called “kanban” (a Japanese word combining “kan” for card and “ban” for signal). The cards, called “kanbans,” contain information about how to replenish each component used in production. By moving a kanban, an employee can signal when more parts are needed by an upstream process, prompting the production or purchase of these additional parts. Each kanban conveys all information required to replace the item such as the part name, number and description as well as the quantity to be produced and any other information about how the replenishment should take place. When delivering a kanban, the employee will write the date the order is initiated or “dropped” and when the parts are needed. The card is placed in a kanban rack to be retrieved along with the container by the appropriate person in the upstream process. Once replenished, the bin containing the new parts and kanban card are returned to their original location.

Six Elements of Kanban

The following principles are fundamental to a kanban system:

  1. Downstream processes always pull from upstream processes
  2. Upstream processes produce only when instructed
  3. Defects are never passed on to the next station
  4. Kanban cards are attached to part containers and no item is moved without a kanban
  5. Production is leveled throughout the system to prevent bottlenecks
  6. There is continuous fine-tuning of the kanbans in the production process

The success of kanban as an inventory control system depends on its execution.  Adopting this system requires well-defined, documented procedures and training so employees are clear about every step, because a disruption in the process may lead to out-of-stocks and delays in filling customer orders. If executed properly, this is an excellent tool used to facilitate just-in-time manufacturing by eliminating waste and inefficiency from the production process.

What the Automakers Have Taught Us About Manufacturing Efficiency

production conceptual meter indicate maximum, isolated on white background

We’ve learned a lot from the automakers when it comes to manufacturing efficiency. Our car-making forefathers took a long look at their production methods and figured out ways to increase value by making improvements in their processes. Today, printers, along with countless other industries, are realizing the benefits of implementing these concepts to improve their bottom lines.

It started with Henry Ford. He revolutionized the production process by using interchangeable parts, standardization, and what he’s best known for, the assembly line. By streamlining production, he was able to mass produce the Model T and make cars available to middle class families across America for the first time in 1908.  By 1927, Ford had shipped 15 million cars, and the Model T came to symbolize a new method of manufacturing.

In the mid-21st century, Toyota engineers expanded on Ford’s ideas to become more market-focused. Their inspiration came from a supermarket model of inventory management where stores restock their shelves as products are purchased by shoppers. Applied to manufacturing, the concept of just-in-time inventory replenishment recognizes that more efficient inventory management results when customers “pull” products through the supply chain.

According to Toyota’s website, the objective of its “Toyota Production System,” or TPS, is to serve its customers and employees while aligning with the company’s business goals.  Central to the TPS are the principles of “Kaizen,” “Just in Time Manufacturing” and “Jidoka.”  These values attempt to maximize efficiency and quality by using methods that simplify production flow and speed up response times.  Production is driven by customer demand, and the way resources are allocated within the plant is known as “kanban.” (See Kanban 101 blog post) All employees throughout the organization strive for continuous improvement in every aspect of the process.

Modern lean manufacturing is derived from the TPS and strives to eliminate all excess from a manufacturing system by focusing only on the things that add value. By removing the causes of “muri”,” or overburdening of people or equipment, and “mura,” or unevenness, the overall “muda,” or waste in the manufacturing process is reduced.  (These terms were originally used in Japanese martial arts to protect the fighter by eliminating unnecessary movements!) In relation to manufacturing, seven deadly wastes (or mudas) have been identified:

  1. Transportation
  2. Inventory
  3. Motion
  4. Waiting
  5. Over-processing
  6. Over-production
  7. Defects

These activities take up time, resources and space and add no value in the eyes of the customer.  The more these wastes can be minimized, the more dollars a manufacturer can wring out of the production process.

For several years, press builder Gallus has seen lean manufacturing concepts in the print industry “as a means of ensuring perfect job processing without sacrificing profit margins.” Through its “Smart Production Concept” program, Gallus helps its customers evaluate their print quality, production sequences and production environment to find opportunities to improve pressroom efficiency. The press manufacturer compares lean manufacturing to Formula 1 racing, where “a single second more or less at a pit stop can make the difference between winning and losing.” Click here to read how this company’s efforts are impacting the narrow web print industry.

We can learn a lot from our predecessors when it comes to many things, and manufacturing methods are no exception. Through the years, companies have continued to improve upon the basic concepts of production efficiency introduced by Henry Ford and Toyota.  Today, printers and businesses across many industry sectors strive to adopt the principles of lean manufacturing in order to achieve the ultimate goal of maximizing value to customers and optimizing profits.

 

New Polymer Doctor Blades “Fill the Gap” for Boxmakers

If you are a producer of simple corrugated graphics, you are probably very familiar with UHMW as the best solution to optimize blade life and safety.  However, if your customers expect high-end print quality for brand consistency and marketing appeal, steel might be your blade of choice.  As the industry continues to evolve and graphics requirements become more demanding, there is an emerging “gap” where neither UHMW nor steel is ideal.  Today’s next generation polymer doctor blades with a MicroTip® can fill this “gap” and serve this segment of the market well.

The Line Screen “Gap”

The anilox line screen “gap,” between where UHMW can’t quite get the job done and where steel is required for effective metering, seems to lie around 300-1100 lpi (118-433 l/cm).

Corrugated Doctor Blade GapSome printers choose to continue using the blade that they’re used to and accept limitations on print quality or blade life.  For example, as line screens increase, standard UHMW will produce dirty print.  On the other hand, steel blades wear more quickly when used on lower line screen rolls.

Closing the Gap

Traditional blade products can shrink some of this gap.  By placing a lamella, or stepped, edge on standard UHMW, the blade can achieve a slightly smaller contact area with the roll and metering quality can be improved on line screens up to around 360 lpi.  (Keep in mind that print quality will diminish as the blade wears and contact area grows.)  In moderate graphics applications, graphite, polyacetal and Teflon-filled Delrin can be used to replace steel.  These materials will deliver decent metering and longer blade life on line screens ranging up to 550-600 lpi.  The blades are thinner and bevels ranging from 22°-45° can be applied to further improve contact area (which, again, grows as the blades wear).  The problem with these blades, however, is their thickness in comparison to the blade holder.  On press models where the chamber is designed to hold a .060”-.080” UHMW blade, these .020”-.040” thick blades require a shim or modification which can slow down changeovers.  Despite these solutions, however, until recently steel has been the only blade material that can produce the high level of print quality produced by a line screen in excess of 600 lpi.

MicroTip TechnologyNext Generation Polymers with MicroTip®

Today’s next generation polymer doctor blade with a MicroTip® is a good option to close the “gap.”  Available in a range of thicknesses to fit various chamber requirements and tip configurations based on the printing application, these blades deliver the high quality metering of a steel blade and the blade life and safety characteristics closer to traditional UHMW.  The rigid material and tip design can achieve and maintain a fine area of contact with the anilox roll throughout the life of the blade.  They also offer improved safety benefits and reduced anilox scoring compared to steel blades.  For these reasons, the blades make good economic sense for use with line screens that fall within the “gap.”  Although they are just now being introduced to the corrugated sector, these next generation polymer blades have been used to replace steel in flexible packaging and tag & label applications for the past 3-4 years.

For boxmakers struggling to find the ideal blade solution for line screens in the 300-1100 lpi range, next generation polymer blades with MicroTips are a good solution.  Available in a variety of thicknesses and tip configurations, these blades do a good job of “filling the gap.”