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.

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. Kanban 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, kanban 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.”

Our Visit to SinoCorrugated 2015 – Shanghai, China

Kevin McLaughlin at SinoCorrugated 2015April was a highlight of our corrugated marketing efforts in the Far East as Flexo Concepts® supported its Asian distributors at SinoCorrugated 2015.  Taking place every two years, the event is known for showcasing a plethora of the latest in corrugated machinery and equipment among a lively atmosphere of partnering, relationship building and business transacting.

Our Asian Key Account Manager, Steve Kao, and I took advantage of our four days at the show to make our way around the 67,000 square meters of exhibition area filled with more than 600 exhibitors.  We were two of over 40,000 local and international attendees who had come to see some 1,400 pieces of corrugated manufacturing equipment and check out some 1,000 consumable products.

A large part of the reason for our visit was to support our Asian distributors who were exhibiting at the show:  GrandCorp Group, Guangzhou Ming Yang and Guangzhou Ruijian, a doctor blade chamber OEM that also featured our blades on their equipment.  We are grateful for their continued promotion of the benefits of our doctor blade products.  We would like to thank two additional chamber manufacturers, Baoqi and Corupak, who also featured our TruPoint™ blades on their equipment at the show.

As China’s economic development continues to outpace the rest of the world and the country maintains its status as the largest corrugated market, we believe that Flexo Concepts is well-positioned to enjoy sustained growth in the region.  Our company has been actively selling its non-metallic doctor blades in China for over 14 years and is currently a major supplier to the local corrugated OEMs.  As a result, TruPoint has become the leading doctor blade brand.  At SinoCorrugated this year, we took the opportunity to introduce our newest blade, TruPoint Orange®, to the corrugated market.  This product has been very successful in narrow web flexo applications as a safe and longer-lasting substitute for steel.  Early testing has shown that these benefits also transfer to corrugated high-end graphics applications.

Again this year, SinoCorrugated lived up to its reputation as “the largest business platform for the global corrugated manufacturing industry.”  Having shown steady growth since 2001 in terms of the number of visitors and exhibitors, machines on display and show area, I think all would agree that the show is worthy undertaking.  I know the event was a big success for Flexo Concepts, and we look forward to returning in 2017!

 

The Evolution of Corrugated Doctor Blades

TruPoint Corrugated BoxesSince the 1960s, corrugated printing requirements have grown from simple logistics to eye-catching promotional packaging with skus and tracking information. Improvements in doctor blade materials and tip configurations have played a key role in making this possible. While anilox rolls have gotten better at efficiently transporting a precise volume of ink to the plate, they are only as good as the metering blades they’re paired with: if a doctor blade leaves excess ink on the roll, a printer quickly loses control over quality and consistency.

Corrugated Doctor Blades Through the Years

1960s – Straight UHMW

About 50 years ago, corrugated printers started using doctor blades as a replacement for rubber rolls to gain control over the amount of ink transferred to the plate. (Read: “Corrugated Ink Deliver Systems: Two Roll or Doctor Blade”) UHMW offered a good solution because its dense molecular structure was ideal for printing environments that combined long runs and coarse anilox engravings. This soft, thick material was safe to handle, didn’t score anilox rolls, and was highly resistant to stress cracks and chips. It was also very abrasion-resistant which gave the blades extremely long life. UHMW products were engineered in thicknesses of .090” and .100″ which was adequate to produce the type of work being done at that time (and still in many applications today) – simple solids and lines in one to three colors.

Late 1980s – Early 1990s – Introduction of Bevels

As packaging began to take on more of a marketing role in the 1980s, the demand for higher quality graphics grew. Doctor blades became common in corrugated applications and new press technology, including ceramic anilox rolls and doctor blade chambers, came to market. Blade manufacturers focused on developing stronger, more durable materials that could be engineered into thinner products. Blade thicknesses decreased to .060″ and .080″, and 30° and 45° bevels were introduced to allow a smaller area of contact with the anilox roll.

Late 1990s – Early 2000s – Plastics and Composites with Finer Bevels

Packaging requirements continued to increase in the 1990s, and there were more innovations in anilox rolls and press components. Printers began using more advanced plastic materials for a stiffer, more durable alternative to UHMW.  Acetal blades were effective at metering moderate to high line screen rolls while providing great chemical resistance, good dimensional stability and a low coefficient of friction. These materials could be fortified with additives such as Teflon and manufactured into thicknesses of 020” to .040”. The material was able to accommodate finer bevels of 15° and 22° to produce difficult fine type and reverses. Tight weave fiberglass composites were also developed for screen and process work due to their extremely stiff and durable characteristics.

Mid 2000s – Next Generation UHMW

For printers using UHMW to produce low to moderate graphics, Flexo Concepts introduced a new high-density formulation UHMW to deliver up to 25% longer blade life than traditional UHMW. This next-generation formula was capable of producing enhanced graphics for a longer wear period and is still widely used today.

Today – Next Generation Polymers with MicroTips

Nowadays, box makers are asked to produce packages that serve as both shipping and display vehicles. Graphics requirements are exceptionally challenging and more colors, finer plate screens, half-tones and higher anilox line counts are being used to produce attractive point of sale and point of purchase containers. Predictable ink density and color control are essential to ensure manufacturers’ brand consistency. Until recently, steel had been the only blade that could meet this performance criteria. In 2012, a new blade that offers the best of traditional non-metallics and steel was created for these applications. Flexo Concepts’ next generation polymer blade with a unique MicroTip™ is capable of metering the highest line screens as well as a steel blade for the most demanding graphics requirements (read: “New Polymers Meter Like Steel Doctor Blades”). The MicroTip wears slowly and evenly and delivers consistent ink film thickness for the duration of the print job.

Along with press builders and anilox roll manufacturers, corrugated doctor blade suppliers have done their job of “keeping up with the times.” Blade materials and tip configurations have advanced over the past half-century along with the demands of the packaging industry. While UHMW, traditional plastics and composites are still the best choices in many low-moderate graphics applications, corrugated printers who want to avoid the short blade life and risks with using steel now have a next generation polymer blade to produce the highest quality work.

Request a TruPoint Orange Doctor Blade Sample

Corrugated Ink Delivery Systems: Two Roll or Doctor Blade?

The flexographic ink delivery process has come a long way since the days when “Fragile – Do Not Drop” and “This End Up” were the only requirements of box printers.  New press designs are able to achieve the quality of work that has traditionally been done by litho lamination, and corrugated printers have to produce a consistently high level of quality to compete.  The evolution of the ink delivery process from a two roll ink metering system to the enclosed doctor blade chamber has made this possible.

There are currently three types of ink metering systems used in corrugated printing applications:  the two roll system, the single blade system and the enclosed doctor blade chamber system.  All three systems rely on an anilox roll to transfer ink to the plate.  The difference lies in how the ink is applied to the anilox roll.

Corrugated Two Roll Ink Metering System

Corrugated Two Roll Ink Metering System

The Two Roll Ink Delivery System

In the original two roll ink metering system, a fountain roll rotates partially-submerged in an open ink pan, picking up ink and applying it to the anilox roll.  The anilox roll transfers the ink to the plate cylinder which then lays it down on the sheet.  Though still widely used in the industry, there is a lot of variability in the two roll system which results in a lack of control over the amount of ink transferred to the plate:

  • Imprecise wipe of the anilox roll leads to inconsistent volume of ink delivered to the sheet.
  • Color strength fluctuation and ink slinging can occur at higher press speeds due to the hydraulic force between the rubber roll and the anilox roll.
  • Transfer characteristics vary according to the hardness or “durometer” of the rubber roll.
  • Ink viscosity is subject to evaporation, dust and surface skimming due to the open tray design.

Single Doctor Blade Ink Delivery System

The addition of a reverse angle doctor blade added precision to the ink metering process.  In the single blade ink metering system, a doctor blade made from steel, plastic or a composite material is used to replace the rubber roll.  The blade is installed just beyond the ink metering nip to shear ink from the anilox roll surface.  Doctor blade ink metering systems give the printer better control over the volume of ink being delivered to the plate.  Where a rubber roll often leaves an additional ink film on the surface, a doctor blade shears ink cleanly from the roll.  The inks perform better on press and a printer can achieve a more consistent ink film thickness.  Ink consumption is reduced and color application is consistent across the sheet even at higher press speeds.

Corrugated Enclosed Chamber Doctor Blade Ink Metering System

Corrugated Enclosed Chamber Doctor Blade Ink Metering System

Enclosed Chamber Doctor Blade System

The most recent development in the flexographic inking process is the enclosed chamber doctor blade system.  In this system, two doctor blades are used along with an enclosed chamber to dispense the ink to the anilox roll.  The reverse angle blade acts as the metering blade and wipes excess ink from the anilox roll.  The trailing blade acts as a capture or containment blade and holds the ink within the chamber.  Foam, rubber or felt gaskets seal both ends of the chamber and keep ink from leaking out.  The ink is delivered through a closed loop from the ink pump to the doctor blade system and then back to the pump.

With this method, a printer can maintain ink viscosity because the enclosed design provides protection from evaporation of amines from the ink.  Also, dust, slinging and skimming are minimized.  Better control over ink usage means lower ink consumption by as much as 15% per year.  The system holds less ink than open pans, so there is not as much leftover ink at the end of a press run and ink can be removed and stored for future use.  Due to a more efficient cleaning process, a smaller amount of cleaning solution is needed to clean up a chamber so cleaning solution waste and disposal costs are also reduced.  Color changes are quick, speeding up changeover and setup time on a run.  The enclosed chamber system is more eco-friendly because of reduced ink consumption and disposal of waste ink as well as a lower volume of cleaning solution and water required to wash-up the station for a color change.

After years of being relegated to jobs with low graphics requirements, flexography now rivals other printing methods for quality.  Today’s corrugated printers are able to produce products that are highly attractive and eye-catching to the consumer due to advances in the ink delivery process.  Whether they opt for a single doctor blade system or see the benefits in investing in a dual blade enclosed chamber, there are clear advantages to using doctor blades in terms of controlling ink film thickness and maintaining color consistency.

Take Care of Your Doctor Blade Chamber and It Will Take Care of You!

The job of a doctor blade chamber is to help deliver a precise, consistent ink film thickness to the substrate.  Like other parts of the press, the doctor blade chamber needs to be maintained and inspected on a regular basis to ensure its peak performance.  Taking the time to do this is a smart way to maximize press uptime and minimize costs.

What Can Go Wrong

1.  The chamber needs cleaning The doctor blade chamber requires regular cleaning to make sure it functions properly.  Dried ink and coating particles can interfere with doctor blade seating in the blade holder and cause the chamber to go out of alignment.

2.  The doctor blade chamber is not aligned properly – The doctor blade and anilox roll work best together when there is light, consistent contact between the two.  If the blade does not have even contact with the roll due to chamber misalignment, it will not shear the ink cleanly and consistently from the anilox roll surface.

Doctor Blade Chamber Corrosion

Doctor Blade Chamber Corrosion

3.  There is corrosion or pitting in the chamber components – Over time, regular exposure to harsh cleaning chemicals can cause corrosion and pitting in parts of the chamber.  This can create recesses in the metal that prevent the blade from laying flat in the holder.  Pitting also makes cleaning difficult, and particles from a corroded chamber can dislodge, settle into the ink and score anilox rolls.

4.  The chamber is bowed or warped – Due to the length of the doctor blade chamber, it can bow and become warped from being mishandled.  When bowing or warping occur, the blade will not lay flat along the full surface of the blade holder and contact the anilox roll uniformly when engaged.

Oftentimes, the press operator may try to correct some of these issues by increasing pressure to force contact between the anilox roll and doctor blade.  While this may fix the problem temporarily, it often makes it worse.  The added friction from excessive blade-anilox contact can cause chamber leaks and accelerated wear on the blade and roll.

What To Do

1.  Clean the chamber – A cleaning routine involves wiping down the chamber with a cloth and flushing with approved cleaning solutions every day to remove ink deposits and particles from the doctor blade and blade clamp.  (This can take place when the press is shut down to clean the anilox roll which is also recommended on a daily basis.)

2.  Verify chamber alignment – Each month, operators should take the time to make sure that the system is properly aligned and parallel.  This will prevent early and excessive doctor blade and anilox wear and ink leaks.  If aligned properly, the system will remain stable even at increasing press speeds.  (See blog post:  “Doctor Blade Chamber Alignment is Critical for Doctor Blade Performance”)

3.  Inspect the chamber for defects – Chamber bodies should be flat and straight.  This should be confirmed periodically (such as when other scheduled maintenance is taking place).  To check, take a long straight edge and lay it along the full length of the doctor blade.  Look for gaps which indicate that the chamber is bowed or warped.  Also, examine the blade mounting surface and holder for corrosion and pitting.  The chamber should be replaced if any of these conditions are evident.

4.  Replace consumable parts – It is important to replace doctor blades and end seals when needed.  Skimping on these inexpensive consumables is penny-wise and pound-foolish!  Using new blades and seals to ensure a good contact area with the anilox roll and a tight chamber seal will prevent chamber leaks and anilox roll damage.

5.  Standardize a cleaning and maintenance routine – Establish a recommended schedule of cleaning and maintenance for the doctor blade chamber.  Make sure that procedures are documented and press operators are properly trained and evaluated.

The doctor blade chamber is a precision tool that plays a vital role in producing a consistent product, and a regular routine of cleaning and maintenance will ensure its peak performance.  A small investment here will go a long way to guarantee that this press component does its part in keeping your bottom line healthy and your customers happy!

New Polymers Meter Like Steel Doctor Blades

MicroTip TechnologySteel doctor blades used to be a printer’s only option to produce high-end graphics.  It wasn’t because he didn’t want longer blade life and the safety benefits that came with using plastic, steel was simply the only material that could sufficiently meter a high line screen roll.  Not anymore!  Today’s next generation polymers and advanced tip engineering have at last resulted in a non-metallic doctor blade with the metering quality of steel.  This blade can replace steel doctor blades in a full range of flexo printing applications from solids and lines, to reverses and fine print, to screens and process work.  Here’s why.

Steel Doctor Blades vs. Traditional Plastic

Due to its thinness and stiffness, steel has been the only blade material that could achieve a fine point of contact sufficient to execute a clean wipe on a high line screen anilox roll.  By comparison, the characteristics of traditional plastic doctor blades require them to be thicker to provide the same rigidity.  While they have other benefits in terms of safety and blade life, their thickness prevents them from maintaining a fine contact area with the anilox.  As they wear and their contact area with the anilox roll grows, plastic blades produce changes in tonal value and dot gain when metering high line screens.  For this reason they have historically been limited to  jobs with low to modest graphics requirements.

Next Generation Polymers

Now, specially formulated polymer doctor blades can compete with steel in the most demanding graphics applications.  Unlike traditional plastic, the stiffness of the next generation material with a precisely engineered MicroTip™ edge allows the blades to achieve and maintain a fine contact area with the anilox roll.  They can deliver effective metering on line screens up to 2,000 lpi (785 L/cm) and produce graphics of the highest quality.  The following diagrams compare the contact areas of traditional plastic, steel and next generation polymer blades:

Doctor Blade Contact Area Comparison

Doctor Blade Contact Area Comparison

As shown, the contact area of a worn traditional plastic blade grows to .060″ (1.52mm) compared to a contact area of .016″ (.40mm), for a worn steel blade.  The next generation polymer is able to maintain a contact area of .012″ (.305mm), equal to or smaller than that of most steel doctor blades, throughout the life of the blade due to the edge design.  The engineered tip wears slowly and evenly and delivers consistent ink film thickness for the duration of the print job.

Today’s innovations in polymer doctor blades offer printers a viable alternative to steel.  A combination of advanced materials and new tip technology has yielded a blade that meters as well as steel on the highest line screens yet retains the benefits of traditional plastic.  Printers no longer have to compromise on anilox scoring, blade life, and safety to fulfill the most demanding graphics requirements!

Click Here To Request a Sample