Hybrid Printing Technology Combines the Best of Both Worlds

The TeaToaster.  An appliance that makes tea and toast?  How nice would it be to have the option of preparing your breakfast and morning beverage at the same time??!  (It doesn’t actually make toast, but a good idea, right?)

There are also innovations in the printing industry that combine functionalities to make life a little easier for press operators.

Today’s brand owners are more demanding than ever, looking for variable data and versioned graphics, short lead times, fast turnarounds and, of course, competitive prices.  These forces are driving industry innovation, and Mark Andy and Flexo Concepts® have led with hybrid technologies that bring flexibility and efficiency to the modern-day pressroom.

Hybrid press technology

In his 2016 article, Hybrid Presses – Combining digital and conventional printing offers converters the best of both worlds, Associate Editor of Label & Narrow Web Greg Hrinya compares hybrid press technology in the label printing market to that in other industries – a hybrid car which relies on multiple power sources or hybrid golf club that features the qualities of an iron and a fairway wood.  Similarly, new hybrid presses combine the benefits of digital with the power of flexo in one piece of equipment.  For printers, according to Hrinya, “The goal is to meet demand for large run flexo orders on the same press that is capable of handling a 500-label order from a local winery.”

Mark Andy’s Digital Series – best of flexo and digital

Mark Andy’s Digital Series, a 2017 technical innovation award winner, does just that.  Built upon the industry-leading Performance Series architecture, these presses leverage the advantages of digital technology with the proven capabilities of flexo.  The optimized hybrid platform is an efficiently designed, end-to-end workflow offering digital printing with in-line converting, decoration and finishing.  This happens all in a single pass and any size converter or job can be accommodated.  The machines run at printing speeds up to 240 fpm (73 mpm) and feature an intuitive user interface and consistent controls.  Operators can customize and enhance their production process to:

  • Increase throughput
  • Minimize cost of operation
  • Optimize process for short to medium runs
  • Maximize versatility
  • Create a superior user experience
  • Obtain reliability of proven P-Series platform

Flexo Concepts’ TruPoint Orange® – best of steel and plastic

Just as Mark Andy’s Digital Series brings together the best of digital and flexo in one press, Flexo Concepts’ TruPoint Orange combines the advantages of both steel and plastic materials in a single blade product.

At one time, steel doctor blades were the only option capable of providing the fine, consistent contact area with the anilox roll necessary to produce high-end graphics.  However, printers had to accept the risks of using steel – dangerous injuries and anilox scoring.

Although plastic is safer to handle and doesn’t produce metal fragments that can cause scoring, traditional plastic doctor blades must be engineered thicker to provide enough rigidity to meter the anilox.  This thicker contact area can’t meter high line screens effectively, so plastic blades were ruled out as an option for narrow web printers.

That is, until the hybrid doctor blade came along.

A product of Flexo Concepts’ Doctor Blade Innovation Lab, TruPoint Orange is constructed from a next generation polymer material and engineered with MicroTip® technology in a combination that is capable of achieving a fine, consistent contact area with the roll.  The blade can effectively produce high quality graphics as well as steel while retaining the benefits of traditional plastic – no dangerous cutting edge or metal fragments that will damage the anilox roll.  Orange doctor blades are able to:

  • Effectively meter line screens up to 2,000 lpi (785 L/cm)
  • Reduce pressroom injuries
  • Eliminate anilox scoring
  • Prevent UV ink spitting even at high press speeds
  • Handle specialty coating chemistries

As the label and packaging market evolves, printers need products that can keep up.  With their hybrid technologies, Mark Andy and Flexo Concepts are at the forefront in developing innovative solutions that combine the best of known technology to help printers operate efficiently and competitively.  What the TeaToaster did for breakfast (in theory), the Digital Series and TruPoint Orange have done for printers:  combine two technologies in one to bring maximum success to the narrow web pressroom.

Learn more about the Mark Andy Digital Series
Learn more about the TruPoint Orange doctor blade

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?

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.

 

Flexo Concepts and Partners Travel “Back to the Future” at Labelexpo Europe 2015

Labelexpo Europe 2015 Collaboration PieceFlexo Concepts and its industry partners have chosen the theme, “Back to the Future,” to present the latest advancements in flexo printing technology at Labelexpo Europe 2015.  The piece will be distributed at the show, and visitors interested in learning more about these progressive technologies will be rewarded with a chance to win daily prizes.

In addition to Flexo Concepts, the collaborators included ACTEGA, CalPoly, Clemson, Harper, MacDermid, and UPM Raflatac.  The companies worked together to produce a printed sample that demonstrates the impressive capabilities of today’s flexographic printers.  The eye-catching piece is a platform for the companies to show off their newest innovations from substrate to press to specialty finishes.

The team decided on the movie theme to honor the 30th anniversary of Labelexpo Europe’s move to Brussels and to pay tribute to the 1980s hit film series, “Back to the Future.”  In the trilogy, time travel lands Michael J. Fox’s character, Marty McFly, 30 years in the future in the year (and month of October!) 2015.  The marketing piece features the legendary time machine, a futuristic DeLorean.  The remarkable changes that occurred over that 3-decade period in the movie are meant to reflect the dramatic improvements that have recently taken place in the flexographic print industry.

LabelExpo Partner Contributions

The inks and coatings were supplied by ACTEGA.  The company’s ACTExact® UV process inks are G7 center-line, balanced colors using the cleanest pigments dispersed into a true, liquid rheology ink product.  Its PharmaFlex® Avalanche UV white is a high opacity ink formulated to trap colors cleanly onto a smooth, even surface.  MiraFoil® UV silver, a brilliant, trappable metallic ink, is formulated with a proprietary aluminum flake engineered for optimum reflectance in the ink structure.  ACTEGA’s PureFlex® UV gold is a bright, true gold color dispersed into a low viscosity, easy to use base.  Its GlossCoat® UV curable special effects products include Glow-in-the-Dark, Optically Variable colors and proprietary Glass/Pearl technology, and Rad-Kote® UV is a curable tactile special effect coating that emulates a rubber feel.

CalPoly was responsible for creating the design, and Clemson University printed the samples at its Sonoco Institute of Packaging and Graphics using its Omet Varyflex press running 125 fpm (38 mpm).

Flexo Concepts’ TruPoint Orange® doctor blade was used to produce the fine microtext and apply the specialty inks and coatings to the piece.  The next generation polymer blade has a “MicroTip®” edge which is capable of achieving a fine contact area with the anilox roll for a more effective wipe.  Orange is considered a replacement for steel in narrow web applications and has been proven effective at eliminating UV ink spitting and reducing pressroom injuries.

Harper Corporation of America supplied its anilox technology for the process and specialty ink.  Harper’s XLT-60° engravings were used for the CMYK sections.  Also supplied were a range of other XLT engravings along with various LaserKote anilox engravings needed to print the various specialty inks.

The piece was printed using a LUX ITP 60 printing plate from MacDermid.  LUX ITP 60 is the only plate currently available in the industry to offer flat-to dots built directly into the plate, with no additional steps or equipment necessary.  LUX flat-tops from MacDermid provide improvements in print quality and consistency.  The plate used at the white print station for this piece was Digital MWW from MacDermid.  Digital MWW is a revolutionary new plate from MacDermid that offers increased opacity and decreased mottle for white ink laydown.

UPM Raflatac provided the substrate for the project.  The company’s new VANISH™ TC ultra-thin, ultra-clear polyester films are the ideal choice for the no-label look on rigid containers in applications where both clarity and resistance against water, oil and chemicals is essential.  Featuring a 0.92 mil top-coated PET face, which is smoother than traditional polypropylene materials, these label stocks provide excellent ink adhesion and a perfect canvas for UV flexo, water-based flexo, cold foil and other complex print methods and imagery.

Be sure to travel “Back to the Future” and learn more about the latest advancements in flexo printing at Labelexpo Europe 2015.  Watch for the creative piece at the show for more information about these industry suppliers and their stand locations.

Anilox Roll Cleaning is Essential to Effective Ink Delivery

Anilox Roll CleaningYou spend a lot of time selecting the correct anilox roll for a job. Careful consideration goes into line screen, cell geometry and cell volume in order to guarantee that a precise amount of ink or coating is delivered to the substrate. Aniox roll cleaning is essential to maintain this precision. If you neglect to clean your rolls on a regular basis, you will not get the most out of your anilox investment. Plugged cells will affect print quality and cause you frustration, waste and downtime. An anilox cleaning program consisting of daily, weekly and deep cleaning will preserve the integrity of the anilox engraving and ensure quality, press efficiency and longer anilox life.

When a newly engraved anilox roll arrives from the manufacturer, volume is even across and around the surface of the roll. As the roll is used, however, a residual amount of ink or coating material is left behind in the cells after the transfer has taken place. The residue dries and creates build-up in the cells.  Over time, these deposits decrease the capacity of the cells and reduce their ability to carry and release the volume of ink or coating for which they were designed. This residue also raises the surface tension, or dyne level, of the roll and increases the tendency of the coating to “cling” to the surface. When this occurs, the roll will not release the proper volume or ink or coating to the plate.

Benefits of regular anilox roll cleaning:

  • The repeated transfer of a precise volume of ink or coating
  • Consistent coverage
  • Reduced labor and less downtime
  • Fewer job rejections and waste
  • Longer anilox life and lower re-working costs

Flexo Concepts recommends a 3-step anilox roll cleaning program:

  1. Daily wiping to prevent ink or coating build-up

Applying a liquid cleaning agent by hand and wiping down the roll with a clean, lint-free cloth on a daily basis is the simplest and most effective way to keep ink and coating from drying and building up in the cells. As a basic rule of thumb, the best time to clean a roll is as soon as it is removed from the press. The longer inks, resins, adhesives, etc. have been allowed to sit in the engraving, the harder these materials are to remove. To maximize cleaning performance, choose a cleaner specifically formulated to remove water-based, UV or solvent-based chemistries based on your application.

  1. Weekly scrubbing with a paste-like cleaner and an anilox cleaning brush

Anilox Cleaning BrushManually scrubbing the roll once or twice a week with a brush and a paste or cream chemical cleaner will mechanically loosen and remove any ink or coating residue that remain in cells despite daily cleaning. The cleaner is applied to the roll, vigorously scrubbed in a circular motion with an anilox cleaning brush and flushed with water while the roll remains in the press. It is important to remember that stainless steel brushes are suitable only for ceramic anilox surfaces and brass bristles should be used for chrome surfaces to prevent damage to the engraving.

  1. Monthly deep cleaning to remove tough ink or coating deposits

Over time a residual amount of ink or coating material is left behind in the cells and the roll requires a deep cleaning to remove these tough deposits. The most common methods of deep cleaning are chemical wash and ultrasonic. The roll is removed from the press and placed into a chemical bath where it soaks in a powerful cleaning solution before being subjected to a high pressure rinse or ultrasonic vibrations to loosen and dissolve the deposits. These methods vary in cleaning effectiveness, risk of damage to the roll, and water and chemical consumption.

Like on other parts of the press, a maintenance program for anilox rolls keeps the ink delivery system running at its peak. Regular anilox roll cleaning will prevent anilox cells from plugging with ink and coating residue and stop build-up before it dries. Maintaining anilox rolls through a regular cleaning program can pay off tremendously in terms of maximizing print quality, press efficiency and cost control.

Click here for more information on our anilox cleaning brushes

Polyester Containment Blades Win over Steel

Polyester Containment Blade

Polyester Containment Blade

For such a seemingly insignificant part of the press, the containment blade’s job is an important one.  After all, it is a fundamental component of the doctor blade chamber.  By forming an enclosed system, the containment blade plays a key role in allowing the printer to maintain ink viscosity, minimize skimming, lower ink consumption and simplify cleanup.

In wide web applications, choosing polyester containment blades over steel is a smart way to save money, improve safety and reduce your environmental impact.  Unlike the metering blade, which has a direct impact on print quality, the containment blade only has to contain ink in the chamber.  This gives a printer more options to choose from with regard to blade materials.  Learn why polyester is a superior choice over steel.

Top 5 reasons to switch to polyester containment blades:

  1. Trail doctoring – Some printers experience trail doctoring at higher press speeds when using steel containment blades. Steel blades are too stiff to allow back-doctored ink to pass underneath the blade and back into the chamber.  Ink builds up on the back side of the blade, pools at the end of the chamber and eventually slings onto the press and web.  This situation not only creates a mess but also affects print quality.  Printers can eliminate trail doctoring by using polyester containment blades.  This material is equally effective at containing ink in the chamber but thin and flexible enough to let back-doctored ink return to the chamber.
  2. Cost – Polyester containment blades cost substantially less than steel blades. The price per inch for polyester typically ranges from one-third to one-half that of steel.
  3. Safety – By replacing one of the steel doctor blades in a chamber with polyester, you can reduce your risk of doctor blade injuries by 50%. Unlike steel, polyester blades are safer to handle than steel and won’t cut press operators when they are installing and removing them from the press.
  4. Environmental impact – During production, polyester blades emit a small percentage of carbon dioxide compared to steel blades. Using polyester containment blades can help printers meet requirements for reducing their carbon footprint.
  5. Anilox damage – Polyester containment blades will not score or damage anilox rolls. The material is soft and contains no sharp fragments which can break off, become lodged against the roll and destroy the engraving as the roll turns.  The material is non-abrasive and won’t cause excessive wear on the roll.  Replacing or re-engraving anilox rolls is expensive, so extending their life can be a huge cost savings.

Printers are always looking for ways to improve efficiency and save money.  Why not choose a containment blade that not only costs less but also has additional pressroom benefits?  Polyester containment blades offer a less expensive and safer alternative to steel that also reduces trail doctoring and environmental impact.  It’s amazing how such a small change can make such a big difference!

Request a Polyester containment blade sample

New Doctor Blade Technology Is Worth a Look

John Hirko

As a salesman introducing new technology to a mature industry, I am constantly hearing, “But I’ve done it this way forever.” Press men are busy and don’t’ have time to waste trying new products when their current ones are working fine. But changing times call for an ongoing evaluation of your print process to find ways to improve. Today’s printers are smart to run controlled tests of new products to make sure they are maximizing efficiency and profitability and “keeping up with the times.”

Anilox roll evolution

Chrome anilox rolls

I like to use anilox rolls as an analogy. When chrome-plated anilox rolls came on the market almost 80 years ago, they were an improvement over the previous (and crude) methods of ink transfer. Steel rolls were covered with a chrome layer and mechanically engraved using a knurling tool. The dimples or “cells” filled with a precise volume of ink and carried them to the plate. This gave the printer more control over the ink application process and better print quality.

As the industry continued to evolve, however, the limitations of chrome-plated rolls became apparent. The chrome surfaces wore down quickly from the friction between the roll and the doctor blade. Due to their shape, the cells quickly lost volume capacity and print densities declined. Also, the maximum line screens that could be achieved with the knurling tool were 500 lpi which was only enough for basic and moderate graphics reproduction. As demands for higher quality printing increased, and there were advancements in presses, plates and inks, so did the need for better anilox roll technology.

Ceramic-coated rolls

To keep pace with the industry, anilox roll manufacturers began applying a ceramic coating to their rolls using a plasma spray device. These new surfaces had hardness of over 1400 Vickers compared to 850-900 Vickers for the chrome-plated surfaces. As the hardness of the roll determines its strength and durability, the new surfaces had better resistance to wear from the doctor blade. These rolls were too hard to engrave mechanically and lasers started being used to etch the rolls. The lasers produced a consistent engraving with cleaner cells and more distinct cell walls. Higher line screens could be achieved to expand a printer’s graphics capabilities. The ceramic surfaces not only lasted longer but the cells were also less sensitive to volume changes from wear. Printers gained more
control over print quality and were now able to achieve target ink densities with thinner ink films.

New doctor blade technology

Like presses and other press components, doctor blades have evolved to adapt to the market. Blade manufacturers are continually experimenting with new materials and edge designs and introducing new doctor blade technology to keep up with their customers’ needs.

Steel

Today’s steel blade users have a choice of carbon, stainless, long life, coated and ceramic blades to fit their precise applications. Until now, steel was considered the only material capable of achieving a fine contact area with the roll and producing an effective wipe on high line screen engravings. Printers had to accept the downside of frequent blade changes, injuries and anilox roll scoring because there were no alternatives.

Plastics

Plastics, on the other hand, have always been known for their blade life and safety. The material has to be thicker to provide rigidity and these blades were suitable only for producing low-moderate graphics. The upside is that they don’t have to be changed as often, and the long and steady wear period allows for consistent ink film thickness for the duration of the print job. The material is also safer to handle and won’t score anilox rolls. Plastic doctor blade choices include a variety of acetals, UHMWs, and polyesters.

Next generation doctor blades

Flexo Concepts® recently introduced a new blade that acts as a hybrid between steel and plastic. A combination of an advanced polymer material and an innovative tip design called “MicroTip™” allows the blade to perform in high line screen applications where previous non-metallic materials were not an option. Printers using these advanced polymer products get blades that can produce the graphics quality of steel while remaining safe to operators and anilox rolls. The blade is now successfully being used in a range of narrow web and wide web applications.

As with anilox rolls and other press components, new doctor blade technology has gone hand in hand with the evolution of the flexo printing industry. The new polymer MicroTip blade is an example of a product that, once again, improves upon “what you were using before.” Why not try it?

Request a TruPoint Orange Doctor Blade Sample
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