Achieve Superior Results with Laser Anilox Cleaning

By now, nearly everyone in our industry has heard of laser anilox cleaning.

Whether or not someone within your organization has conducted the appropriate due diligence into this great technology, there are a handful of widely accepted advantages. As noted in my Virtual FORUM 2020 presentation, those benefits include: sustainability, performance and cash savings—aka, bottom-line profit.

Sustainability benefits of laser cleaning versus traditional liquid cleaning technologies include:

  • Alleviating the need for caustic chemicals—a primary driver because of the costs associated with purchasing the product—as well as costs for disposal and freight
  • Time saved from managing an anilox roller inventory
  • Reduced water usage. Converters are quickly seeking ways to become more sustainable and a key element of that is the amount of H2O they consume
  • Far less impact on the environment, because laser systems do not require a heating of chemistry or a water source, and so they use significantly less energy
    Laser cleaning contributes to a better than 20 percent improvement in density after ink laydown.
    All photos courtesy Eaglewood Technologies

Sustainability Secured

There are three pillars that make up sustainability.

The first is “people,” which can include your customers, employees, citizens or community. People can refer to either part of a particular business seeking economic growth or it can reflect the broader community impacted by business decisions.

The second pillar is “planet.” Conservation is clearly at the heart of the planet pillar of sustainability.

The remaining pillar is, of course, “profit.” Businesses are often in pursuit of creating efficiencies—innovating. These goals within a sustainability mindset will assure that a business can remain profitable, while streamlining its production methods and challenging suppliers to continue to innovate.

Laser cleaning eliminates the need for caustic chemicals that can damage an anilox roll.

Without one of these pillars, the idea of sustainability is unsustainable, and the movement simply can’t succeed. Creating a more environmentally safe process is a goal. It has to make sense financially and benefit employees and community. Lasers are undeniably the most sustainable cleaning technology available on the planet. Converters need to understand how they can benefit the bottom-line and improve employees’ lives. Historically, sustainable practices meant making sacrifices financially—not anymore.

Laser cleaning ultimately offers superior cleaning results that translate into easier color matching. We can all agree that a dirty anilox can dramatically affect color matching. When an anilox is 100 percent clean, ink releases from the anilox as specified. When press operators are certain that every anilox put into the press is going to perform like a new anilox, it reduces makeready times, improves press uptime and simplifies the overall process.

More consistent print quality and brand color accuracy allow companies to cut waste while improving the bottom-line. Laser systems tend to be more automated, so there is less user interaction with the machine and cleaning results are more consistent. In comparison to traditional liquid cleaning systems, laser systems can gain 10 percent to 30 percent more volume. That can dramatically affect print. Why and how?

  • Laser cleaning simplifies the interaction between operator and machine
  • It provides repeatable cleaning results in addition to repeatable printing outcomes
  • A converter’s employees benefit from adopting laser cleaning since chemicals are no longer handled and PPE for handling these chemicals is not needed
    When an anilox is 100 percent clean, ink releases from the anilox as specified. Consistent ink lay, density readings and repeatability translate into cost savings.

Peak Performance

Performance benefits include ablating all components of your ink chemistry. Where some liquid cleaning technologies can remove pigments, laser cleaning can remove 100 percent of the ink or coating contaminant. This is where the more consistent ink lay, density readings and repeatability translate into cost savings. From the perspective of the planet, laser cleaning:

  • Eliminates water consumption
  • Excludes chemicals
  • Reduces freight

Removal of these items directly impacts our environment in a positive way. There is not a more environmentally friendly cleaning technology on the planet.

Profit & ROI

Customers purchase laser anilox cleaning technology because it makes sense financially. Cost savings can also be seen with the aid of a traceability software package. If your production team has the ability to track every anilox in your inventory, then it can drastically streamline makeready times and ensure any anilox can be found when the press is ready.

Laser systems do not require a heating of chemistry and water sources, so they use significantly less energy and there is no impact on the environment.

Traceability programs can not only track every anilox in inventory, but also when it was cleaned, who cleaned it, how it was cleaned, and its wear and tear. Data like this is accessible by production teams wherever they are, be it in an office or on the production floor. Data-driven teams can make quicker decisions that ultimately assure they can deliver a quality product on time.

For example, one printer saw a 15-month ROI, simply because its existing cleaning technology was consistently damaging $40,000 worth of aniloxes annually. Now, the same converter is seeing additional cost savings due to decreased waste. Elimination of water costs, disposal costs, consumable costs, freight costs and downtime issues made this one of the best pressroom decisions it had made in a long time.

Mulheran presented this information as part of Virtual FORUM 2020 in the session titled Innovation and Technology Born from Frustration. FTA members can watch every presentation from this session, as well as presentations from the other five Virtual FORUM 2020 technical sessions, on MemberConnect.

About the Author

Peter Mulheran headshot
Peter J. Mulheran is VP and GM of Eaglewood Technologies, a global supplier of sustainable roll cleaning solutions for all market segments of flexography, exemplified by the Sitexco Laser Anilox cleaning system—winner of a 2018 FTA Technical Innovation Award. Peter is responsible for managing the sales channels and product portfolio domestically and internationally, along with the day-to-day operations of the company.