New Supply Line
Beyond the problems outlined above, what might drive a printer to change current ink, anilox roll or doctor blade suppliers, and how difficult is it to make the switch? FLEXO asked FTA printer members. Of those that responded, 81 percent rated the swap out on the more difficult end of a 1-5 scale. Twenty-seven percent opted for 5; 27 percent, 4; and 27 percent, 3. Eleven percent gave it a 2 and 8 percent assigned it a 1.
To no surprise, 44 percent of printers choosing to answer the question observed that cost came into the equation. Similarly, 15 percent pointed to service and support rendered. Nine percent pinpointed installation of new equipment, specifically a press and fully automated prepress workflow systems, as driving change.
Supplier-driven moves, like discontinuation or update of a series, were also cited as necessitating change. Internal decisions, like switching from water-based to solvent inks, or vice versa, came into play, as did characterizing the press to new conditions.
What Types of Inks Do You Use?
Responses indicated 62 percent of printers commonly use solvent-based inks in their plant, with 42 percent utilizing water-based inks, 23 percent ultraviolet (UV) or electron beam (EB) curable inks, and 6 percent specialty inks. With many shops running multiple applications, a variety of inks are used. Density ratings were most often assigned in a range of 22-26 for solvent-based line, solvent-based screen and water-based inks when utilizing a #2 Zahn cup.
In terms of anilox rolls, better than 90 percent of poll takers relied on the 60 degree hex, but both cell volume and linescreen vary across virtually every option. BCM measurements quoted ranged from 2.0 to 8.0 with lpi of anywhere from 100 to 1,200.
Printers reported using more than one form of plate material as well. Most common proved to be solvent-washed, utilized by 67 percent of those sampled, followed by thermal at 31 percent and water-wash at 12 percent. Forty-five percent of Flash Poll respondents indicated they are using screening on their plates to achieve higher ink density and higher opacity whites. Fifty-five percent are not.
How Often Do You Clean Your Aniloxes?
Ninety-four percent of printers surveyed noted their plants have or plan to standardize anilox roll inventory for process and line work. Only 6 percent had no such intentions.
When it comes to properly maintaining such inventories, 57 percent of the audience reported that all anilox rolls used are cleaned every seven to 10 days. Thirty-one percent clean their rolls immediately upon removal from press and 12 percent at the end of each job.
Chemical wipe and/or chemical baths represented the preferred cleaning method cited by 77 percent of those sampled. It was followed by ultrasonic blasting at 26 percent and laser at 6 percent. More than one of those options is deployed in some plants.
One interesting point of note: While 71 percent of printers polled have no intent of purchasing new cleaning systems in the near future, of those that do, leading choices are the complete reverse of common practices. Seventeen percent are looking to install laser cleaning equipment, 8 percent ultrasonic cleaning systems and 4 percent chemical baths.
The logical conclusion here: Chalk these and similar moves up to continuous technological advancements and the benefits to today’s flexo printer/converter delivered in terms of quality, consistency, productivity and customer satisfaction.