Current anilox cleaning technology standards are out of sync with the new technological and environmental reality: Anilox rolls are being continuously improved with higher linescreens, and inks are becoming more complex and more challenging to clean; while environmental regulations are becoming stricter. In some cases, the annual cost of waste fluid disposal is higher than the original value of the equipment.
The Aeromaid cleaning system responds extremely well to current complex anilox geometries and ink characteristics and is easily adaptable to future ink formulations. Flexomaid’s goal was to design a system that provided clear, improved, contactless cleaning quality and consistency, while substantially reducing environmental impacts.
For accomplishing this, PAD Peripheral Advanced Design Flexomaid won Flexographic Technical Association’s 2016 Technical Innovation Award in the Heavy Metal category. It is the second time PAD has won this award, having been recognized for InkSpec in 2007.
“When we decided to move forward with this idea, we knew it had huge potential,” said Éric Thibault, Flexomaid’s business development director. “This award confirms, once again, that our equipment and detergents really improve the efficiency of our customers’ operations. For us, that’s what matters most. We are extremely honored by this prestigious award.”
Aeromaid cleans all types of anilox and gravure cylinders with remarkable efficiency, accuracy and repeatability, regardless of linescreen or cell dimensions. It uses innovative, affordable, eco friendly and waterless technology to provide consistent cleaning performance, roll after roll.
The Aeromaid system can clean any type of anilox roll available, including next generation rolls. It measures the roll—before cleaning—to determine the right amount of detergent to use, minimizing fluid consumption and providing a return on investment. For example, it takes only 0.4-oz. of cleaning fluid to clean an 8-in. anilox roll with a 3-in. diameter.
The patented Aeromaid cleaning head accelerates air to something approaching the speed of sound. The head applies specialized detergents and a rinse solution (one that is compatible with all Aeromaid detergents).
And it is the head that is equipped with advanced detection technology to measure the length and diameter of the roll before starting the cleaning cycle, sending the measurements— in real time—to the machine’s software system.
Aeromaid’s software uses algorithms to synchronize the rotational speed of the anilox roll and the travel speed of the head. These algorithms also determine the right quantity of detergent and rinse solution to use, depending on the size of the roll. Data collection is completed quickly and ensures consistent cleaning results, while protecting the rolls. The software also allows the cleaning cycles to be individually tailored, enabling the operator to determine the number of passes per cycle or the soaking time for each type of detergent.
In addition, the software monitors the number of cycles performed with each container of detergent and records the type of cleaning performed. Detergents are packaged in 2.5-g., bag in box containers, like those typically used for bulk wine. Each container is equipped with an RFID chip to track the liquid level, lot number, expiration date and other parameters. All of this data is automatically recorded and can be viewed in one of the software windows.
The RFID chip also ensures that only Ecomaid detergents can be used in the Aeromaid cabinet. This maintains the integrity of the cleaning process worldwide. With the client’s prior consent, Flexomaid’s technical team can communicate with the machine remotely using the integrated modem.
The cleaning result depends on two major factors. At a molecular level, the soy bean detergents have the ability to melt resin and uniformly reach the bottom of the cells, regardless of cell size, shape, porosity or linescreen. To this end, Flexomaid’s strength is to offer a detergent that won’t damage rolls or compromise the health and safety of employees. All Ecomaid detergents are biodegradable and aluminum safe. They are also available for manual cleaning and can be used directly on the press.
Because efficiency is a key factor, Flexomaid injects a precise amount of premium detergent for every cleaning cycle, while other systems may recirculate both water and detergent, causing a loss of efficiency and a variation of cleaning quality over time. To dislodge ink residues, the equipment must have the mechanical strength required, as well as the ability to do so without damaging cells. To do this, the Aeromaid cleaning powerhead accelerates particles of air at subsonic speed. The design of the equipment ensures a constant, powerful mechanical action, with the optimum angle for all cells, regardless of roll size.
No Water Needed
The basic kinetic energy formula (Ec = ½mv2, where m is the object’s mass and v is its speed) shows that, for an equivalent impact, an increased speed of the object in motion (which is squared) significantly reduces the mass of the object in motion. By increasing the speed of the particles of air and fluid, Aeromaid’s high precision powerhead reduces the amount of fluid by 100 times, when compared to usual high pressure, water based flexo washing systems.
To clean 2,000 rolls (the average anilox cleaning needed in a narrow web printing facility), a traditional high pressure flexo washing system needs and contaminates 20,000 liters of water—the equivalent of a water truck. For the same amount of rolls, Flexomaid uses 200 liters— the equivalent of a barrel.
The cleaning head does not spray any solid media or generate any wet residue. All cleaning residues accumulate on a micro perforated strip. When the cleaning cycle is complete, the strip moves a half inch closer to the cabinet outlet. A drive system at the outlet recovers the used material on an absorbent paper at the bottom of the cabinet. All the operator has to do is detach and discard it.
The soy-based Aeromaid detergents are effective for UV, water based and solvent based inks; in addition, they are biodegradable. Used in concert with the Flexomaid technology, they are safe for aluminum parts, sleeves, gears and ball bearings.
Return on Investment
The return on investment (ROI) varies from five to eight months, depending on the number of presses and cleanings per day. This estimate is based on 10 additional minutes of production time per press for a printer using six presses. It follows that the ROI can be even faster, if the actual production time saved is greater. In addition, the fact that the system uses a minimal amount of biodegradable fluid results in a substantial reduction in equipment maintenance costs over the long term, while considerably improving environmental performance.