There was a time, not very long ago, where machines were simply machines.
Now, we categorize and assign adjectives to them: part of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and Industry 4.0; “smart,” “connected,” “green.” More than mere words, their presence signifies noteworthy capabilities, future proofing, forward thinking, and an awareness of import and impact on a company and its consumers.
The adjective “elite” in Paper Converting Machine Co’s (PCMC) Meridian Elite denotes all of these things. The anilox cleaner uses a proprietary, patented laser and rotational scanning to avoid creating hot spots on a roller. Its cloud database stores details of every cleaning cycle performed on every anilox roller in a printer’s inventory. That data is accessible from any smartphone, tablet or computer around the world. And the benefits it brings to flexographic printers—among them, improved first pulls and greater color consistency—come with no waste stream or harmful-to-the-environment chemicals.
For this package of progressive technologies, the manufacturer has received a 2020 FTA Technical Innovation Award, the sole winner of the Prepress – Pressroom category.
“We’re very honored to receive a 2020 FTA Technical Innovation Award. We worked very hard over the past year to develop the Meridian Elite and make it the fastest, smartest, safest laser cleaner available in the industry today,” says Rodney Pennings, director of sales at PCMC. “We are proud to partner with our customers to learn about what issues affect their business and work with them to develop solutions. Winning the Technical Innovation Award for two consecutive years is a testament to the fact that we are passionate about driving innovation within PCMC and the industry.”
A Laser-Like Focus
PCMC spent more than a year developing the Meridian Elite. Using its existing Meridian laser anilox cleaner as a starting point, the company went about refining and improving the machine. Pennings says it conducted innovation sessions with a team of engineers and product managers, along with a handful of customers. From those discussions, PCMC distilled comments, requests and concerns into clear objectives.
“We wanted to develop a laser that would completely eliminate the possibility of hot spots and improve design features of the original Meridian,” Pennings explains. “Through evaluation and design reviews of current technology, we developed the Elite cleaner, utilizing rotational motion to provide higher performance and reliability.”
The rotational motion of the laser inside the Meridian Elite differs from the oscillating motion used by other anilox cleaner lasers. Their back-and-forth motion creates hot spots in areas where the laser’s motor slows down to change directions, and PCMC says those hot spots can result in increased surface temperature of the roller and possibly damage it over time.
In contrast, the Meridian Elite’s rotational motion—where the laser is in constant motion and moves at a controlled speed—avoids the scenario that creates hot spots in the first place. Forgoing the need to slow down also enables faster and more efficient cleaning cycles. Pennings notes that the company’s laser technology is patented and was created in-house: “Outside laser manufacturers were not utilized. It is 100 percent PCMC’s design and innovation.”
The laser also makes use of an auto-focus system, where sensors interpret the energy reflected from a roll’s surface to determine its positioning in the cleaner. The Meridian Elite can then adjust the positioning during the cleaning process.