Paper Converting Machine Co’s Meridian Elite Receives a 2020 FTA Technical Innovation Award

Elite Features

The Meridian Elite is the second generation of PCMC’s laser anilox cleaner, building on a proven method of ablating all sorts of debris from a roller’s cells.

“Laser cleaning has been around for years and is quickly becoming the industry standard for timely and effective cleaning,” Pennings says. “When the cells perform at correct volumes, it allows for better color matching and print repeatability—saving time, ink and waste.”

The Meridian Elite, he adds, removes inks, coatings, varnishes, glue, stiffeners, grime and grease as much as four times faster than other laser-cleaning technologies.

It also utilizes a cloud database—the only laser anilox cleaner to do so, according to Pennings—where information from each cleaning cycle is logged. That includes a unique ID assigned to each roll, the date and time of each cleaning cycle, the intensity of the cleaning cycle, its duration and the roll’s volume before and after cleaning. The database can be accessed locally, through the touchscreen used to operate the Meridian Elite, or remotely, on a smartphone, tablet or computer.

“The data retention of the Meridian Elite allows our customers to have complete documentation of the cleaning process for the lifecycle of every one of their anilox rollers,” he points out. “With the ability to enter in cell volumes from before and after cleanings, it gives printers a very powerful tool to get the most out of their anilox inventory before needing to send a roll out to be recovered.”

Additional features that support the machine’s classification as smart and connected include a sensor that alerts an operator when the vacuum filter needs maintenance, industrial PLC control with I/O link components, and a closed-loop laser, scanner and focus system. “There has been a big emphasis and buzz around Industry 4.0. We wanted to add those features into the Meridian Elite to make it smart, accessible, and easy to operate,” Pennings says.

The Meridian Elite’s smart features flatten the learning curve to use the machine until it is nearly a horizontal line. An operator begins by inserting a roll into the cleaner and then selects it from the database. The Meridian Elite recalls details like its width and linescreen, and can be configured to display pre-loaded job information for cleaning. The operator then selects from four levels of cleaning intensity and presses a button to start the cycle. If they choose to stay at the machine, its touchscreen displays details of the cleaning cycle as well as time remaining. They are also free to tend to their other job responsibilities, as the Meridian Elite can send an alert via text message to announce the cycle’s completion.

“Laser cleaning has been around for years and is quickly becoming the industry standard for timely and effective cleaning. When the cells perform at correct volumes, it allows for better color matching and print repeatability—saving time, ink and waste.”

Rodney Pennings

Removing cleaner waste is not one of those responsibilities. The Meridian Elite, by way of its laser-based method of cleaning, generates no waste stream and needs neither chemicals nor water. Electricity is its sole consumable.

“The packaging industry, like much of the world around us, is making strides to become more sustainable and environmentally friendly. Printers are starting to look toward their preprint and postprint processes to explore ways on how they reduce waste,” Pennings explains. “By integrating laser cleaners, they can eliminate the need for chemicals or detergents and the resulting waste. At the same time, they can enhance color density, advance print speeds and improve the quality of the final product, all of which positively impact the bottom line.”

Two Birds, One Machine

Packaging that looks better and is easier to produce is what one flexographic printer was looking for, and it had a good idea of what to do.

“We recognized the need to become more efficient and at the same time produce a high-quality product the marketplace expects. To do so, we needed to reduce our process variables,” explains the quality assurance manager at the company. “One of the biggest variables in the flexographic printing process is the quality of the anilox roller.”

To tackle that obstacle, the company installed a Meridian Elite at the end of last year. It chose the 2020 FTA Technical Innovation Award winner because of its “efficient cleaning of rollers,” the machine’s size and its cost, and says the ability to change the length of the cycle on a case-by-case basis has enabled it to optimize cleaning time based on the condition and the type of every roller.

“By integrating this device into our printing process, we have been able to reduce our setup times on press and hence, reduce our production costs. A pressroom employee is able to place a roller in the machine for cleaning and at the same time work on another task, for maximum efficiency,” it reports. “Plus, there are no harsh or hazardous chemicals to worry about, which were present in old cleaning processes.”

Future Tense

With the Meridian Elite, PCMC says it has built a machine not only relevant today, but also one that will pay dividends for years to come.

“We truly believe that the Meridian Elite is the best and most innovative laser cleaner on the market,” Pennings concludes. “We think that our patented laser will become a disruptive technology and significantly alter the way that printers and converters clean their rolls in the near future.”