Polymount International says its goal is to create products that help reduce costs and increase efficiency of customers’ businesses. This was the motivation behind creating the Polymount Film Cleaner, which works to save printers money while reducing their startup waste, and is the reason Polymount has been named a winner in the 2017 Sustainability Excellence Award competition.
“At first, we started building a small prototype, and afterward we sat down with an engineering company to make drawings of the whole machine based on this prototype,” the company explains. “Everything was tailor made specific for this machine.”
With the Polymount Film Cleaner, printed film is cleaned and can be reused for the next setup of a new print job, eliminating hundreds of feet of wasted material. Even if the film is not reused, the cleaned substrates can be recycled.
Polymount states it already knew how to remove ink from dirty printing plates due to the company’s Polymount Plate Cleaner, and so the basic concepts from that were used to develop the Film Cleaner.
“The idea was derived from the amount of setup film we saw with customers when they started with our Twinlock Sleeves or when we installed a Plate Cleaner,” Polymount says. “Therefore, it was easy to calculate how much a printer threw away on a yearly basis. This is a huge cost, which made the development of the Polymount Film Cleaner feasible.”
The machine works by guiding the roll of printed film via multiple loops through a tank filled with a specially developed cleaning liquid. An optional recovery unit keeps the liquid clean and allows it to maintain its deinking ability.
At the last station on the machine, the cleaned film is dried and ready for the next setup. The Polymount Film Cleaner can clean up to 164-ft. of printed film a minute and handles water-based and solvent-based inks. It can also process all non absorbent substrates like PP, PET, PE and BOPP. The company says the machine is friendly to the environment and saves “significant” costs on consumables. “This is increasingly relevant in today’s world as printruns are getting shorter, and you have to change jobs more often than maybe a decade ago.”
Every setup roll can be used between five and 10 times before it is thrown away, as long as the material is undamaged. So even if a startup roll is used three times, startup waste is reduced by 67 percent.
The printed film is guided through three stations in the cleaning process from printed film toward reusable clean film:
- Washing unit: The roll of printed film is guided via multiple loops through a tank filled with cleaning liquid. Inside the washing tank are multiple rotating brushes that remove ink from the printed film. Before entering the second station—the after rinsing water tank—all cleaning liquid residue is wiped of the substrate by a pair of wiper blades placed on both sides of the substrate
- After rinsing water tank: The clean film passes in this station to make sure every bit of cleaning liquid is washed off the substrate. After the substrate passes the water station, there is another set of wiper blades that remove the remaining water from the substrate before entering the last station
- Drying unit: The last station before the clean substrate winds down to a roll of reusable film. While the film is looped multiple times through this unit, a constant stream of hot air makes sure that both sides of the substrate are perfectly dry before it is winded on a roll
After the drying unit, the substrate is clean, dry and ready. “The Polymount Film Cleaner does not affect the surface treatment that the substrate received while printing, so after the material comes out of the drying unit, it is immediately ready to be used for the next startup,” the company says.
The biggest benefit, the company says, is the reduction of setup waste per printer, which means less material needs to be purchased. This, in turn, means less material needs to be transported to the facility and processed by a waste company.
“During the test period, we tested cleaning and printing on the same material multiple times and the results were convincing,” reports Polymount. “Based on these results, we know that a roll of material can be used multiple times for different startups. Let’s assume you can use every startup roll just one additional time instead of throwing it away immediately; this will reduce the total amount of waste by 50 percent.”
In addition, material without ink has more value than material with ink, which is beneficial for printers who sell their material to recycling companies. The other advantage is the recycling company can immediately process the clean material in its recycling program, eliminating the step of cleaning the material.
Sustainability Excellence Award Judge Rick Allen, from Progressive Recovery, said, “This an example of a company looking at the flexographic and gravure printing process, finding a seemingly overlooked problem and creating a simple and inclusive solution that provides a reasonable ROI while reducing landfill waste.”