Purchasing a Flexo Press: Installation and Initial Runs

Flathmann: Be familiar with the seller’s contract terms. Will there be additional shipping charges, duties, import fees of any kind or rigging charges? Be aware of additional costs that may not be clearly spelled out. While many manufacturers do not conduct press trials at their factory; some do. This always ensures a faster installation and the confidence of knowing your press does exactly what it is supposed to do.

From completion of this testing to the start of actual shipment from the harbor involves equipment disassembly, transport to a location for export packing, then to the port and finally onto the ship. Overseas shipment depends a great deal on the port of entry into North America and the distance to the plant from the port. Four to six weeks is typical for the entire process. Installation is a relatively quick process, assuming the press was assembled and fully tested at the factory and that it is handled by an experienced crew with all the right equipment.

Of course, the ideal situation is to have the manufacturer handle everything. Any apparent saving by having a local rigging company handle the installation is often quickly lost in the time delays typically experienced by people not familiar with the equipment. The converter’s role would be to have the foundation complete to the manufacturer’s specifications and to have the utilities brought to the specified sites.

Printed web on the overhead of a 52-in. PCMC Fusion board press
Photo courtesy of Paper Converting Machine Co (PCMC)

The commissioning or startup of the press involves the manufacturer’s electricians checking out all the various aspects of the press to ensure proper operation. During this process, maintenance personnel should be involved to oversee and learn about the various aspects of the press. Pressmen can be brought in and production jobs used in the checkout process. Clearly the press should not be scheduled into full production, but once commissioning is complete, limited production can be run during the training period. Operators and maintenance personnel should all be involved in the training process and should ask questions throughout.

Lichon: The preference is to have the buyer lay out in writing exact expectations concerning shipping, install, training and acceptance responsibilities at the time of quoting. Terms like “turnkey” can mean different things to each individual supplier and buyer. “Assuming” certain responsibilities that are not specifically called out and explained in the quote can cause a lot of confusion and hard feelings. Getting as much information, detailed in writing and explained, clearly goes a long way to making the project run smoothly and helps to keep all parties in the loop.

Most suppliers are willing to bend over backward to accommodate a buyer, however, having it clearly spelled out in writing certainly goes a long way in reducing the “he said, she said” finger pointing. Knowing everyone’s exact wants, needs and expectation early-on is the best way to start any project.

Retroflex strongly recommends the buyer have operators and maintenance people visit us prior to shipment of the equipment. This gives them hands-on and heads-up as to exactly what they will be working with. They can get a more relaxed look at the equipment, interact with the machine assemblers, ask questions and learn early on—before they are under the pressure of an on-site install that needs to be up in production yesterday. We also highly recommend that the people who will be working with the equipment either have some prior knowledge of that type of equipment and process, or have people with them who do. Experience, or at least a mix of experience and inexperience, goes a long way to getting the equipment operating at full potential sooner. This should also be followed up with on-site training from the supplier, both at initial startup and a short time later.

Tandon: At W&H Corp, dedicated project managers are responsible for the machine, from the time it ships to warranty end. We stress one point of contact for the customer. It’s advantageous to have the press manufacturer responsible for the entire rigging process, including freight forwarders and staging a team of technicians on-site throughout the process. This means the customer needs to provide only utilities and unloading/staging space.

After installation and commissioning, production support and operator/maintenance training is paramount. Acceptance is typically done by running a mutually agreed upon production job.

Reinhardt:When the time comes to perform initial runs, it’s assumed all of the major press components are in place, all cable connections are made and the utilities are connected. The software has been installed and all systems are powered up and functional.<spa
Initially, the press is webbed up. Tensions are monitored/adjusted and the winders are tuned. The press will sequence through several splices to ensure the system operates smoothly and properly.

Next, a print job is selected for the initial pressruns. Ink circulates through the system and the automatic viscosity equipment is validated/adjusted. Once this is complete, the ink flows to the doctor blade chamber and is ready for service. Plates are mounted onto the sleeves, which are then installed into the press.

The operator then inputs the job data on the touchscreen and starts the press. Automatic systems for registration and impression are performed autonomously and the operator is informed when they are finished (usually in three to five minutes).

The last step in the setup process is color matching. This can be done automatically or under the direction of an ink technician. The press speed is then ramped up slowly, to ensure all systems are working properly.

Operators are involved in each of these steps as a training exercise. Error messages can appear during these first runs and our technicians guide the operators in corrective action. Also, some components can fail during initialization and the training staff can show the maintenance group how to fix the problem.

It would be typical to start with shorter/simpler jobs so operators can become acquainted with the press and all of its features. And then—full production!

Edale’s FL3 with automated slitting module for pressure-sensitive roll labels. Slitting knives are automatically set to proper position to reduce setup time and improve accuracy.
Photo courtesy of Matik Inc

McQuade: The install process starts well before the order is placed, when the customer is given the approximate dimensions of the desired configuration. Systems usually vary from 28-ft. up to 40-ft. Coordination and collaboration between the customer and supplier are initiated to set expectations at the beginning of the process.

The manufacturing timeline is based on the complexity and size of the equipment, along with production schedules of current machines on order with the supplier. This can be as short as four weeks and range up to 22 weeks for a complicated application.

Shipping is coordinated as the equipment nears completion to ensure the customer is ready for delivery. Site preparation documents are often provided well ahead of time, and the process will often initiate a site visit. Criteria such as loading docks, forklift requirements or rigging is needed based on the type of equipment being delivered. The customer must arrange for electricity and venting if required. Otherwise, the manufacturer handles the assembly, integration, install, testing and training.

Training on the overall digital hybrid is a different process than training simply on the digital printer—that is often done ahead of time, so employees get a head start on how to set up files for a variety of conditions. Depending on the equipment, we may use a standardized test protocol or a Customized Acceptance Test, created by both the customer and factory. The key to success is early and consistent communication between the customer and equipment manufacturer. Both play a major role in the final success.

The customer, during the quoting and design process, should advise the OEM of desires for the equipment’s function. From this information, it is important to have material and tooling on-hand to test all the features of the new machine. After testing, having a good ramp-up production period is very helpful. It can take anywhere from a few days to several weeks to reach full production capacity, depending on process complexity and speed at which the operators understand the equipment.