Total Anilox Inventory Control with MicroDynamics’ Veritas

Anilox rolls are not only the heart of the press, they’re also one of the hottest topics in the flexographic industry.

We have debates about them and argue passionately about their capabilities. We use them, scrub them, blast them, laser them, put them back in the press, and count on them to deliver the exact amount of ink that will wow our customers with spectacular print jobs all day, every day.

Unfortunately, anilox manufacturers and printers often operate on different standards and equipment, causing confusion about the most basic metrics of anilox performance. Printers frequently do not have anilox measurement capability in-house, leading to lack of control and a chaotic state for most of the industry. And QC measurements take time, a commodity that’s perpetually in short supply for everyone.

MicroDynamics Zurcher Roberts Figure 1_Veritas
Figure 1: The 3DQC Veritas system from MicroDynamics
All photos courtesy of MicroDynamics

We love aniloxes at MicroDynamics. After all, they’re the focus of our business. We also have a passion for helping manufacturers and printers achieve stellar results and for helping them work with each other. That’s why our Veritas anilox microscope system with its MicroScan3 software, a recipient of FTA’s 2023 Technical Innovation Award in the Prepress Pressroom category, is such a timely and critical innovation for the industry (see Figure 1).

The Veritas system makes industry-wide measurement collaboration fast, reliable and trusted, and collaboration is critical for improving anilox performance and advancing flexography for the next generation.

Fast, Accurate, Affordable

The Veritas was designed from the ground up as a collaboration machine. From its extreme speed, to its built-in database, to its affordability, the Veritas enables a printer to use the same measurement system as its anilox suppliers. With scans as short as five seconds, thorough and multi-scan statistical checks can now be implemented on each and every anilox in a facility.

Scan data from manufacturers is electronically sharable with printers, enabling you to use manufacturer QC data as the initial scans in an anilox’s database, while avoiding error-prone manual data entry. Problem aniloxes that would result in color matching issues can be identified before they make it to press, saving hours of downtime as well as costly ink and material waste (Figure 2).

An anilox’s volume per unit area varies naturally across its surface—sometimes significantly—be it due to fabrication tolerances, wear or surface contamination. Spot-to-spot variations of 5 percent or more are possible even on a new anilox, resulting in the MicroDynamics First Law of Anilox Inspection: The volume per unit area of an anilox cylinder cannot, under any circumstances whatsoever, be accurately determined by a single measurement at a single location.

With accuracy and repeatability unmatched in the industry, the Veritas consistently delivers measurements to a precision better than 0.02 bcm (0.03 cm3/m2) and enables you to confidently determine the true, average volume of every single anilox in your inventory. We named our system the Veritas (Latin for truth) for a reason.

Most printers have dozens, if not hundreds of aniloxes in their inventories. Tracking them every day as new rolls arrive and existing rolls are cleaned is a significant task. That’s why we made the Veritas fast: Printers don’t have time to wait. Incoming assessments take minutes and post-cleaning spot checks are even faster, keeping your people focused on what they do best: printing. We also made it stable; system calibration is permanent, further reducing your workload and increasing your confidence in the state of your inventory.

Under Control

MicroDynamics’ vision for the future of anilox control is simple: All aniloxes across the industry will be accompanied by continuously updated measurement data and will be thoroughly optimized for the job they’re performing by printer and supplier.

MicroDynamics Zurcher Roberts Figure 2_Anilox New vs Used
Figure 2: New anilox (left) vs. damaged anilox (right). An anilox QC program can ensure that if this ever happens in your inventory, it can be caught and resolved immediately.

So, how do we get there? Education and support are critical components, but at the end of the day, we must have the data. Veritas is designed specifically to eliminate the top three barriers to implementing an anilox measurement program: lack of trust, lack of time and lack of technical expertise. It represents a mindset that measurements above all else must be true, reliable and trustworthy.

Building this trust requires unmatched hardware build-quality, instrument-to-instrument consistency that is up to the task, and transparency that allows all Veritas users to validate the accuracy of the system for themselves and share that information with other device users. For decades, anilox suppliers have built trust with the accuracy and consistency of the popular MicroDynamics 3DQC Classic platform, and the Veritas has been proven by both internal and customer testing to provide performance exceeding that of its predecessor at a significantly lower cost.

Time Is Money

Most printers don’t have a dedicated person available to oversee anilox quality control. Therefore, the process of measuring aniloxes must be as fast as possible. MicroScan3’s high-speed algorithms allow measurements to be completed in less than eight seconds, compared with previous-generation equipment that required 40 seconds to 80 seconds. A proper measuring procedure requiring three or more measurements across and around the anilox can now be completed in less than a minute, a very achievable task for an operator who has many other jobs to complete.

The new workflow of MicroScan3 is designed to minimize the number of clicks needed to generate a measurement. Select an anilox from the inventory, set a couple of parameters, run the scan, save the results. Done.

Whether the data are being fully analyzed for process improvement, or quickly used as a “go/no-go” gauge, all measured parameters and images are conveniently stored in the database for further evaluation at any time (Figure 3). Manual involvement from the operator is kept to a bare-minimum, producing excellent measurement consistency between operators and a user experience that makes all the difference in whether the data gets collected or not.

Building the Future

So much is still unknown in the world of anilox rolls, and we’re confident that the anilox space will see key advancements in the next decade and beyond. To fuel those developments, it’s critical that we have tremendous amounts of detailed, reliable measurement data as well as carefully collected press performance data to understand the connections.

Because technological advancements in anilox rolls have such wide-reaching implications on the industry, from wide web to narrow web to corrugated, the more that this data is being connected and shared, the better off the flexographic industry will be.

MicroDynamics Zurcher Roberts Figure 3_Anilox History Page
Figure 3: Anilox history page in the MicroScan3 software. Every anilox in a printer’s inventory should have a detailed measurement history like this one, to ensure correct ink delivery and precisely determine the proper time to re-engrave.

How do different cell profiles impact ink release at low speeds? At high speeds? With low versus high viscosity inks? On different substrates? Answers exist in anecdotal form, but the data is not available to back them up. We are looking at tremendous potential to learn about the many variables that impact anilox performance if we can only collect the data. That’s why the Veritas is ideally positioned to bridge the gap between printers and anilox manufacturers, enabling them to turn this data into the solutions of the future.

Across the industry, the bar is being raised on color standards, efficiency, sustainability and quality. As a crucial part of process control, in-house anilox QC is no longer a luxury limited to the highest-end printers. It’s now a fundamental and accessible component for all printers that enables them to meet rising industry demands for cost, quality and sustainability. All companies share the same question on some level: Will we stay the same and get left behind, or disrupt the status quo and lead the way forward? The Veritas is the answer to this question, and we’re excited to be a part of building flexography’s future.

About the Authors

headshot David Roberts
David Roberts has been chief engineer at MicroDynamics since 2016. He has more than 38 years of experience in electro-optics, designing instruments as diverse as lidars for atmospheric remote sensing, megawatt-class laser power measurement and optical instrumentation for eye care. With degrees in physics, Roberts is currently responsible for advanced instrumentation design and high speed algorithm development at MicroDynamics. He can be reached at [email protected].
hedshot Brent Zurcher
Brent Zurcher, director of operations at MicroDynamics, has led efforts in product development and customer success for more than 10 years through MicroDynamics and its sister companies. A graduate of the University of Georgia in biological engineering, Zurcher has worked on teams bringing key technology advances to market from idea to production. He can be reached at [email protected]. For additional information on the Veritas and MicroScan3 software, visit