When you go into flexo shops across Canada you hear a lot about day-to-day processes and procedures that may work well but still have an appetite for a shop’s productive time. Then you find a customer who has had enough and is looking for a solution. That’s what happened when I visited a Canadian firm that was doing all kinds of flexo printing. With more than half a dozen narrow and mid-web flexo presses on the shop floor they were looking for a fluid control system that would also include a faster and easier way to do press washouts so they could reduce downtime between jobs. As in any fast-paced shop, adding even an additional job per day would yield big benefits to the bottom line. So they asked what we at Anderson & Vreeland might be able to do.
The Heart of the System
Our approach to designing and building a new machine included working with our customer to create a system that would be exact fit for their needs and while also satisfying the fluid control and washout needs for virtually any narrow- to mid-web flexo shop. The heart of the system is a pneumatic, double-diaphragm pump that ensures a consistent and controlled flow of ink to a print deck during printing, then streamlines and automates the process of washing ink out of a system when changing from one job to another. A quick turn of a couple of quarter-turn valves pumps ink out of the ink chamber on the press and back to a drum. Solvent is then pumped through the system to clean out any remaining ink and the chamber can then be filled with fresh ink. This is especially useful, for instance, when removing white or spot colors from various decks when the next job does not require those colors. Without a simple and reliable system, clean-out alone can become a time-consuming task that eats into production time and result in spills that require clean up and increase press downtime.
The flexibility of the system is one of its greatest assets. The “mobile washup system” as we currently call it, can be matched to the needs of an individual shop, with each shop being a semi-custom build because no two shops are exactly alike. Customization, for example, can be in the way pipes are routed or placement of controls, based on the configuration of a given press.
Mobile and compact
The key word in the present product description is “mobile,” which denotes that the system can be repositioned to serve multiple decks on a single flexo press or be used on several presses. Once built, a system is shipped fully assembled and ready for use, needing only a connection to shop compressed air. It is also compact, measuring about 36” high and wide and 34” deep.
One of the most unique aspects of the new system is that it is pneumatic rather than electrical. This reduces costs while simplifying the system and increasing reliability. Electrical pumps work well but add complexity and are more likely to fail as they age. By contrast, pneumatic double-diaphragm pumps are simpler, more reliable, less expensive, and much easier to rebuild with readily available parts.
While the system is fully compatible with water-wash presses, solvent is still the choice in most flexo shops, so we designed it with solvents in mind. This led to the use of stainless steel which ensures the system is both attractive and durable for the long haul. Many systems used in press rooms are built using painted plain steel, but we chose stainless to provide the quality we and our customer felt was important.
The Extra Dimension
We began the design process using two-dimensional drawings as is done for many printing presses and their components. We soon turned to 3D to make identifying problems that might pass unnoticed in a 2D design faster and easier.
The new system was designed and built entirely in Canada and is configured so it can be assembled and shipped within a few weeks of being ordered. As we developed the new system we used machine shops and metal fabricators with which we were familiar, each offering their own ideas and expertise to the design process.
While the first install was at a single large facility, the system is designed for installation in virtually any narrow and mid-web flexo shop. Although a “standard” version of the system is available, our ability to customize the system to match any shop’s need makes this a must-have addition for any flexo shop seeking to ensure a consistent ink flow during production, save time in wash-up, and even add time to their production schedule. Call us at 888-832-1600 to find out how this Canadian-designed and built system can make a difference in your shop.
By Richard Heaps
Technical Sales Representative
Anderson & Vreeland Canada