You probably have an accountant who guides you on the right moves to help ensure profitability. But do you ever think of doing the same to help achieve predictable print quality?
“If we can help a printer manage their anilox roll inventory they can have predictable print quality,” says Sean Sawa, Director of Sales for Anderson & Vreeland Canada.
“Flexographic print quality is directly attributable to anilox rolls, which have long been known as the ‘heart of a flexo press’,” says Sean. “The thing is, though, most press operators are not always sure of the actual capacity of the anilox rolls they use. Sure, they look at how a roll is marked, but when a 4.0 BCM roll is two years old it is unlikely to deliver full anilox cell capacity. So when an operator mounts it on a press he’ll probably struggle to get the ink density needed for a job that’s going to be running for a full shift. That is not predictable print quality.”
Knowing more is good
Predicting print quality comes from knowing as much as possible about the anilox rolls on your press. Yet, the physical size of many rolls and the thousands of miniscule cells they contain can make it difficult to accurately measure, let alone track, a roll’s condition on an ongoing basis. The most common process in use today uses a strip of what is basically aluminum foil that is placed on an anilox roll and rubbed firmly so the thin foil creates a mirror image of the tiny cells on the roll. While seemingly efficient, this analog process actually yields little practical information about the condition and health of expensive anilox rolls.
Seeking to provide a higher level of detail, Anderson & Vreeland Canada provides a service called the Anilox Audit, which uses the Troika AniCAM, a device sold by Provident Group. The AniCAM is designed to look deep inside the cells of an anilox roll, take micro-photographic images of wear, dried ink deposits, and provide an accurate measure of cell capacity. When this is done, comparing the bumpy, low-resolution aluminum strip to the comprehensive digital data provided by the AniCAM is like comparing an x-ray with an MRI. Knowing more is always good.
“We have ongoing collaborative relationships with customers in all sizes and types of print shops throughout North America,” says Andy Gillis, General Manager of Provident Group, the North American reseller of the Troika AniCAM. “They look to us to help them get the best possible performance out of their presses and ink systems. The AniCAM has become an invaluable tool for customers seeking to monitor the health of their presses.”
The Anilox Audit yields two immediate benefits: First, it provides an accurate, quantifiable measure of cell depth and overall roll condition. This lets actual cell capacity be marked on rolls so the most appropriate ones can be selected for a job. This avoids operator frustration when cell capacities don’t meet expectations and reduces wasted production time in getting the required ink densities out of an anilox roll that has seen better days.
Second, it gives an assessment of roll life, so new rolls can be ordered proactively. Mr. Sawa recounts how one customer who has been using the Anilox Audit service normally carries an inventory of 72 anilox rolls for different machines. Following a recent assessment using the AniCAM, the company ordered six new Apex anilox rolls to replace older rolls that were nearing the end of their useful life. Without the Anilox Audit the order for new Apex rolls would have been delayed until the older rolls failed on press, potentially delaying a job and its delivery date.
“The Audit helps us help our clients provide better printing for their customers,” says Sean. “This is how we help customers achieve predictable print quality. It certainly encourages proactive ordering of new rolls from our partner Apex, and has also encouraged customers to pay closer attention to the health of their anilox rolls. As a result, customers participating in the audit process have invested in anilox roll cleaning equipment, supplies and solutions so they can prolong the life of rolls they already have. It has also provided a better sense of how much longer rolls in inventory can be used before replacement. This lets printers plan purchases of new rolls based on highly accurate data and avoid unexpected expenses“.
Such predictive analysis is a key driver in offering the Anilox Audit. All members of Sean’s team are fully trained on the Troika AniCAM and will typically spend a day in a customer’s shop using the AniCAM to measure the quality, capacity and expected life of every anilox roll in stock. All findings are documented and given to the customer, then compared on subsequent visits, which are usually about six months apart. Yet, some shop owners want to know even more. “Shops that focus on high-quality packaging are asking for quarterly measurements,” says Sean. “They want to be sure every part of their system is running at optimal efficiency.”
“We want to help customers better understand the importance of the heart of their flexo press,” he explains. “Printers know anilox rolls are wear items and deteriorate over time. The Anilox Audit gives them a precise measure of every roll they have so they can make intelligent decisions about maintenance and replacement of these valuable components.”
You can’t possibly know the true condition of your anilox rolls by looking at them or relying on an analog process. We at Anderson & Vreeland Canada are always here to help you do great work. Contact us to schedule a comprehensive digital analysis of your anilox rolls to help ensure the heart of your press is ready to deliver the predictable print quality you expect.