Let’s talk about the importance of maintaining clean anilox rolls. This is one of the most critical, best practice fundamentals for repeatable consistency in your pressroom.
Anilox Rolls 101
An anilox is a roller that, in most instances, has many millions of tiny cups engraved into its surface that hold ink. The tiny cups (formerly known as cells) pick up the ink and transfer it onto the printing plate. This ink is then transferred from the flexo plate onto the substrate resulting in a printed image. When the ink is transferred from the anilox roll to the cell only 25% - 50% of the ink is actually transferred from the cell. There are a multitude of variables that influence ink transfer: ink type, ink viscosity, anilox cell shape, press speed and temperature to name a few. The main point is you need the anilox roll to consistently deliver a known volume of ink for repeatable printing results.
So, what happens if your anilox is not consistently delivering the same volume of ink? I think we all have lived through a similar scenario…
You have to reprint a color-critical job. Thankfully, you see the same color ink is still on the shelf. Next, you verify the anilox needed is on press from its last use by checking the serial number.
After putting the new components in the press and beginning set up, you’re completely derailed when you discover your color is weak! The same press, same ink, and same anilox, how could the color be weak? What now? Do you spend the time to clean the anilox previously used or do you start swapping aniloxes?
Ultimately, it was a dirty anilox that caused your press downtime and loss of production. Remember, it only takes the smallest amount of cell plugging to vastly change your ink color. Knowing this, let’s go into some options for how to keep your anilox rolls clean.
Options for Cleaning Anilox Rolls
From the story above, you can see how important maintaining clean anilox rolls is to the productivity of your pressroom. There are many different processes for cleaning your anilox rolls you can adopt in your pressroom.
The manual method involves using a cleaning gel, paste, or solution and an anilox brush. Keep in mind, stainless steel bristles are fit for ceramic (chromium oxide) anilox rolls and brass bristles are recommended for chrome anilox rolls. If you’re interested in the manual method for cleaning anilox rolls, I’ve created a tutorial which you can watch below.
Automated anilox cleaning systems utilize ultrasonic technology that use a specialized cleaning solution and high frequency vibrations to clean the aniloxes.
Other anilox roll cleaning systems include: pressurized anilox cleaning systems, baking soda blasting systems, and laser systems.
Whichever process you chose to maintain clean anilox rolls, my prescription is to use it and use it regularly.
Mark Andy Print Products offers the supplies for manual cleaning and machinery for automated anilox cleaning solutions. Whether you are looking to manually clean your anilox rolls with top quality cleaning products or you are looking into machinery for automated anilox cleaning solutions our supply experts are ready to assist you in finding solution that best fits your business.
About the Author
Dr. Flexo (Bill Enright, Senior Applications Engineer at Mark Andy) has been in the printing industry for over 30 years, serving in a variety of different roles from plate mounting to operations management. Bill has earned his doctorate in printing. Throughout the years, he's learned the quality of a print job is only as good as the consumables that go into it.