High-Level Anilox Performance

Damage on an anilox sleeve from internal corrosion.
Anilox care and performance is critical for high-quality flexographic printing.

Three industry experts offer tips on maintaining anilox functionality, including the use and care of anilox sleeves.

Anilox Program: Care, Cleaning, and Handling
David Skellie, president, Interflex 
Laser Engravers

From the perspective of the anilox engraver, the pressroom anilox program for the care, cleaning, and handling of the anilox tool is very crucial to the performance of the roll in the press. The engraver must fully understand the pressroom’s anilox processing conditions to ensure the roll or sleeve engraving is executed correctly to perform within the specified environment. These conditions include understanding the print process, types of inks or coatings applied, handling methods, cleaning methods, and general housekeeping procedures for the anilox.

The engraving process entails adding value to a tool supplied by the tool supply fabricator. In today’s flexographic market, there is a higher trend toward selecting anilox sleeves based upon efficient handling and changeover speed. For this reason, many sleeves are fabricated from aluminum, which needs protection from corrosive applications. The engraver must understand the press applications to ensure the proper barrier coat is applied to protect this aluminum base. Of course, the more corrosive the environment, the higher the level of barrier protection required, in turn equating to higher processing costs.

A ceramic layer is added on top of the barrier coat as the medium for laser engraving. This ceramic is known for being very hard and having a long life in regards to wear. However, ceramic is also inherently porous, which allows migration of whatever it comes into contact with. This again emphasizes the importance of the barrier coat layer to protect the base aluminum. An integral steel base also needs barrier protection as required from the application, although steel is not as vulnerable as aluminum

The pressroom must also determine the best anilox cleaning method for the application. With today’s more environmentally friendly ink systems and the processing abilities for much higher print quality, it is imperative for the operator team to continually monitor the anilox cleaning process. The laser engraver can now supply high-definition anilox rolls, which have cell structures that require more attentive cleaning after the print process. With proper cleaning, the anilox will perform to specification immediately on install and minimize press set-up time.

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