Well, first of all
congratulations on your new press. There is no doubt that if you want to stay
ahead of your competitors and remain profitable you have to continue to invest
in state of the art equipment that incorporates newer technologies such as
sleeve systems. I am also pleased that you are asking about the handling of
your anilox sleeves.
While sleeve technology in itself has come a long way in
manufacturing terms I still come across too many companies with severe damage
to their sleeves due to a lack of understanding as to how to handle and care
for them. This should not be the case as all manufacturers offer extensive
technical support on this subject but usually boils down to lack of follow up
by management and continual retraining of personnel in all areas that are
associated with the handling of the sleeves.
One of the key areas that has to
be observed is the general cleaning and cleanliness of the sleeve. Most
printers understand how critical it is to keep the engraved surface clean but
with a sleeve you also need to keep the inner bore of the sleeve and the air
mandrel surface spotless at all times. Sleeves are generally best stored on
specially designed racks that support the inner sleeve either vertically or
horizontally .They should never be stood up on a hard surface or floor. Nor
should they be laid flat on any surface for any amount of time as this will
potentially cause flat spots and run out issues.
If sleeves have to be turned
and placed on end you should make sure you have thick rubber matting in and
around any area that this is likely to take place. When mounting the sleeve to
the mandrel avoid rocking the sleeve onto the mandrel as this may cause
cracking on the ceramic surface and can damage the internal expansion layer and
Most sleeves are built on a composite material, expansion layer and
then an aluminum shell so aggressive caustic cleaning solutions need to be
avoided and can cause delamination of the sleeve layers.
impression settings can also cause premature failure and TIR issues with the
internal structure of the sleeve, which will result in uneven print at best.
Always only use the max air pressure
recommended by the manufacturer, which is again why keeping the sleeve and
mandrel clean at all times is critical. Too much air pressure will not only
cause damage to the sleeve but can lead to catastrophic failure of the air
mandrel in extreme cases. In addition you need to ensure that the air supplied
to the mandrel is kept dry and free of any contaminants such as oil as these
will cause problems with sleeve mounting and demounting. As with all ceramic
engravings the engraved surface is brittle and should be protected from impact
damage at all times. If the end of the sleeve does begin to split it should be
glued immediately to help reduce complete failure; it is only temporary but may
extend the life of the sleeve for a while longer than if not attended to.
larger sleeves can be quite heavy so should be transported using appropriate
carrier trucks or at least by two pressmen. Even at press side there needs to
be appropriate tooling to allow sleeves to be stood up safely during sleeve
change overs. If they are not properly supported they can easily be knocked
over and they will become distorted even if the ceramic engraved surface does
not crack or chip (if you are that lucky) so please consult with your supplier
as to what to use. The bottom line: invest in the right storage, cleaning and
handling devices at the outset and make sure all of your staff are trained and
familiar with how to handle your sleeves. I don’t think I need to tell you how
expensive they are and the down side of not protecting
your investment from day one.