A quick visual inspection can give you a very good idea of the general condition of any anilox. Look for score lines, dings, chipping around the edge of the roll and of course general contamination.
Any roll with a significant number of score lines, mechanical impact damage or chipping around its edge is likely to need relacement sooner rather than later. In regard to cell condition and current volume capacity this cannot be done with the naked eye and requires some form of magnification in the form of a roll scope or interferometry device.
The roll scope is the most common but is dependent very much on the operator skill and can be very subjective. That said, in the hands of an experienced operator it can be reasonably consistent provided the scope is well maintained and calibrated on a regular basis. It does allow for pictures to be taken of the cells but requires a manual calculation by the operator to determine the cell count and to calculate a theoretical volume.
There are also a number of liquid volume test methods to help determine volume but they again require considerable operator expertise and can have quite a wide
range of accuracy. Interferometry is probably the most accurate but again requires significant operator training, regular calibration and is a
significant investment but is capable of providing very accurate data and pictures in 3D showing the exact cell structuure, line count and volume. It is up to each printer to determine how much information they require, which will determine the level of investment necessary.
You can of course ask your roll supplier to carry out a regular inspection of your anilox and provide you with the same information but there is always likely to be some bias in regard to the information given so you should always review the data provided and apply some common sense yourself, particularly when it comes time to replacing your rolls.