Maintaining Your Flexo Press for Proper Care and Maintenance

The importance of proper preventive maintenance and care cannot be overstated when it comes to maximizing the usefulness and lifespan of your flexographic printing machinery and equipment. Proper care, maintenance, and storage procedures will ensure that your flexo equipment will provide high-quality, defect-free products for many years. It is important to take care of flexo cylinders, plates, and print sleeves to maximize quality use and your bottom line.

Proper Care for Flexo Print Sleeves and Plates

Flexographic printing sleeves made of elastomer are exceptionally durable against solvents, aggressive inks, and abrasion. Photopolymer printing sleeves bring value to specific print jobs, although they are more vulnerable to wear, distortion, and swelling. Whether using photopolymer or elastomer plates and sleeves, neither are completely invincible. They all require the proper level of care tactics for cleaning and maintenance after each print job.

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Some tips for the proper care, maintenance, and storage of your flexo printing equipment include:

Do not put off cleaning – be sure to clean print sleeves and cylinders immediately after running a print job. Putting off cleaning even for a short period of time can cause damage to these delicate equipment components as the ink dries quickly and hardens.

Use the correct type of cleaning solution – be sure to use the right type of cleaners on your flex so sleeves and plates, as different types of inks are better cleaned with specific types of solutions. Many cleaning processes do not require the use of volatile chemicals.

When using water-based inks, a solution of mild soap and water can often do the trick, or isopropyl alcohol can work well for some rubber types of materials. Be sure to rinse well with water.

For oil-based, UV-based, or solvent-based inks, use the right type of cleaning solution appropriate for the ink type.

    • Avoid abrasive cleaners and methods –flexo print sleeves are quite durable, although they do typically contain soft surfaces which can be damaged by harsh, abrasive cleaners and methods. Abrasion on these delicate surfaces can scrub away the delicate rubber surface of both the photopolymer and elastomer print sleeves. Avoid using abrasive materials, wire, or metal when cleaning flexo image carriers.
    • Air dry sleeves to prevent contamination – it might be tempting to wipe your sleeves dry or use an air hose, although either method could contaminate the surface with foreign debris that could negatively affect the quality of your printing. Allowing components to air dry helps to maintain the integrity of the surface.
    • Prevent UV exposure during storage – make sure that all cleaning solvents are fully evaporated prior to storing. It is recommended to wait at least four hours before storing cleaned plates and sleeves. Wrapping these components in a black-backed film or paper can help to block UV rays and ozone, which could alter the physical properties of this delicate equipment.
    • Maintain steady temperatures during storage – the temperature during storage conditions can greatly affect flexo printing components. It is important that the storage temperature does not fall below freezing at 32°F, is never hotter than 90°F, and is stored with little to no humidity. Flexo print sleeves can crack if they get too cold. Contraction and expansion due to temperature fluctuations cause serious damage to flexo print sleeves.
    • Store sleeves upright – always store print sleeves upright and never lay them on the side, which can damage the printing surface. If you must store print sleeves on the side, be sure they are stored properly with a protective cushion to prevent damage.

 

Taking care of your flexo press is an important part of owning and operating converting and printing equipment. Consulting with an experienced converting equipment provider can help you to understand your options with types of flexo sleeves and plates.

Tamarack® Products is a world-class provider of high-quality printing and converting equipment, including modular and flexible solutions that easily integrate with your flexo press. We offer more than 50 years of experience in custom designing in-line and off-line finishing equipment solutions to meet specific requirements in the packaging and printing industry. Contact us to learn more about improving your flexo printing process with quality, high-tech, high-precision converting equipment.