How to Keep Your Flexographic Print Clean and Your Customer Happy
When it comes to print quality and productivity, advancements in the industry leave many struggling to keep ahead of the competition. It has become increasingly critical to thoroughly understand and consistently maintain control over the print process from start to finish. With so many variables involved, however, it can seem like a daunting or impossible task for many. If that’s you, or if you are simply looking for a way to increase your quality and bottom line, then you’ve come to the right place. This is Pamarco’s quick and easy guide to walk you through total ink management and keep your customers seeing perfect print every time.
Easily the most important variable that every printer needs to control is the final result: ink on the substrate. Even slight variation in daily operations can cause inconsistency and defects that result in customer rejection. It’s a waste of time and money, but a preventable one with the right information and implementation. Let’s begin by walking through the three key factors in the ink management process and then we’ll discuss how you can master those areas for good.
Factor 1: Ink Viscosity
The first line of defense in controlling ink color, viscosity is the measure of ink flow resistance. In other words, it’s the thickness of your ink and indicates how smoothly it is flowing. Printers often use measuring cups to ascertain ink viscosity. Essentially, the length of time it takes to drain from the cup indicates the density of the ink. The longer it takes to empty, the higher the viscosity and the more pigment in the ink film. That may sound ideal, but a balance must be found because thick, rich inks are often difficult to dry, print dirtier and cost more to use.
Factor 2: Ink Temperature
Changes in the printing environment have a major impact on print quality. Basically, ink flow is altered by an increase or decrease in temperature, and often drastically so. Because these changes can occur rapidly, monitoring temperature is a critical but finicky process at best. The result of a decrease in temperature is typically seen as low ink density, pin-holing and/or dirty print. The opposite, high temperatures, reveal much quicker evaporation of solvents, water and amines. This evaporation leads to increased usage of ink, solvent, water and amine; it also leads to inconsistent print quality. The ideal temperature for ink is 72 degrees Fahrenheit. When unregulated, temperatures can quickly skyrocket to 120 degrees.
Factor 3: Ink pH
In order to maintain proper pigmentation in your ink it is necessary to control the amount of amines found in it. This, in turn, keeps acidic resins at bay and regulates alkalinity. To put it another way, the ink thickness of water-based inks is determined by the level of amine in the ink. Many printers use ammonium hydroxide and volatile amines to manage the pH in the ink and allow it to flow properly, but this method is not always a reliable one. Anytime the pH becomes unbalanced, ink viscosity increases and the ink can foam and dry faster on the printing plate. Ideal pH is usually between 8.5 and 9.5.
Now that we’ve walked through the three factors that play such major roles in proper ink flow and getting the results that your customers need, let’s talk about how to master them with one tool. GAMA International has given you all the control over all three aspects with the Total Ink Management System. This one tool provides greater power over each area without the need for cups, volatile amines or that daily struggle to maintain the correct temperature. Whether it’s coating, ink or adhesive – water-based, solvent-based, UV or EB, this system automates monitoring and control of viscosity, temperature and pH.
Using an in-line sensor that continually regulates viscosity, temperature and pH (for water-based inks only), the system provides constant and consistent control over changes. The data is sent from the sensor to boards that is then displayed on a monitor for the operator to easily manage and make modifications. Some of the necessary adjustments can even be set to automated levels and will course correct without any outside input.
The GAMA system can be calibrated to match your needs and only requires weekly calibration after the initial process. Another key feature that provides you with greater control over your printing outcome is the system’s unique cleaning method – it is cleaned while the printing station itself is cleaned, so no extra time or work is necessary.
Whether you’re looking for ink, solvent or amine savings, consistent ink density and print cleanliness, cleaner anilox rolls, printing plates and chambers, reduced operator involvement, or an improvement in the quality of ink put back in storage, the GAMA Total Ink Management system can provide it all. Take back the control you need and keep your customers happy time after time.
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Author :John Bingham
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