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Back to Basics

Maximising Pressroom Efficiency

As we continue to strive for perfect production, Harriet Gordon looks at how the super sidekicks of the pressroom can give your business an edge

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Powerhouse machines are nothing without the appropriate super sidekicks

Super sidekicks

We often describe, in the pages of this magazine, the latest and most advanced printing equipment, which claim to offer top of the range quality for a top price-tag. Yet these power-house machines are as nothing without the appropriate ancillary equipment, ensuring they can live up to the quality and efficiency they promise. Whether it is static control, web cleaning, ink filtration, or cooling technology, this equipment is essential for maximising the potential of your pressroom.

Keen to expand on the importance of such subsidiary technology is Peter Benton, managing director of Technotrans. He asserts that ancillary equipment in the pressroom is critical to overall productivity and efficiency, commenting: “Printing presses, litho or digital, are made to extremely high tolerances, and as such to ensure they perform at their optimum, it is critical that other factors in the production process are also closely controlled.

Benton from Technotrans says you ignore issues of humidity and ambient conditions at your peril. Pictured: Heat recycling schematic

“Paper quality, ambient conditions, ink, chemistry, and humidity can all can have a significant positive or negative impact. Allow any one of these to get out of control, and a loss of production, or reduction in quality will take place. Ignore them at you peril.”

Technotrans is one company providing a number of solutions that can improve the stability of the process, which can in turn contribute to reducing costs.

It is important customers discuss options at the press ordering stage, as this can enable simple spec changes to be made at this time and avoid future retrofits

Benton continues: “With our considerable experience, Technotrans are able to advise on where improvements can be made. Generally, presses are delivered with Technotrans cooling via the OEM. It is important customers discuss options at the press ordering stage, as this can enable simple spec changes to be made at this time and avoid future retrofits. Key areas for discussion would be water cooling, filtration, water treatment, humidity control, and ink handling.”

Cover all bases

Another company that can assist with a wide-range of your ‘ancillary’ needs is CyanX. According to managing director Richard Mawson, a focus on this equipment is important if printers want to get an edge over their competitors, reduce costs and improve efficiencies: “Some are there to reduce downtime and the amount of maintenance required. Other systems exist to enhance and improve production capability—either to streamline a process to improve productivity, enhance quality, or offer something extra to allow a printer to produce for new markets, often in niche areas.”

Richard Mawson of CyanX explains that while some ancillary systems reduce downtime and the amount of maintenance required, others exist to enhance and improve production capability

Mawson continues: “The definition of ‘ancillary’ would normally include much more than static, web cleaning, ink filtration and cooling. CyanX supply a long list of products including humidification, automated ink supply systems, retrofittable coating, foiling and UV drying systems, plus a huge range of pressroom items from anti-marking products to powder sprays. Recently larger items of standalone capital equipment such as the new Trimatt Cardline system have become available via CyanX. This is a machine which offers a range of niche finishing options, typically gluing cards (e.g. credit cards) to mailers.”

Looking at the ink supply systems particularly, Mawson points to those manufactured by Betz and supplied via CyanX: “They are typically installed on offset machines undertaking high volume work. The productivity benefit of a continuous ink supply is obvious, as manual ink replenishing is eliminated, but there are also savings to be made on ink, as it can be supplied and fed in bulk via 200kg drums. Multiple presses can be supplied simultaneously, and ink dosing can be performed as part of the process if required.

“Betz ink agitation systems prevent ink skimming over during idle press time, and the recent trend for UV inks—particularly those used in LED-UV printing—has led to an increase in demand, due to a faster reaction by the ink to daylight. A level supply of the ink fountains across the sheet width can be ensured automatically via sensor feedback, or semi-automatically via a push button.”

Ecstatically static

While some firms provide a wide range of equipment to help manage your pressroom, others specialise in one or two areas. For Meech International, it is static control and web cleaning that business development manager Donald Lewis highlights as instrumental in providing high and consistent standards of print quality.

Donald Lewis from Meech International says static control and web cleaning are intrinsically linked and without them the press operator will be fighting to maintain quality standards

He says: “They are intrinsically linked and without them the press operator will be fighting to maintain quality standards, which will ultimately mean more plate and print station cleaning with more press downtime and associated waste. The technology befits today’s busier printing environments, which demand higher production speeds that invite static-related issues. Aside from attracting unwanted contamination to the surface of the web, static can prevent ink from adhering properly or even cause solvent-based inks to ignite. For these reasons, an appropriate static control solution is required.”

O Factoid: Lightning is a dramatic natural example of static. While the details remain a subject of debate, the initial charge separation is thought to be associated with contact between ice particles within storm clouds. O

Static can be a serious issue for a pressroom, attracting loose dirt and other contaminants found around the production floor and nearby machinery, impacting on press performance and final print quality. Web cleaners can counter this problem by removing any loose debris from the substrate prior to printing, ensuring a pristine print surface.

Lewis continues: “Along with a wealth of experience, Meech can provide linked and tuned static control and web cleaning solutions along with the technical advice and application support needed to ensure the issues are dealt with accurately and efficiently. Meech’s static control solutions come in the form of its Hyperion ionising bars, which are fully compatible with most digital printing lines—the 971IPS and 929IPS being two examples.

“Developed in response to customer feedback, these bars provide efficient ionisation from a 24V power supply. The most recent addition to the Hyperion series, the 924IPS is the first, purpose built, industrial 24V pulsed DC bar for short range applications and is the most compact pulsed DC bar available on the market.”

Meech’s web cleaning systems come in both contact and non-contact form for digital presses. The TakClean, a contact-based system, features specially formulated TransTak elastomer contact cleaning rollers and perforated adhesive rolls, making it suitable for narrower and slower presses.

Lewis adds: “Perfect for the newer, higher speed presses, Meech’s non-contact system—the CyClean—has optimised cleaning efficiency that allows it to remove and extract contamination to below 0.5 micron. Capable of handling virtually any substrate, the system provides a future proof solution for when new inkjet printable webs enter the market.”

Lewis says that Meech’s non-contact system —the CyClean —has optimised cleaning efficiency that allows it to remove and extract contamination to below 0.5 micron and is perfect for the newer, higher speed presses

CyanX also supplies a range of products to help businesses master static in the printroom. Mawson explains the options available for printers: “In many situations the budget solution is all that is required, so savings can be made if printers consult specialists with a range of static solutions like CyanX.

“Ionix products are suitable for all printing equipment using forced air. For offset presses, this typically means the feeder, delivery and powder spray unit. Many finishing applications also benefit from Ionix systems including folders, binders, die cutters and laminators. Ionix static eliminators improve upon old fashioned electronic ionisers by supplying ionized air to neutralise the opposing charges causing the static charge. They require no maintenance and are easy to install.”

He continues: “CyanX recently became agents for StopStatic, which has a range of highly innovative products including StaticString, StaticElastic and 360 Ion Rods which cover a broad range of applications from sheet fed, flexible packaging, converting, coating, laminating, plastics and numerous reel-fed processes. Alternatively, supplied as a trigger spray, X-Stat is an inexpensive and effective solution for long term static control. The spray is water-based and once dry leaves an ultra thin static-dissipative coating which prevents the build up of static charges.”

Air-tight solution

Air control is another vital aspect of pressroom management. All litho presses require vacuum, high and low pressure compressed air. Indeed, pneumatically controlled machines rely on compressed air for their operation, and an adequate supply of air for various processes is essential to maintain good sheet handling and optimise production speeds. Vacuum is also extensively used by finishing equipment for sheet handling processes.

Yet, because of the position of pump units in printing and finishing equipment—in out-of-the-way cabinets or under running boards—they can often be forgotten about, so maintenance can be neglected. If a pump stops, so does the machine it is helping to run, and so production stops. Vacuum pumps and compressors are a vital part of print production and any sheet handling process, as Graham Moorby, joint managing director of Printers Superstore, confirms: “Through our company VacAir Superstore, we operate extensively within the printing industry, and we are experts in air technology, offering new units, parts and servicing for a wide range of market leading manufacturers such as Becker, Busch, Rietschle and Gardner Denver and are UK agents for DVP.

“At VacAir Superstore we offer the latest in Vacuum pump technology. We have engineering and technical staff, spares, an engineering workshop and offer both new and refurbished units all designed to ensure our customers keep in production. We are also quality assured to ISO9001:2015.”

Moorby continues: “Our Shinohara and Hans Gronhi presses have de-humidifiers installed to cope with condensate that can build up when using compressed air, to ensure that there is no condensation in air lines of the machines to enable long life and trouble free operation.

“The big trend was towards maintenance free operation with dry running rotary vane units replacing the old oil lubricated pumps of yesteryear. Quiet and maintenance-free units can sit in a cabinet or under running boards, efficiently supplying air on demand.”

Moorby adds: “The latest innovations are with contactless or claw units which have no sliding vanes or with an invertor driven unit so power to the pumps can be efficiently worked in synergy with the speed of the press. Motors are also now have an EXII motor efficiency rating and have thermal cut outs for extra protection.”

Air is something that can easily be forgotten about by the busy printer, but it is something that is critical to the whole printing process. When the air stops so does production, so it’s important to have the right equipment and to maintain it. Repair bills and downtime can be expensive and very inconvenient.

Looking to the future, Benton from Technotrans identifies this as a key point, suggesting that remote diagnostics will lead the way in minimising downtime for businesses: “Printers operate lean companies. If support is needed, it is critical to be able to provide solutions as quickly as possible.

“Remote diagnostics often enable either a permanent or temporary solution to be achieved over the phone. If not, an engineer can often arrive with good prior knowledge of the fault, and parts to enable a first time fix.”

Whatever the future of the print industry, it is clear that more advanced presses and substrates will continue to be developed, meaning it is the most dynamic and multi-faceted ancillary equipment that is likely to stand the test of time.


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