Anilox laser cleaning - Follow up interview
Laser cleaning has been dubbed as the most effective method for cleaning anilox rollers. Is it still waiting for a commercial breakthrough?
At the moment, the demand for laser cleaning as a service is higher than the demand by companies to own the cleaning equipment, as the initial investment is higher than for other cleaning methods. Only large companies might invest. Companies in Europe can send their rollers to The Netherlands from our service point. We deliver service on location in the Netherlands, Belgium France, Germany, Poland, and Austria. At the moment, we develop an off-line cleaning unit for cleaning anilox rollers. This system might be interesting for companies to purchase, the price will be EUR 100,000. This system is maintenance free and has a lifetime from over 15,000 hours. In the long term, laser is the cheapest cleaning method, there is no waste. This laser system uses 220V only, so the electricity consumption is comparable to a dustbin cleaner. Such a system can cause a commercial breakthrough.
Suppliers recommend to clean the anilox after each use. What are the cleaning cycles you see in real life?
Daily cleaning can be done with regular cleaning products such as brush and chemistry or baking powder. Depending on their use, rollers must be cleaned periodically with a more efficient method. I would advise to clean them at least once a year with laser, if a company has its own chemical cleaning or baking powder system.
If you compare the cost of a laser cleaning system with other solutions such as brush and agent, when does the customer see return on investment?
Please understand that it is not only the investment cost but also the quality of cleaning that counts. Based on our experience, the return on investment will be approximately 3 years for a large flexo printer.
Printers are concerned that laser cleaning can destroy their anilox, or at least increase the cell size or volume. Did you ever face this experience?
The principle of laser cleaning is as follows:
Laser cleaning is based on vaporization of material, the dried up ink in the cells vaporizes at 500 degrees Celsius. Ceramic vaporizes at above 2000 degrees Celsius, and so the threshold of vaporizing ceramic is much higher than the dirt. The cells are of course, made with laser but using much different laser energy. More and more printing companies discover the advantages of laser cleaning and laser cleaning is becoming widely accepted.
The best advantage is:
The dirt on the roller comprises of pigments and polymers, the pigment can be removed with chemicals or with ultrasonic. Polymers can be removed only by burning. After burning the pigments and polymers, the ceramic roller will seem new. Ceramic has a high surface tension. If a roller is dirty, then the surface tension is low and inks must be adjusted. After laser cleaning, surface tension becomes high and the printer can then use the original printing receipt for the order.
Laser is an energy hungry appliance. If a printer cleans 8 1200 mm wide anilox rollers a day, how much energy does that consume per year?
The former laser generation used a lot of energy. With the new laser, the power consumption of the system is less than 3000 W.
What is the average maintenance cost of a laser cleaning unit?
There are no mechanical parts so there is no wear. Only optical lenses can become dirty. Maintenance will be less then € 1000 per year