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Welcome to  ‘Ask The Expert’.  This page is moderated by industry consultant, Steve Wilkinson.  This page features the answers to your questions. Our visitors can also post comments to these questions/answers as well.  You can learn more about Steve’s background and our ‘Ask The Expert’ page by Clicking Here.

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May 17, 2011

We have just purchased our first sleeved anilox press. Can you tell me some of the fundamental do’s and don’ts in regard to handling, running and maintaining them?

Well, first of all congratulations on your new press. There is no doubt that if you want to stay ahead of your competitors and remain profitable you have to continue to invest in state of the art equipment that incorporates newer technologies such as sleeve systems. I am also pleased that you are asking about the handling of your anilox sleeves.

While sleeve technology in itself has come a long way in manufacturing terms I still come across too many companies with severe damage to their sleeves due to a lack of understanding as to how to handle and care for them. This should not be the case as all manufacturers offer extensive technical support on this subject but usually boils down to lack of follow up by management and continual retraining of personnel in all areas that are associated with the handling of the sleeves.

One of the key areas that has to be observed is the general cleaning and cleanliness of the sleeve. Most printers understand how critical it is to keep the engraved surface clean but with a sleeve you also need to keep the inner bore of the sleeve and the air mandrel surface spotless at all times. Sleeves are generally best stored on specially designed racks that support the inner sleeve either vertically or horizontally .They should never be stood up on a hard surface or floor. Nor should they be laid flat on any surface for any amount of time as this will potentially cause flat spots and run out issues.

If sleeves have to be turned and placed on end you should make sure you have thick rubber matting in and around any area that this is likely to take place. When mounting the sleeve to the mandrel avoid rocking the sleeve onto the mandrel as this may cause cracking on the ceramic surface and can damage the internal expansion layer and end ring.

Most sleeves are built on a composite material, expansion layer and then an aluminum shell so aggressive caustic cleaning solutions need to be avoided and can cause delamination of the sleeve layers.

Overly heavy impression settings can also cause premature failure and TIR issues with the internal structure of the sleeve, which will result in uneven print at best.

Always only use the max air pressure recommended by the manufacturer, which is again why keeping the sleeve and mandrel clean at all times is critical. Too much air pressure will not only cause damage to the sleeve but can lead to catastrophic failure of the air mandrel in extreme cases. In addition you need to ensure that the air supplied to the mandrel is kept dry and free of any contaminants such as oil as these will cause problems with sleeve mounting and demounting. As with all ceramic engravings the engraved surface is brittle and should be protected from impact damage at all times. If the end of the sleeve does begin to split it should be glued immediately to help reduce complete failure; it is only temporary but may extend the life of the sleeve for a while longer than if not attended to.

Some larger sleeves can be quite heavy so should be transported using appropriate carrier trucks or at least by two pressmen. Even at press side there needs to be appropriate tooling to allow sleeves to be stood up safely during sleeve change overs. If they are not properly supported they can easily be knocked over and they will become distorted even if the ceramic engraved surface does not crack or chip (if you are that lucky) so please consult with your supplier as to what to use. The bottom line: invest in the right storage, cleaning and handling devices at the outset and make sure all of your staff are trained and familiar with how to handle your sleeves. I don’t think I need to tell you how expensive they are and the down side of not protecting your investment from day one.

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