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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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March 14, 2012

Recently my supervisor reprimanded me for the condition that the gears were in and said that they would cause many problems if I did not get them cleaned up. Unfortunately he did not explain what issues they might cause. Can you explain please?

It always annoys me when a lead person fails to more clearly point out the benefits of maintaining components on and around the press and in particular when related to gearing, which is so fundamental to all printing presses.

Gears are a fairly complex element and are found on every press and are used to drive every cylinder on every machine. Any imperfection on any gear tooth can and will transmit a vibration or pulse directly through the cylinder and ultimately to the printed substrate. Just knowing this should make every operator take the time to check that every gear is clean, well lubricated and not showing any sign of wear or damage such as missing teeth.

If you look carefully at any gear tooth you will see that it has a unique shape, which under perfect conditions will ensure that it will run smoothly as it transitions from one tooth to the next, creating a smooth drive throughout the driven sections of the press. Any damage, wear or buildup of dried ink in the bottom of the teeth can cause chatter and horizontal gear marks and other undesirable marking in the print as well as inconsistent registration.

It is difficult to convince many operators and even managers of the critical nature of gearing particularly when so little attention is paid to them until there is an obvious problem such as chatter and gear barring. The problem is the process can take weeks, months or even years before it becomes extreme to the point that it is seen by everyone but I can assure you that improper cleaning, lubrication or failure to replace worn and damaged gearing will lead to slower speeds, more waste, and poor quality, all of which leads to less profitability.

Need I say more? Your supervisor was right to bring it to your attention but it is the responsibility of every operator and maintenance person to pay attention to any and all gearing on every press if they want to eliminate many of the everyday problems that every printer has to put up with on a day to day basis.

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