Introduction to Flexographic Printing Plate Sleeves and the Importance of Proper Maintenance

Flexography is a form of printing that applies the use of flexible rubber plates and first drying ink to print on a variety of materials. Flexographic printing sleeves are increasingly becoming popular because:
• It reduces damage on plates by excluding the need to remove plates between tasks
• Similar jobs can be mounted and stored to use later
• Flexographic sleeves are light in weight, long-lasting and easy to handle
• Flexographic sleeves work well with numerous materials, from tissue and paper towels to solid metal
Flexographic printing plates yield more opportunities in markets previously dominated by folding and shrink sleeves. However, to optimize the resourcefulness of plate sleeves, the equipment must be well maintained. Proper maintenance practices require diligence with observance of a set of rules. Some of the necessary maintenance protocols and their importance are highlighted below.

1. Clean plates
Proper maintenance and plate care will lead to cost-saving in the long run. This is because proper care will reduce the need to manufacture newer plates and provide better registration during printing. The most basic rule is, therefore, always clean the plates after removal from the cylinder. Furthermore, it is vital that the plate is clean while it is put onto the printing machine. If a dirty plate is used, particles may get stuck under the ink. Ensuring that previous residue and ink is removed will assure good ink transfer.

2. Proper storage
Plates ought to be stored properly after cleaning. Poorly stored plates are more likely to break down while not in use. Although automated cleaners work well, some cleansers used with them do not dry up quickly, such as oil. Leaving plates wet while storing them can result into the plates retaining the solvents. If plates are not stored properly to allow them to dry, the oil provides a moisture barrier. The moisture barrier will dissolve the plates. This will lead to a decrease in plate caliber. Before storing plates, it is essential to ensure that the plates are clean and dry to avoid further corrosion. Moreover, during storage, it is vital that the plates are away from direct light, high temperature, ozone, air, and electricity.

3. Proper cleaning
It is critical to use the right material while cleaning the plates. It is best to use horsehair brush or other soft material like sponges. Different cleaning materials can have different effects on the reliability of the plate. Use of the right cleaning agent, alcohol, is equally important in ensuring the plates lasts longer. Proper cleaning is important in ensuring the equipment operates at its full potential.

Flex storage solutions promote proper flexo printing equipment functionality. Under proper maintenance, equipment such as flexcart and flexstand last longer. Additionally, digital imaging of plates through the use of Flexstand operator has brought about numerous developments to flexographic printing as compared to traditional methods. Additional resources can be found at FlexStor.

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