Plate Washers – A Short Guide to Buy it Right
Today I’m going to reveal to you the 5 hints that will allow you to spot the right plate washer at first glance.
Write them down on a post-it stuck to your desk, save them on an Evernote note or on a Word file. Just make sure to bear them in mind when you go hunting in a forest of machines that all look the same, in search of the one that really suits you.
Hint # 1: BRUSHES
There are many different types of brushes, but only a few can guarantee a deep and thorough cleaning process. There’s no need to tell you that. How often do you have to wipe the plate after washing because the screens are still dirty? You take the plate, examine it against the light, trying to see if you can store it or if, once again, you will have to give it a good wipe or even put it back into the machine for another go. And sometimes even that is not enough! Sometimes you have to soak it. If you clean your plates manually, watch out for your mental health in the long run. And if you have a plate washer you can’t help but start wondering: what’s the point of having a plate washer that doesn’t wash the bloody plates??
So now here’s my tip for you: you have to make sure that the brushes in the machine you’re going to buy are up to the task. A good plate washer is equipped with rotating brushes with independent engines. So you can adjust the speed of every single brush to allow for the solvent to be evenly distributed onto the plate surface and for any type of ink to be perfectly removed.
Hint # 2: EASY MAINTENANCE
Mainenance time has come and what happens with your average washer? You waste a lot of time you should be spending on something else to work with the screwdriver like there’s no tomorrow. You loosen a nut here, dismount a panel there, clean, loosen, dismount, re-mount… and as you crouch there sweating, swallowing cursewords not suitable for publication, you keep thinking: did we buy this machine to ease our workload or waste our lives on daily maintenance?? No panic, there is a way out. All you need to do is look for a washer with Easy Maintenance System (ESM), a groundbreaking system thanks to which every component of the machine is easily accessible and replaceable, so that operators don’t have to screw nuts in and out for the whole day.
Hint # 3: RECIRCULATION
I’m often asked how long the lifespan of the solvent is and how many times it can be reused. If you ask yourself the same questions, the first thing you have to detect when looking for a good washer is the presence of a recirculation system, whose characteristics and functioning you will of course have to examine in detail. Please consider that the best models have 2 recirculation systems. Here’s the ideal configuration:
• Solvent recirculation
This is located in an external unit that is warmed up and micro-filtered, which guarantees a more effective cleaning action and a longer lifespan for the solvent.
• Water recirculation
This is also located in an external unit for closed-circuit filtration of rinsing water. The underlying trolley facilitates loading and unloading operations and keeps water clean thanks to the filters. So you can have full control of what you consume and save plenty of water, thus reducing your impact on the environment.
Hint # 4: CLEANING SOLVENTS
Remember when I talked about the plate having to be washed one more time after the first process? The anger, the frustration? Of course the brushes can be one of the causes, but bear in mind that in every cleaning process there’s another main actor: the cleaning solvent.
Most suppliers wash their hands of it – forgive the pun, but I just had to use it in this context. They sell you the washer and when you enquire about the right solvent, they are extremely vague and talk you into thinking that anything will be just fine (for all they care once they have squeezed good money out of you, that might as well be the case).
But then you’re the one who has to wash and rewash every plate a thousand times. And it starts to dawn on you that having a good washer – huge proviso – is not enough: what you need is a complete system that necessarily features a specific cleaning product. Think about it. In order to be effective, a solvent has to be designed for the specific inks, materials and machine that you use. How can a generic product be equally effective for water-based inks, solvent-based inks, UV inks, glues, varnishes… it just can’t, it’s a matter of common sense. This is why you need an expert to show you the right product for you, the one that will guarantee optimal cleaning results for multiple washing cycles and let you avoid all possible wastes.
Hint # 5: INLET SYSTEM
Have you ever crossed your fingers when inserting the plates into the machine, wishing hard that they don’t get stuck inside? This is another very stressful concern that you can get rid of.
Some washers are equipped with an inlet system specifically designed to insert multiple plates simultaneously, even if they have different sizes. The standard inlet system can be combined with a motor conveyor some metres long that is a life-saver for printers who deal with big volumes of work, and those who can’t afford to keep their operators stuck to the washer even for a few minutes. The motor conveyor allows the operator to simply put the plates on the inlet system and go back to the press. The conveyor will then automatically transport them into the tunnel, whence they’ll proceed through the washing cycle.
These are the 5 most important aspects that you absolutely have to consider if you want to be sure to choose a machine that will make your life easier and not a total burder that will just slow you down. All other aspects are secondary. So what are the practical consequences of having a machine that lives up to these requirements? I’ll tell you right now:
– Accurate cleaning of every spot of the screens
– Complete regeneration of printing parts
– Savings of time and energy for the operator
– A more effective printing department
– Easy storage of plates
The last tip I want to give you before we say goodbye is this: do NOT look for speed among the advantages of your prospective machine. We are all pushed for time and busy as hell, so I totally understand your urge to get the job done as soon as possible, but be careful not to fall into this trap. A good washer is above all an accurate washer. More often than not, speedy cleaning equals approximate cleaning. Common sense tells you that any washer should give you a plate that is perfectly clean, rinsed and dried – this is their job, right? It is, but unfortunately you can’t take it for granted. In order to achieve optimal results, the plate needs to be properly brushed, the filters have to withhold any debris that would otherwise remain in the rinsing water – and consequently on your plate at the end of the cycle. And finally, make sure that the washer you choose can dry the plates properly, otherwise they will be sticky and end up swelling and/or deteriorating. I insist on this point because I’ve seen all too many machines that just don’t live up to this standard. Sounds absurd, but it’s true.
ANY QUESTIONS? Leave a comment and I’ll get back to you!