The cleaner the equipment, the better the quality of the end product. This is particularly true in the printing industry, where poor quality shows up in living color on printed paper or product packaging. Ultimately, it is the quality of the end product that brings repeat customers.
In order for printing press owners and operators to meet the high-quality production demands of their customers, it is imperative that they keep their printers running and avoid prolonged press downtime. For printing presses to operate efficiently and reduce the chance of equipment failure, it is critical that they remain free of contaminants such as ink, grease, grime, and remnant paper products.
Given production demands, it can be difficult for printers to maintain consistent cleaning schedules. In order to produce high-quality products and still meet customers' production demands, printers need to reduce cleaning times, as well as the impact that traditional cleaning methods have on overall production.
In some instances, traditional and extraordinary cleaning efforts can put both equipment and people at risk. One such cleaning incident identified by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration involved a maintenance crew cleaning printing rollers while they were still installed in the press. To clean the rollers, employees circumvented the printing press' machine guards, and then used rags to clean the rollers as they spun at high rates of speed. This cleaning method exposed the employees to ingoing nip point hazards, as well as the potential for severe injuries if the rag or their hands had been caught in the rollers.
These types of shortcuts involve a significant amount of risk that in many cases is not necessary. In addition, traditional cleaning methods, which involve scraping and scrubbing hot equipment with toxic solvents, can also be dangerous to workers, as well as expose the equipment to unnecessary wear and tear.
One printing company, the Western Container Co. in Kansas City, Mo., has a reputation for being a quality producer of custom folding cartons and specialty products printed on paperboard. On a daily basis, the company uses die-making, die-cutting, and finishing equipment, and three printing presses, which print up to seven colors, plus aqueous coatings. The equipment frequently runs non-stop for several hours, and following the printing process frequently involves heavy duty gluers. Because of the degree of activity, it is vital that any built-up ink and paper grime be removed to ensure that the equipment functions properly.
Western Container's traditional cleaning methods, which included sanding and scraping presses with solvents and wire brushes, was time consuming and expensive, and had started to impact the integrity of the presses. As a result, the company sought a new cleaning solution that could provide a complete clean, while reducing mechanical breakdowns and production delays.
A New Way To Clean
Upon hearing about the benefits of dry ice blast cleaning for printers, managers at Western Container made the decision to implement a dry ice blasting system to replace their conventional cleaning processes. They quickly learned of the versatility of the cleaning process. Dry ice blast cleaning is capable of cleaning even hardened ink and grease build up, from grippers, rollers, drums, ink trays, side walls, feeders, delivery units, letter presses, and flexography and clogged vents, which slow down printing speed.
"Dry ice blasting has made an impact on our entire printing process," said Rick Horton, department supervisor of Western Container. "The ease of operation and the amount of cleaning we get done is amazing. With the blasting system, we remove grime and glue with incredible speed. What once took several hours by hand, now takes less than an hour. To see it first hand is really phenomenal!"