Digital Magazine

The Importance of Roll Cleaning and Maintenance

A question-and-answer with Joe Walczak, President of Sonic Solutions.

What are the main types of roll cleaning methods and the differences between them?

Walczak: There are really three types of cleaning processes in the marketplace: wash/ blasting, laser and ultrasonics methods.

With wash/blasting methods you’re taking a cleaning solution or other particle like sodium bicarbonate and forcing it under high pressure against the roll. The hope is that the pressure will chip or wash away built up dirt. These systems are typically big, bulky and expensive. With bicarbonate blasting systems you need to be careful about the white powdery substance getting all over the plant in case of a leak in the pressure system. They’re not that common anymore.

Laser cleaners basically burn dirt and debris off the roll. At these high temperatures, contaminates are basically evaporated off and turned into dust. These systems are the most expensive in the marketplace and have a good niche with the largest of anilox rolls –7 feet or longer – as well as rolls that don’t come off the press easily. Repairs to these systems can be quite costly due to the type of technology used, easily exceeding $100,000.

Ultrasonic systems have evolved into a great way to thoroughly clean anilox rolls. The cleaning solution works to soften debris in the cells of the anilox and then the ultrasonics gently and safely vacuums dirt off the anilox. Ultrasonics is a proven technology used in numerous industries where precise cleaning is needed and required, such as, hospital operating rooms, NASA and the space industry. It’s a simple but effective way to clean an anilox. Ultrasonic cleaning systems for anilox rolls vary in cost depending on size of rolls. They can range from under $10,000 for small 16-inch anilox rolls to under $40,000 for a 72-inch sleeve.

What problems are associated with inconsistent or improper roller maintenance and cleaning?

Walczak: Maintaining an anilox roll is of great importance. Every label company has as its highest priority to get label customers, print labels and keep that customer coming back. Maintaining your anilox rolls won’t necessarily help get customers, but it can impact printing labels and keeping customers.

The anilox roll is one of a few factors with a direct impact on labels. If an anilox is dirty then it’s not delivering the right amount of ink to the label. That will impact colors. If press operators aren’t getting the right density of color, then that press is running bad labels or sitting idle while the operator is hunting for the problem. Those bad labels and idle time cost the company money. Using clean anilox rolls each time a press is set up to run a job will be one big headache operators will avoid. Keep your rolls clean!

What solutions can your company provide to address these problems?

Walczak: Well that’s specifically what Sonic Solutions provides. For over 20 years we’ve provided quality, durable, safe and inexpensive cleaning alternatives for anilox rolls. Thousands of customers throughout the world rely on our equipment daily to keep their anilox rolls clean. Some larger customers have several units side by side with rolls going on and off the system all day long. They’ll clean rolls after every press run so they know colors will come out right on target each time.

What key factors should converters keep in mind when choosing roller cleaning solutions?

Walczak: When seeking a solution to keep anilox rolls clean, consider lots of factors: Reliability. Safety for your anilox. Price. Ease of use. What have your operators used in the past? And service.

Sonic Solutions scores an A+ in each of these categories. Customers come back to us time and again to help them. We take pride in providing the most personal service we can and solving cleaning problems, big or small.

Anilox sleeves are becoming prevalent in the wider web presses. Does Sonic Solutions have a product to service these?

Walczak: Our Phoenix line of cleaning systems is uniquely designed to work exceptionally with anilox sleeves. We can custom make a system to clean either one or two sleeves at one time. These systems’ quality is equivalent to the standards we keep with our smaller systems. But the most impactful part of our sleeves systems is price. Our prices are less than half the cost of wash or laser systems. When wash and laser systems for sleeves can exceed $100,000 easily that means a lot.

Joe Walczak co-owns Sonic Solutions with his wife, Marie, and they have been helping flexo printers for more than 25 years. They can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or (877) 654-7800.

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