Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing some different ways to protect and maintain your anilox sleeves. We want to help you protect your investment and ensure you get the longest life possible out of your sleeves. Here are some of the best ways to do that.

It is very important to keep the insides (bores) and ends of the sleeves clean and free of dried ink. Contamination on the inside bore will impede the ability to install and remove the sleeve from the mandrel. Dried ink in the bore causes operators or assistants to forcibly remove the sleeve, which can lead to damage to the sleeve or anilox roll surface. Do not chip the ink off the ends with metal tools; always try to dissolve and wipe clean.
Keep the mandrel free of any dried ink or contaminants. Clean it with a rag with solvent or other component-friendly cleaners to ensure a clean smooth surface for the sleeve to slide onto. Check for any burrs, nicks or dings in the mandrel that will prevent smooth installation. Make a special point to check the air holes in the mandrel. A majority of sleeve/mandrel seizures are caused by clogged air holes.
Check the sleeve mounting air system (gauges and hoses) to ensure proper working order. Make sure the air pressure is set to the OEM specification (PSI/bars). Should you have any questions, contact the press OEM and peruse the operating manual for guidelines and settings.

Sleeve Mounting and Removal
It is important to install (slide) the sleeves on the mandrels carefully and smoothly. Avoid rocking the sleeves (up and down, back and forth) during the mounting process. This can damage the foam expansion layer, which will affect future proper fit, circularity and Total Indicated Runout (TIR) issues.

Installing the sleeves, making sure not to slam the sleeve into the backstop on the mandrel. This can cause damage seen below (ceramic chipping on the roll edge). Chipped ends can create ink slinging and accelerate end-seal wear. Chipped ceramic on the ends, over time, may lead to further ceramic separation on the sleeve surface.

Ceramic chipping on the roll edge

Ink Sling Guards
Keep the ink sling guards clean and free of ink. Do not allow the sling guards to fill with ink and rub on the ceramic or sleeve end.
Check the screws that hold the sling guards in place on press. If the sleeve guard is loose and is allowed to touch, rub or drag the sleeve surface, it will definitely cause damage to the ceramic and eventually cause damage to the sleeve.

Corrosion Prevention
Anilox roll sleeves are susceptible to corrosion if safe cleaners are not used cleaning steps are not properly followed. Chemicals that are caustic or have a high pH can corrode the aluminum cladding and end rings causing the ceramic to blister. The pH of chemicals should never be below 5.5 or higher than 11.8. When using any chemical to clean an anilox roll, make sure the surface is properly rinsed and the chemical neutralized. The final step in the process is to wipe the roll surface with alcohol or acetate to flash off any residual chemical or water. Never cover and store a wet sleeve or roll; they must be dry. Should you have any questions, consult your anilox roll supplier.

These are just a few ways to protect and maintain your sleeve. Here are the rest of our top tips for anilox sleeve care and maintenance.

10 Tips for Anilox Sleeve Care & Maintenance:

    • 1. Component Cleanliness:

•Keep the insides (bores) and ends of sleeves clean. No dried ink!
•Keep press mandrels clean and in good condition.
•Keep the sleeve mounting air system (gauges and hose) in good working order, and set to OEM specifications (PSI/bars).

    • 2. Sleeve Mounting:

•Slide sleeves on mandrels carefully. Avoid rocking the sleeves up and down during mounting. Rocking can damage the expansion layer (affecting proper fit and circularity), and create TIR issues.
•BE GENTLE! Impacting the backstop can chip the sleeve’s ceramic. (Chipped ends create slinging and accelerate end seal wear, which leads to ceramic separation.)

    • 3. Ink Sling Guards:

•Do not allow sling guards to touch or rub sleeves.
•Keep sling guards clean and free of dried ink to prevent grinding and damage to the ends.

    • 4. Corrosion Prevention:

•Caustic cleaning chemicals and/or high pH inks can corrode a sleeve’s aluminum cladding and/or end rings, causing ceramic blistering. The pH of chemical cleaners should never be below 5.5 or above 11.8.
•Consult your anilox supplier prior to using any cleaning or flushing chemicals.

    • 5. Composite Component:

•Do not allow aqueous chemicals or cleaners to contact the composite. This can lead to delamination of the sleeve.
•Use caution and protective end caps when cleaning sleeves in chemical bath tanks.

    • 6. Post-Cleaning Practices:

•Always dry the anilox surface and ceramic ends thoroughly.
•Remove any residual chemicals or water with an alcohol wipe.
•When using compressed air to dry the engraving, ensure it is oil-free.

    • 7. Handling Precautions:

•Sleeve ceramic is the same as roll ceramic; it is not impact-resistant and chips easily.
•Use caution when cleaning ends; avoid cleaning with sharp tools.
•Sleeves tend to be easily mishandled and damaged because they are lightweight: HANDLE CAREFULLY!

    • 8. Sleeve Storage:

•Sleeves are best stored vertically in a rack.
•Do not stand sleeves up on uneven or hard floors; use rubber or cushioned floor mats.

    • 9. Storage Precautions:

•When storing sleeves horizontally, the diameter of the support stem is important: The stem diameter should be slightly smaller than the mandrel.
• This will prevent stress overload on the internal expansion foam (bladder).

  • 10. Protect your Investment:

•When sleeves are not in the press, use protective covers to avoid damage.
•Do not use a protective cover on a wet anilox sleeve.

By following the maintenance points in this article, you will be assured of productive, long lasting use of your anilox sleeves. If you have any questions about your press environment and how it affects your anilox care, seek help to determine the improvements you need to make by scheduling press-area audit with your anilox supplier.

By Katie Graham
Katie Graham - Technical Sales manager in Pamarco's European facility