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Stop the Presses: Printing Applications of Ultrasonic Cleaning

In the early days of the World Wide Web, many people forecasted the vast reduction, or complete elimination, of paper from daily office chores. If anything, the needs for printing out web pages, database tables and reports have grown with the expansion of the Web into everyday life. As such, the requirements on both home and office printers have also expanded, leading to downtime for printers due to dirt and clogs. One method that printer users have employed to keep their printers running is the use of ultrasonic cleaners.

Inkjet Printer Heads

From the home office to the corporate arena, workers depend on inkjet and laser printers to print up reports, spreadsheets and presentations every day. When a printer is malfunctioning due to clogged printer heads, the cost in time, money and lost productivity is immeasurable. Also, in terms of cost per ounce, inkjet printer ink is more expensive than Beluga caviar, so maintaining printer cartridges becomes a major cost-saving concern. Ultrasonic cleaners are often highly effective at removing clogs from printer cartridges, without harming the delicate electronics inside.

Printing Plates

Some older and more specific methods of printing, including the printing of currency, rely on the use of printing plates. Machines dip the flat plates into ink, and then press the inked plates onto the paper. For plates with fine details, the appearance of a smudge of ink or metal burr on the plates can have a significant impact on the quality of the finished product. An ultrasonic cleaner can remove the accumulated ink and dirt, while preserving the fine edges on the plate and preventing any disturbance to the edges that may come from tools or harsh chemical cleaning agents.

In 2009 an ultrasonic cleaning study was carried out on copper printing plates. The plates were contaminated with printing foil residue, a combination of ink and plastic. The original cleaning process involved scrubbing with wire brushes which damaged the copper surface and an improved method was desired. The study involved cleaning five plates with different cleaning solutions. The solution was heated to between 50° and 60°C (122° and 140° F) and the plates were left in the ultrasonic cleaner for up to an hour. According to the final report, the best results were obtained by cleaning the copper printing plates in 12% CLN-LR134 cleaning solution for 20 minutes. “The CLN-LR134 cleaning solution not only removes the ink but brightens the copper,” the report read.

Anilox Rolls

An anilox roll is often used in massive printing projects. The roll contains thousands of fine dimples that absorb the ink and transfer it to a flexographic printing press, which then passes the ink to the paper. The anilox roll can contain as few as 250 lines per inch, or as many as 2000 lines per inch. Although the process is often much faster and more detailed than that provided by flat printing plates, the fine dimples in the roll can also become clogged. Many printers use ultrasonic cleaners to remove these clogs and maintain the quality of the print run.

3D Printers

So-called “3-D” printers are in wide use in scientific labs, architectural firms and other industries where precision modeling is a necessity. 3-D printers use paper, styrene or PVC to create models. Some 3-D printers use a method similar to inkjet printers, in that the inkjet prints one layer of the model at a time and binds them together with a special resin. For these printers, keeping a clean flow of ink and adhesive is crucial, so an ultrasonic cleaner is an essential tool for maintaining these machines.

Modern printing methods require modern cleaning methods. An ultrasonic cleaner from iUltrasonic is a vital component in any printing project, whether that operation prints out the Sunday paper or $100 bills.


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