FlexoChem - Shortlisted for best practises award.
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FlexoChem Fast - feautured in Packaging & Print Mag.
FlexoChem Fast washout solvent was recently showcased in the highly popular Packaging & Printing Magazine .Get the full scoop below. (or click on front cover below)
No more smelly washout
A new product, FlexoChem Fast, is radically changing the working environment for flexo platemakers, reports GILL LOUBSER.
ANYONE who works with flexographic washout units knows the strong chemical odour that smacks you in the face and leaves you feeling nauseous. What’s not sufficiently well understood, though, is risk of the solvent’s cumulative negative health effects – yet operators are daily exposed to odorous washout solvents.
This is the view of Grant Oliver, founder of a new business called FlexoChem, an offshoot of Durbanbased Sauvage Industries. FlexoChem’s primary focus, Grant explains, is on innovative products for flexographic platemaking and printing, the latest being FlexoChem Fast, a low-odour washout solvent.
‘This product is radically transforming the platemaking environment,’ he maintains. ’We’ve had enthusiastic response from customers, who say it’s
revolutionising the working environment and plate quality.’
This washout solvent uses low-odour components with a greatly-reduced evaporation rate, resulting in three times less solvent in the atmosphere and creating a far more pleasant working environment.
At its heart is a proprietary blend of imported additive solvents called NoveX-DP. These additives are responsible for interrupting the photopolymer bonds on a molecular level allowing unpolymerised (unexposed) areas of the plate to be dissolved at a faster rate than high-boiling point washout solvents, while being gentle on the exposed (developed) portions
‘The key to a great solvent is to wash quickly and efficiently while not swelling the imaged area, allowing a cleaner, sharper-edged image,’ Grant explains.
But it’s not just about quality; it’s also about safety.
The imported NoveX-DP components
increase conductivity and raise the flash point, providing added
safety from a fire hazard point of view. In addition, they also consist of large molecules that greatly reduce absorption into the body. ‘This is a great bonus for anyone who is health conscious,’ Grant insists.
Although new on the South African market, FlexoChem Fast was initially developed for the competitive Israeli market. ‘South Africa has fallen behind the rest of the world when it comes to safer washout solvents. FlexoChem Fast now provides a European quality option at African prices,’ Grant argues.
Inroads into local market
This product is fast making inroads into the local market, thanks to its low odour, an improved working environment, improved safety and an attractive price. Numerous installations have already been completed and many more are in the pipeline.
‘We completed three new installations in January alone,’ Grant adds happily.
FlexoChem Fast is an easy drop-in solution requiring little to no adjustment to existing washout units. It works on all plates including analogue and is especially suited for digital plates with its enhanced solvency for LAMs, capping and release layers.
‘Our aim is not only to supply washout solvents but to make sure chemicals are one thing platemakers never have to worry about. We offer a complete package from tank systems through to a bespoke recycling facility.’
This recycling facility, with a ‘back-to-original’ guarantee, includes depots in all major centres. ‘Dirty’ solvents are uplifted from customers’ sites and immediately replaced with fresh solvent. ‘We carry the extra solvent so that printers don’t have to,’ Grant emphasises.
Among happy customers is the team at Mpact Corrugated’s flexographic printing operation in Springs. ‘They were so impressed with FlexoChem Fast that they changed to the new product after the first trial,’ says Grant. This is borne out by Nicole Badenhorst, the company’s flexographic manager, in charge of the platemaking department.
She confirms that staff have responded well to the change as it has improved their work environment; that plate quality is better and that finer screens are held.
And she remarks, they’ve noticed cleaner brushes on the machines as a result of using the new product.
Turning to safety matters, Nicole has this to say: ‘Producing die-cut corrugated cartons means that we operate in a very dusty environment putting us in a high fire risk category. The new product’s higher flash point helps us to reduce the fire risk.’
Another customer is Durban-based Repro Flex, whose proprietor Craig Oliver (no relation!) is happy to confirm that staff were previously affected by solvent odours from time to time, particularly if the extraction system wasn’t working properly. ‘If the washout unit was open for maintenance, the solvent fumes could be very unpleasant,’ he adds.
As far as Craig is concerned, FlexoChem Fast has made a big difference to the work environment. ‘Not only do we seldom have any smell,’ he explains, ‘but if we do get a slight whiff, it’s not unpleasant. We can open the washout unit for maintenance with impunity.’
Although Craig was considering installing additional extraction fans to counteract solvent fumes, this has proved unnecessary, as the current extraction system now copes easily.
He also confirms Grant’s contention that the installation process is simple. ‘In the course of normal maintenance, we drained the holding tank and flushed the washout unit with FlexoChem Fast. We then filled the holding tank with new solvent and made plates as normal. We did all the usual checks – such as “plate relief” and “bump up” – but didn’t need to make any adjustments.’
Craig is adamant that using FlexoChem Fast gives him an edge in the competitive game of flexo plate manufacture. ‘Not only do we have happier staff, paying more attention to plate quality, we have happier customers, who appreciate the consistent top-quality plates and have noticed the lack of solvent smell. We’re continuously monitoring on-press quality and run lengths, and believe we’re seeing improvements thanks to the less aggressive nature of
Craig also mentions the safety aspect. ‘One of most important features is FlexoChem Fast’s higher flash point, compared to other solvents. This is part of the reason for the reduced odour but it’s also a much safer solvent to hold in quantity on your premises,’ Craig concludes.With exciting advances being made in flexo printing, more pressure than ever is on platemakers to provide plates with cleaner, sharper images, while ensuring safety.