Anilox roll in anufacturers are investing for now and later, while cleaning technologies take on tomorrow's higher line counts.
by Susan Friedman
A boy scout mentality pervades the anilox roll industry, where it could be said that the time-worn motto, "Be prepared," has definitely taken root.
The flood of recent facility expansions and equipment investments illustrates suppliers' collective decision to keep a ready hand in present and future roll manufacturing methods. As new coating and engraving philosophies continue to assert themselves, ruling a technology out too quickly could leave a manufacturer down and out.
CTS President Doug Collins explains anilox roll suppliers have to ask and answer a tough question"Where is flexo going?"before they can project future anilox roll technology trends. What makes prediction so tricky, says Collins, is that flexo is being pulled in so many developmental directionsnamely UV, water-based, and printing applications that require both types of inks to work together. It all adds up to very diverse anilox roll needs. "We've become more of a job shop than a manufacturer," he adds.
The base issue for anilox suppliers continues to be whether to bet the farm on ceramic/laser engraving's success or take the middle ground by offering newer ceramic and older chrome roll technologies.
"Chrome rolls are not extinct, but laser probably has 80 percent of the market," says Brian Jacob, executive vice president, sales and marketing, at Pamarco, a company that just invested $2 million in a chrome plating system in 1999.
According to Jacob, chrome demand remains healthy for coating and applications requiring coarser cell patterns. Some customers try laser and return to chrome because they don't want to spend more for ceramic and then lose the roll to damage, he adds.
At ARC International, mechanically engraved rolls are primarily used by large corrugated customers, says President and CEO Mike Foran. To give typical chrome customers a taste of ceramic's enhanced quality potential, ARC released a hybrid roll technology last year that is plasma coated, laser engraved with mechanical engraving tolerances, and the same price as mechanically engraved rolls.