With few exceptions, no two plate mounting applications are exactly alike. To choose the right tape, you need to start with four basic questions: Who, where, how and what.
Here’s what we mean:
WHO = Standard Operating Procedures
WHERE = Environment
HOW = Equipment (both mounting and printing)
WHAT = Graphics
Quick and easy, right?
The short answer is, no.
Within each of these questions are lots of variables that you need to take into account. Taking the time to consider them will lead you to the tape that will work best. Along the way, you may also find that some simple changes – like using a different tool or switching out a printing plate – will help you do the same job better, faster and more efficiently.
Let us take you through our matchmaking-like approach to picking the right plate mounting tapes.
We always start with standard operating procedures (SOP), which is really the human factor. After all, it’s people who set up the processes and put them in place (whether or not those processes are followed is a separate issue).
There are lots of different tools and many different ways of applying or mounting a tape. The recommended tape or adhesive will depend on your particular combination.
Maintenance is another key factor. Is the shop or work area kept immaculate or does it tend to get dirty? Are the plates cleaned as thoroughly and regularly as the other equipment?
We’re not judging. Just know that certain adhesives are more forgiving in dirtier conditions, and don’t lose their stickiness even when certain contaminants are left on the plate.
Other tapes perform best on equipment that is consistently kept very clean. They can also allow for an easier demount of the plate or smoother release from the sleeve.
If your company, and, more critically, the shop, are open to change, the benefits of new tools with a different tape may outweigh the time and inconvenience of making the switch and updating the SOP.
Where are you working? To pick the right mounting tape or adhesive package, you need to know the conditions around your equipment. This includes the printing area as well as wherever the sleeves or cylinders are stored before and after the mounting.
Just like you’d look at the weather when packing for a trip, we study several factors to help identify the best tape for your operations:
– Average temperatures during working hours
– Temperature changes overnight
– Extreme temperatures – the highs and the lows
– Minimum and maximum humidity
Some tapes can take the heat, some can withstand the cold. Others are engineered to withstand wide swings in temperature and humidity levels while certain adhesive need regulated temperatures and controlled climates. It comes down to getting the right fit.
The equipment — the “how” question – is closely related to standard operating procedures since whatever your company uses will, of course, impact those processes. Still, it’s worth taking a close look at the materials and the machinery used both in mounting and in the printing itself.
There are important differences in fully automated, semi-automated and manual mounting that will affect the type of tape that we’d recommend. Certain adhesives are definitely more effective when applied by hand. We’d also want to know if you use application tools like squeegees or rollers.
The size and condition of the sleeves or cylinders also come into play. For scored or uneven surfaces, flexible tapes are a good option because they conform closely for the best fit and better results.
On the printing side, the age and condition of presses are the big variables. If your equipment produces some bounce, chatter or vibrations when running, certain foam hardnesses can help compensate for those movements. There may be build-up tape on the presses – and on the cylinders and sleeves, too – for which a more suitable adhesive will be needed.
Don’t forget about the types of inks and solvents used on the machinery, too. They also help determine the chemical resistance of the recommended tapes and adhesives.
Last, but not least, is the look of the final product. The designs and the types of plates used to create them influence the choice of plate mounting tapes.
Here’s where you consider the plate’s material and hardness (have your tried our Foam Advisor yet?)
The recommendations also consider if you’re printing solids, fine dots, highlights or a combination of all those design elements. The use of screening technology is another factor that will impact the decision-making process.
After all the analysis and discussion, a recommended plate mounting tape is only as good as the results it achieves. A trial run in your shop or factory is the ultimate – and best – test.