9 Ways to Improve the Lifespan of Flexo Sleeves


Flexography is a printing process that involves the use of flexible sleeves. By using special flexo sleeves, it is possible to print on virtually any substrate you can think of.

Chances are most of the designs you see on products at the mall were printed using flexo sleeves. Flexography is especially common in the food industry. It uses a wider range of inks, including water-based ones, a factor that makes it a favourite for printing food labels and other packaging designs.

To ensure quality printing and extend the lifespan of flexo sleeves, consider applying the following tips.

1. Wait 24 Hours after Receiving the Sleeves

To adapt to the environment at your factory, once you receive new sleeves, let them rest for at least 24 hours after unpacking them.

2. Store Your Flexo Sleeves Vertically

To store the sleeves, place them on a mat and keep them in a standing, upright position. The humidity and temperatures should be consistent. Besides, by storing your sleeves vertically, you optimize the use of storage space. The upright storage of your sleeves is designed to adapt to your workflow. Combined with movable racks, sleeves are easy to access when stored vertically.

3. Wait for 20 Seconds before Mounting or Demounting

To smoothly mount or demount your sleeves, wait for at least 20 seconds to allow trapped air to escape.

4. Air Dry the Sleeves before Using Them

For the tape to stick properly, don’t use a wet sleeve. Instead, air-dry them to ensure quality printing. Do not use an air hose since the contaminants may attach themselves to your plates or sleeves as they dry. The key is to keep the surface of your sleeves or plates free from debris that could distort printing quality.

5. Do Not Use Silicon Spray

For the tape to stick better, do not use silicon spray during prepress.

6. Use Moderate Spreading Force

When demounting your sleeves or plate, do not apply too much pressure towards their edges when spreading them.

7. Clean the Sleeves before Reusing Them

To ensure quality printing, clean the sleeves after every use. As you clean them, get rid of all dust particles since they can interfere with proper tape adhesion. Leaving sleeves and plates uncleaned means the next print run will produce poor quality prints. The best time to clean plates is immediately after use.

8. Use the Right Cleaning Solution

Thoroughly clean your plates and flexo sleeves. However, don’t rush it since it is not just a question of merely spraying chemicals to dissolve the ink. There are different cleaning solutions that work for different ink types. For water-based inks, water and mild soap will do. You can also use industrial alcohol or isopropyl to clean most rubber types and then rinse them with water. For UV-based inks, electron beam-based inks, oil-based inks, solvent-based inks, oil-based inks, and UV-based inks, the solvent you use should be based on the ink type or a recommended and approved wash-up solution that is non-volatile.

9. Prevent Abrasion

Rubber print sleeves have a soft surface despite the fact they are highly durable. You should, therefore, avoid using harsh cleaning solutions and tools or applications that could scour the soft rubbery surface of the photopolymer and elastomer print products. Don’t use tough and rough scouring materials such as wire or metal when cleaning the image carriers. Instead, use a soft-bristled brush to wipe out debris and excess ink gently. For a thorough gentle cleaning, consider using a natural-hair brush.

Despite their soft rubbery surface, as long as they are properly cleaned and appropriately stored, flexo sleeves can continue churning out quality prints for a very long time.

Dean is a self-professed tech geek with a fondness for computers, video games, and any novelty tech-savvy gadgets.