The adage "Green doesn’t always mean clean" holds a lot of truth, especially in the realm of anilox cleaning systems. Over the years, we've witnessed several systems enter the market with grand claims of eco-friendliness, only to fade away due to their inability to consistently deliver clean rolls. From Powder Blasting to Bead Blasting and more recently, Flexomaid, many have touted their green credentials but failed to live up to expectations. Enter Laser cleaning, the latest innovation claiming zero waste.

But let's delve deeper into the environmental claims and health and safety aspects of each method. The thing to remember is that no method is completely waste-free.

Flexowash, a method established since the 1980s, employs a heated solution with a 50% concentration of high pH chemistry to eliminate contamination. Manufacturers assert the environmental friendliness of these chemistries, a claim echoed widely on their website. However, this assertion only holds true under specific conditions. While the chemistry may prove environmentally friendly when fresh and uncontaminated, its efficacy diminishes rapidly upon the introduction of UV, solvent-based, or certain water-based inks. Regrettably, this crucial caveat is often overlooked, potentially leading print houses to dispose of waste improperly, risking prosecution by environmental authorities.

Laser cleaning employs laser technology to vaporise ink from cells, purportedly without producing waste. However, this claim is fundamentally flawed. Vaporisation generates smoke containing carcinogenic nanoparticles present in today's ink types. Academic literature abounds with stark warnings about the hazards of laser cleaning, leaving no room for denial.

Manufacturers assert that Hepa-Filters mitigate risks, but this assertion doesn't hold water. Blocked filters and system door openings pose significant threats, compromising operator safety. Despite comparisons to aircraft cabin filtration during the COVID-19 pandemic, achieving 100% smoke filtration requires substantial investment, an endeavour not commonly undertaken.

In healthcare, stringent measures are taken to protect against smoke during procedures, with specialised filtration systems deployed. Sadly, such concerns are not mirrored in the print industry. Shockingly, some operators clean rolls without any filtration, jeopardising their well-being.

Disturbingly, reports have emerged of operators contracting cancer from laser cleaning. While these incidents occurred outside Western Europe and the US, similar occurrences in these regions could trigger class action lawsuits.

In essence, the purported waste-free nature of laser cleaning masks significant health risks for operators. Urgent attention to safety protocols and filtration standards is imperative to safeguarding worker welfare.

Alphasonics, utilising cavitation to draw out contamination, offers a compelling alternative. With chemistries used at lower concentrations, its ultrasonic action minimises reliance on chemicals, significantly reducing waste. Disposal costs are negligible, with contaminated tank fluid disposed of alongside ink waste.

In a 2020 independent trial by a leading press manufacturer, Alphasonics emerged as the most effective anilox cleaning system, followed by Laser and Flexowash. While environmental claims are vital, cleaning efficacy mustn't be overlooked. When investing in an anilox cleaning system, prioritising both cleaning performance and environmental impact is crucial.

In conclusion, being green doesn’t necessarily mean clean. It's imperative to choose a system that not only minimises environmental footprint but also delivers superior cleaning results. At Alphasonics UCS, we're committed to both sustainability and efficacy, ensuring your operations remain clean and environmentally responsible.

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