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Need To Know

Atmospheric Control Technology

Ensuring that your printing equipment is operating in the correct environment is critical to both performance and output. Rob Fletcher looks at some of the latest technologies to help you keep control

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Available from Condair, the Jet Spray humidification system was originally conceived for the print industry and is in place at many print houses

Maintaining total control

With so much buzz and excitement around the launch of new printing presses, we can be forgiven for not giving the same amount of attention to the other technologies that play a part in the production process.
 
However, at the same time, such machines and systems are of critical importance to the overall outcome of printed work and, despite their lack of ‘sexiness’ should not be undervalued. Humidification, cooling, and dampening systems play a key role in controlling the busy environment that is a print room and, without their input, print work would not reach the qualities it does.

So, with this in mind, what sort of technologies are out there to help companies to gain greater control over their print rooms?

Four steps to success

One company active in this sector is Smart Fog, which specialises in commercial humidification systems and has been providing various solutions to its customers, including print firms, for more than 30 years.
 
A recent white paper from the firm sets out the core goal of its technology and why it is worth your consideration: “Print shop operations can be delicate. Although industrial machinery is built to withstand heavy use, it is often temperamental. Maintaining the facility so that you achieve maximum production with the highest level of efficiency requires constant vigilance. Because profit margins are often slim, even very small problems can have a big impact on your bottom line.

Print shop operations can be delicate. Although industrial machinery is built to withstand heavy use, it is often temperamental


“Industrial humidifiers offer solutions for print shop operations. Most of your equipment probably features small AC units to help regulate the temperature of the machine and cool vital parts during the process.”

The paper picks out four key ways that an industrial humidification solution can help print companies. Firstly, advanced climate controls can help save money, as industrial humidifiers work to adjust and maintain indoor temperatures, which in turn will reduce energy costs related to temperature control and also extend the life of printing kit.

Other benefits include improved working conditions for staff, as humidification systems remove harmful chemicals from the air ensuring your workforce enjoy a much safer, and healthier, work environment. Smart Fog also says that users of this technology can reduce a drop in both shrinkage and waste, with sensor-controlled systems allowing you to choose the optimal humidity level for print shop production.

In addition, Smart Fog picks up on how this technology can eliminate product contamination: “Industrial humidifiers work to not only sanitise the air in your facility but also attract and remove dust particles. Over time, dust can build up on the working parts of your equipment. And although you probably have detailed maintenance schedules in place, it can be easy to forget to arrange for proper cleaning.

“Operating a print shop presents a unique set of challenges; industrial humidifiers work to eliminate them. To increase the lifespan of your equipment and promote a healthy working environment, humidification systems provide a worry-free solution.”

Smart Fog’s technology portfolio includes the ES100 industrial humidifiers, fully automated systems that the company says are designed for easy installation and low maintenance. These products can be wall-mounted or inserted into ducts, depending on what the customer prefers.

Also on offer is the TS100 in-duct humidifier that is suitable for applications requiring in-duct installation. This solution offers 100 percent evaporation technology and does not require droplet screens, duct or, drains. In addition, for print companies requiring a more flexible solution, Smart Fog is able to offer the ES100M mobile humidifier, a plug-and-play humidification and disinfection system.

Boost productivity
 
Another leading name in this area is Condair, which provides commercial and industrial humidification, as well as evaporative cooling products and systems.

It has installed humidification equipment at over 120 sheet-fed and web print companies in the UK and built up a wealth of experience over more than 30 years.

O Factoid: Condair plc is the new name for JS Humidifiers, following the company becoming a member of the Condair Group in 2011 and rebranding to Condair plc in October 2014. O


Dave Marshall-George, UK sales manager at Condair, says it is critical for print companies to properly invest in humidification systems to help avoid issues that can crop up during the production process, adding that such problems can be easily avoided with the use of such technology.

“A humidification system will provide the optimum relative humidity in all stages of production to combat static, web breaks, paper curl, and paper creasing,” Marshall-George says, adding: “The main benefits are increased productivity, decreased waste, and improved product quality resulting in higher profits.” And with this, Marshall-George draws attention to the various options on offer from Condair.

Dave Marshall-George, UK sales manager, at Condair, says a quality humidification system can provide the optimum relative humidity for all stages of print production



The company has a wide range of humidification products to suit all types and sizes of printing facility. From wall-mounted steam units for a small digital print room, through to extensive spray systems for the largest of press halls, Marshall-George says Condair can help.

Marshall-George picks out one solution for printers in particular: “The Jet Spray humidification system is a popular solution for humidity control and was originally conceived for the print industry. It is virtually maintenance free and has extremely low running costs.”

Sensible investment

Also well placed to offer help in this area is the aptly-named Humidity Solutions, a UK-based independent specialist in the field of humidity control. With no ties to particular manufacturers, the company can deliver both humidification and dehumidification solutions tailored to the specific requirements of each customers from digital and traditional backgrounds.

John Barker, sales director at Humidity Solutions, says by not properly investing in this sort of technology, printing companies are not only risking the quality of work, but also the health of their staff.

Barker says: “Print companies invest thousands of pounds in their printing and finishing equipment as well as paper stock, so it makes sense to invest a little more to ensure optimum performance and long life for that equipment. To that end, there are very clear and well-documented benefits to maintaining effective humidity control within a print environment—whether it be digital, litho, or web.

Humidity and changes in air temperature are the press operators two worst enemies. Being able to control the humidity and temperature for the specific paper stock being run will help reduce wastage and improve image quality



“This is reinforced by press manufacturers, which require effective humidity control to maintain effective performance of their equipment. For instance, all digital print machine manufacturers have an environmental ‘quality zone’ detailed in their operating manual—generally 18 to 25°C and 40 to 60 percent relative humidity.
Within these conditions the machines will give their best performance, but such conditions will not occur naturally for much of the year.

“Low humidity can also have a negative impact on the health of the workforce and, therefore, on productivity.”

Barker goes on to outline exactly what can happen without having a quality humidification in place: “Without some sort of humidity control, machines and paper stock are exposed to uncontrolled environments where climatic conditions may be changing on an hourly basis.

“Inevitably, this has a deleterious impact on the print process, reducing machine speeds and increasing the risk of paper jams. It may also affect the quality of the final product, harming the company’s reputation with customers. Similarly, high humidity will affect the performance of both paper and machines.

“Stable humidity reduces static and improves the dimensional stability of the paper, thereby avoiding these issues.”
 
With this in mind, Barker picks out some examples of the systems on offer from Humidity Solutions. For smaller digital print rooms, the company supplies the Eiger unit, which provides temperature and humidity control plus air filtration, air movement, and fresh air from a single unit to ensure conditions remain in the Quality Zone for optimum machine speeds and print quality.

Humidity Solutions says its Eiger solution is ideal for use in smaller digital print rooms, with unit able to provide temperature and humidity control plus air filtration, air movement and fresh air



For litho, large digital, and web-based printers, Barker says that the Airtec high-pressure system is the ideal option. Easily retrofitted to existing buildings, the high-pressure system is economical to run and cools the air as well as ensuring stable humidity, thereby reducing the need for air conditioning.

Visitors to The Print Show this year will have the opportunity to experience the benefits of Humidity Solutions, with the company to provide humidity control to hall one from its stand at the event.

Barker explains: “As part of the show, we will be providing humidity control to hall one from our stand via our Airtec high pressure water system. We will also be showing our Eiger cooling/humidity system, specifically designed for temperature and humidity control of digital print rooms. In addition, we will be handing out free copies of our ‘Printers’ Guide’ on how to create the ideal humidity and temperature control for a print environment.”

The Airtec high-pressure system from Humidity Solutions will be running throughout The Print Show, controlling humidity in hall one of the event



So, although perhaps not the ‘Hollywood’ technology of the print industry, the benefits of a humidification system are clear. In addition to prolonging the life of printing equipment, these solutions can improve the outcome of work and even boost the health of your workforce. To see this technology in action, drop in on The Print Show this year and feel the benefits for yourself.


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