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Need To Know

Humidification Systems

One of the unsung heroes of the print room, what is the importance of humidification systems to printers, and what options are available on the market?

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Condair manufactures both high pressure and compressed air and water spray models

Keep your Cool

Print service providers (PSPs) are faced with all manner of challenges when it comes to being able to produce high-quality work. One of the less talked about issues, but what should be regarded as among the most important considerations, is humidification. 

Failure to manage humidification could lead to all sorts of issues; from poor quality output to health issues for workers. Here, we speak with specialist providers in this area to find out more about the technology behind the systems and what new options are available to PSPs looking to make humidity a concern of the past.

Identify Issues

Condair is one of several manufacturers of humidification systems for use in print. Dave Marshall-George, sales director at Condair, says that as low humidity issues frequently do not occur year-round for UK-based PSPs, they can often be overlooked and thought of as a seasonal annoyance, with an accepted drop in productivity or quality that temporarily occurs every winter.

However, he warns the impact could be substantial, particularly if it leads to a drop in quality with a loss of clients as a result.

“This impact may easily go unnoticed, as clients don’t always highlight dissatisfaction and rarely inform a supplier they are now using someone else,” Marshall-George explains, continuing: “To make an informed decision to invest in a humidification system, a printer must first be able to identify and associate any productivity issues experienced as a result of low humidity.

Condair says larger print rooms often benefit from spray humidifiers

“Secondly, they must be able to financially assess the cost of any humidity-related issues and finally weigh the cost of the humidifier against these losses, both in the initial outlay and in the longer term. This equation can be relatively difficult to put together, but Condair has great experience in this sector and often works with printers to provide detailed return on investment calculations following free site assessments.”

As for where issues may arise, Marshall-George says low humidity in a print facility will draw moisture from any exposed paper surface, causing dimensional changes to occur. This can be seen in wavy edges on paper stacks and results in problems such as mis-feeds on machines, mis-registration issues, and web-breaks.

Humidity below 40%RH will also promote electrostatic build-up, which can result in issues such as paper jams on machines and dust being attracted to plates. Maintaining humidity at around 50%RH allows static charge to naturally dissipate through the air, avoiding these problems.

“The good news is that in a UK climate, there are many months when the indoor humidity will naturally fall within the ideal level of around 50%RH,” Marshall-George says, adding: “However, it is during the cold winter months when UK printers typically experience humidity below the recommended 40%RH threshold and need to use humidification systems to maintain a productive operation.”

Looking to the products available from Condair, Marshall-George says there is no one-size-fits-all solution for managing humidity in the print sector, with the correct solution dependent on the level of humidity needed, the constraints of the area, the contents of the room, the air movement and budget, among many other factors.

“What has made Condair successful in the print sector, with clients including Heidelberg and HP, is being able to provide expert application advice, alongside the most comprehensive range of humidifiers available,” Marshall-George says, adding: “Being the manufacturer, and not just a distributor, allows Condair to perfectly tailor a humidification system to the needs of a client, and deliver the manufacturer’s engineering knowledge on-site.”

“Smaller rooms, for instance with a digital print machine, often only need a wall-mounted steam humidifier with a fan unit, such as the Condair EL. These humidifiers can provide from just a few kilos of steam per hour to around 40kg, with easy maintenance and good humidity control.

“Larger print rooms often benefit from spray humidifiers, as they not only provide humidity control but also free evaporative cooling. This can be advantageous, given the waste heat generated by print machines.”

Marshall-George adds that many older industrial buildings used by printers often suffer from poor ventilation, which can lead to excess air humidity causing condensation and mould on the building fabric, and excessive water absorption by the paper. Alongside humidifiers, Condair also offers a range of dehumidifiers to help alleviate these types of environmental issues.

Quality and Efficiency

Elsewhere and another provider of these solutions is DriSteem. Stephen Finkel, Western European regional sales manager at DriSteem, says that to produce high-quality printed products, print shops must maintain an appropriate level of moisture content in the air.