The Big Job was Going Great Until…


Well-known member
By Noel Ward, Editor@Large

The big job was going great until a small wrench vibrated its way off the top of a tower and dropped into your press. It did a number on the plate, put a really amazing gouge on the impression cylinder, and made an incredible sound before the operator got the thing shut down. And you were only 20 minutes into a three-hour, six-color job on your primary sheet-fed press. Helluva way to start a Tuesday.

So minutes later you, the pressman, and a couple others are huddled around the press, considering the damage and thinking about what to do. Removing the impression cylinder and resurfacing it would take the better part of a week and you have too much work in the queue to lose this press for that long. Getting a new roll from the press manufacturer will run well north of Twenty-Large, plus the down time for removal and replacement. You do not want to outsource these jobs to the printer across town and give up the revenue. The calculator in your brain is clicking away and you don’t like the numbers.

Then the pressman says it can be resurfaced in place. You look at him, trying not to roll your eyes the way your teenager does when you say something he/she thinks is lame. Resurface? You’ve been there before, using epoxy or Bondo or JB Weld to patch up a damaged cylinder; a quick fix that winds up having to be redone and just kicks the cost of the replacement cylinder down the road. But the pressman persists. “There’s a way to do this using metal,” he says. “It’s called brush plating.”

Brush Plating
The mechanics of the process are simple but doing a lasting job is an acquired and specialized skill. And no, you can’t get the stuff at Home Depot and have Spluzski, your jack-of-all-trades, do the work on second shift. Here’s how it works. An AC power pack converts the 110 volts coming out of the wall to DC current. A ground cable is connected to the part—in this case the impression cylinder—giving it a negative charge and making it the cathode. Another cable providing a positive charge connects to the plating tool making it the anode. The plating tool is wrapped in an absorbent material that holds the plating solution which the technician holds between the anode and the cathode. Then the magic happens. The positive electrical current travels from the tool through the specially formulated plating solution to the negatively charged work area. The plating only happens where the tool contacts the impression cylinder, in this case filling in the gouge made by the wrench. Perhaps surprisingly, little heat is generated (only about 100 degrees Fahrenheit) throughout the plating process, so no internal stresses or heat distortions are transferred to the impression cylinder. The metal deposits placed into the gouge or divot are dense, hard, extremely corrosion resistant, and metallurgically sound. There are a wide range of build-up and alloyed plating materials available so you should be able to find one that is right for your needs. Whichever material you select, it can be smoothed after being put down and the cylinder can be checked with a dial indicator to ensure it retains the correct circumference. And the job is done. Replace the plate and you’re good to go.

Permanent repair
I’d heard about this process a few years back and forgot all about it until cylinder and roller damage came up in conversation a few weeks ago. I couldn’t remember much about it, so I Googled up the process and found Canadian Metal Ad, a company in Brampton, Ontario (outside of Toronto) that specializes in it, especially the part about doing the work onsite. It is ISO 9000-2008 certified and its technicians are fully trained, bonded and certified to military standards for brush plating.

I was sufficiently intrigued to learn more, so I caught up with Paul Arato who runs the company. He explained that brush plating provides a permanent repair and can be done entirely on press. He told me it requires much less down time than removing and replacing a roller or cylinder, so a press can often be back up and running in a day or less. Prices, I found, start around $1,500.

At first I was surprised to learn that brush plating is not a widely used process in the printing industry, but considering the condition of some presses I’ve seen I guess my surprise was misplaced. “Most of our business isn’t from printers,” said Arato. “The majority is in the aerospace, marine, nuclear, power generation, pulp and paper, and transportation industries. Our technology has even been used on the International Space Station. Although we didn’t do that one on site.” He grinned.

Onsite work, what Arato describes as portability, is a key advantage for Canadian Metal-Ad’s process. “The ability to do the work in place has advantages in time and cost savings. Many repairs can be made without disassembling the press,” he says. By comparison, other re-plating options require removing a roller or cylinder and shipping it to a location where the work is done. This can be an option if time is not a factor, but when you need a press turning and being billable, onsite repairs make more sense. Moreover, today’s tight turn times for print jobs make onsite repairs an attractive choice.

I did some other research and learned that brush plating can also be used to bring new life to a press that has seen better days. For instance, presses often corrode or rust as they age, and various parts can need resurfacing. If the cash flow is tight, or you have money earmarked for a new inkjet press rather than repairs to the offset machine, brush coating may be the right solution. Or maybe it will just make your day a bit better if a wrench happens to drop into your press.
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Seen this done on a Komori 28"2C. It worked very well.
It did take several hours, as you can imagine, once the tech was on site.


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