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October 2002
Sometimes overlooked, printing blankets can make a big difference in the quality of output produced on-press. Uncover what some printing blanket manufacturers are offering.

Available from DAY International, the dayGraphica 3700 is designed for heatset web printers looking for a blanket that minimizes press mechanical problems. This blanket reportedly keeps presses up and running by resisting smashes, on-press damage and piling. Makereadies are faster due to precise ink transfer and great web release.

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The SX-10 compressible printing blanket, available from DYC Supply, is designed for high-speed printing where a variety of coated and uncoated papers are used. It features a new, high-tensile backing to prevent scratching, a new ply layout to minimize gauge loss and a high-yield compressible layer to help absorb the pounding of high-speed presses. It also features a finished ground surface for better release properties and a new rubber surface that is resistant to inks, solvents and chemical formulas. Its specially designed cerise color also allows for viewing of a definite image on the blanket.

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MacDermid Printing Solutions has announced the introduction of its RP310 blanket for high-quality commercial printing. The RP310's surface is said to offer significantly reduced piling and optimized ink transfer. The RP310 has consistent print quality for all high-speed web applications. Its uniform gauge and consistency ensures smooth, even printing across the entire print surface.

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The Tourmaline blanket is part of the new generation of printing blankets from Phoenix North America. It's characterized by a new elastic, compressible layer that combines a long blanket life with top print quality. The green, superfine ground surface is said to yield excellent print results in screen, as well as in solid print. Tourmaline is highly resistant to smashes and chemicals, and can easily handle format changes. Ink and paper dust buildup are minimized, reducing washup frequency. Outstanding print results on all kinds of stocks are achieved with Tourmaline. The sheet release, also known as the QR-effect, is reported to be high-quality. The blanket is available in four-ply thickness.

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Available in three- and four-ply to accommodate most presses, The Edge from Gans Ink is said to provide maximum saturation with no additional dot gain, enabling printers to push the capabilities of their presses to the limit. Providing precision and longevity, The Edge features a proprietary sub-face that resists edge-cutting and smashing, adding to the integrity of the ultra-smooth, buffed surface. Some benefits of The Edge line include: less linting due to reduced tack; reduces paper and ink piling; minimal dot gain and dense solids; and easy washups.

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From Reeves Brothers, Vulcan 2000 Plus and Vulcan 2000 Plus SR printing blankets offer good resistance to gauge loss and feature excellent dynamic mechanical properties for sharp dot reproduction. They transfer ink efficiently with low levels of distortion. Vulcan blankets assure exceptional web or sheet release and consistent, accurate gauge. Benefits of this line include improving smash resistance and service life; allows users to print closer to the gap, while eliminating sinking; requires less retensioning; and reduces slippage on the cylinder and at the printing nip.

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The Gerber Innovations Sector automatic coating blanket cutter offers an entirely new approach to producing coating blankets, making coating blanket preparation an integral part of a prepress workflow. Coating blankets produced on the Gerber Sector provide coating accuracy exceeding that with hand-cut blankets, and ensure proper registration with printed images. Perhaps most important, the Gerber Sector reportedly provides a speedy and verifiable return on investment.

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For more information on printing blanket manufacturers, use the reader service card in this issue, refer to our July Master Specifier issue, page 50, or visit

GATF Examines Blankets

According to a new original research study on blanket variables, proper torque affects print quality the most. In cooperation with seven blanket manufacturers, the Graphic Arts Technical Foundation (GATF) conducted the study of various blankets and their effects on print quality and sheet movement to promote product development and printer awareness.

Blanket Study

The Offset Blankets, Print Quality and Sheetfed Movement study examined 12 blankets, all used in print runs under the same conditions at GATF. Press, paper, ink, fountain chemistry, speed, plate and temperature were identical. In the first print run, GATF's press operators carefully used a torque wrench. Although suppliers recommend a variety of torque settings, all blankets were tensioned to 38-foot pounds—an acceptable middle ground torque.

Also, all blankets were printed at 0.006˝ squeeze between the plate and the blanket. GATF's second shift press operators were then asked to print two of the blankets without a torque wrench or packing gauge. Twenty random samples were pulled for print attribute measurement, and 30 consecutive sheets were measured with the Mitsubishi Digital Register Analysis—a machine vision system that carefully measures relative position of triads of dots.

The findings showed that print attributes are only slightly affected by the blanket, all other things being equal. Results regarding sheet movement were inconclusive and may be a topic for a future study. However, torque setting greatly affected tone value and could be used as another tool to control and adjust the process.

GATF also explored several blanket issues with the participating blanket manufacturers. Representatives who troubleshoot problems discussed customer feedback regarding packing latitude, blanket life, printer expectations, torque and packing frequency among printers, and the effect of blanket washing on blanket life. Interestingly the manufacturers estimated that only 10 percent to 50 percent of printers even use a torque wrench when fastening the blankets.

Comparing Printability

In comparing the printability of different blankets with all other conditions equal, Offset Blankets, Print Quality and Sheetfed Movement also documents trapping and print contrast, discusses sheet movement from unit to unit affecting tone value, and shows the effect of various blankets on printing solids and halftones.

While preliminary results were reported at GATF's TechAlert conference in January and at the Technical Association of the Graphic Arts (TAGA) conference in April, a full report is now available. Offset Blankets, Print Quality and Sheet Movement is the latest study in a series of Research and Technology Reports (RTR) published by the GATF. As an independent, third-party organization, association reports are objective and original research studies. Methodology is also described in all reports.


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