How to plan the perfect ink dispenser installation – a checklist

Installing a new ink dispensing and software system in the packaging or label printing facility is a complex project. A smooth and efficient installation requires a bit of practical planning beforehand – on the part of both the supplier and the customer. It’s no fun to find that, on installation day, there’s no space for the barrels, the power supply is too far away, or equipment gets stuck in the door!

Your ink dispenser supplier needs to make a precision plan for the installation and its delivery, taking into account the available space, obstacles, plumbing, connections and regulations. That means the customer must make some preparations and provide information in advance, for a smooth installation, with minimum disruption to your operations. There are many points to consider, so it is best to arrange a face-to-face meeting with your supplier at your facility, to agree actions and address any challenges. If this is not possible, a remote video conference is advised.

Failing to prepare is preparing to fail

As the adage goes, failing to prepare is preparing to fail – so we at GSE have compiled a checklist, based on GSE’s experience of over 2,100 installations worldwide:

Preparing the ink room

  • If the supplier is not able to visit you, provide photographs and video footage of the ink room in which the ink dispensing system is to be situated, along with its entrance.
  • Provide room and access door dimensions – width, length and height: if you’re installing a ‘high’ ink dispenser, the height is a critical concern, as the hood must open without hitting the ceiling!
  • Ensure the desired location for the dispenser is free of vibration and draught. This is to avoid inaccurate weighting scale readings. For instance, the dispenser must not be installed near heavy machinery such as the press.
  • Inform your supplier about the following:
    • Location of ducts in the walls and floors for cables
    • Whether the ventilation ducts are explosion-proof: this is a safety requirement for solvent ink dispensers
    • The desired location of a hose bridge – necessary if the ink dispensing system takes space in an adjacent room, e.g. for housing barrels
    • Distance between the ink dispenser and the office – to ensure the right cable lengths are fitted
    • What is the floor made of? Is its surface flat and even?
    • Is drilling possible, for example to fix pump frames?
    • Location of any obstacles such as pillars, heaters, fans, windows and other fixtures.
    • Location of guttering
  • Decide if you wish to install trays to collect spilt ink on the floor under the base ink containers that supply the dispenser. This can make it easier to keep the ink room clean.
  • Prepare the proposed installation area, by making sure it is clear of clutter.

Provide information about utilities, drainage and connections

  • Ensure drainage is installed if your installation includes blender or bucket washer – this action must be arranged by the customer before the arrival of the equipment.
  • Is there a stable electricity supply? If not, the dispenser’s computer may need a UPS (battery) in order to function during a temporary outage.
  • Is there a supply of uncontaminated air? There must be no risk of oil or water entering the supply, as this will require costly replacement of the pneumatic features that are essential to dispenser performance.
  • Is a water / solvent supply connection available? Depending on the ink set being dispensed, a water or solvent valve is necessary at the dispenser. The customer should make sure a connection with the source is possible. The distance between the dispenser and the source is also needed, to fit the right length of hosing.
  • Network considerations: advise on the location of switches and cable ducts, to ensure sufficient cables are installed

Designing the perfect ink room

The ink logistics provider uses this information to prepare a technical CAD drawing of the installation, for the customer to approve and prepare.

The engineer will create a space-efficient set-up for barrels of base components, containers with dispensed inks and containers with return inks. If there is not enough room for all the barrels, a solution can be to install scaffolding to store the containers on more than one level. Your provider will advise on the feasibility of this.

The dispense container

It is important to agree the dimensions of the dispense bucket with the supplier, especially if it comes with a conveyor system. Its height determines the optimum height of the dispense head.

Hoses and piping preparations

Generally, questions about hosing and piping should be addressed in the sales stage. However, a couple of points require close attention:

If pipes are installed vertically – for example, when connecting to base ink containers that are installed on higher levels – these must come fitted with ball valves. This enables the replacement of individual parts such as pumps without having to bring the container to ground level.

If mounting frames must be fixed to floors, walls and ceilings, the vendor needs to know it is safe to drill in the relevant locations.

Tools and equipment

The vendor needs to bring basic tools for the ink dispenser installation. Some equipment has to be arranged by the customer. That may include safety harnesses, platforms, and explosion-proof tools. Is a forklift truck or pallet truck available on site?

Complying with local regulations and corporate protocols

Safety regulations differ from one country to the next, and larger corporations may have their own protocols. It is important that the all vendor personnel involved in the installation have the necessary safety training, permits and qualifications where applicable.

Staff and co-supplier availability

The installation will require the availability of the customer’s maintenance and ink room staff, on dates that do not conflict with bank holidays, within business hours. Additionally, engineers from your ink supplier may need to be on site to provide assistance during the installation, for example to provide recipe data. Operators must be available for training programs.

Disposing existing dispensing equipment

If a dispenser is being replaced, the customer and vendor will need to make arrangements for dismantling the existing machine, which may also involve flushing residue ink, arranging disposal or packing according to instructions and arranging return shipment. The customer may have to plan some extra ink dispensing jobs ahead of the normal schedule prior to installation, to ensure printing press continuity.

Implementation plan for a smooth transition to ink dispensing

Once action points have been agreed and the information has been supplied, your vendor will make an implementation plan, specifying actions to be completed, by which party (vendor, customer or ink supplier) and by which date.

There is a lot to think about when preparing to install an ink dispensing system. With an experienced global ink logistics provider to guide you at each step, you can be assured of making the transition to automated dispensing as smooth as possible – for the fastest return on investment!