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What You Don’t Know About Doctor Blades Can Hurt Your Business

Doctor blades, those slender, consumable, often commoditized strips of steel, plastic or other material can hurt your business. The damage can be insidiously subtle, evidenced by degrading print quality; egregiously expensive by damaging costly anilox rolls, ruining jobs and many feet of pricey substrates, or by just adding costs in the form of frequent replacement. Yet, most converters don’t think of doctor blades as critical parts of the flexo printing process—if they think of them at all!

Tales from Inside converting

To explain the critical role doctor blades play in flexo printing, Andy Gillis, General Manager of Provident, will lead a webinar on Friday, March 3 2017 that will relate some real world experiences of converters using different grades of doctor blades and how their choice impacted their businesses. For example, one brand owner immediately noticed differences in print quality when a converter shifted to a different blade—and called to complain.

As with most other things in this industrialized and technological age, there is far more to many seemingly innocuous items than most of us realize. For example, talking with Mr. Gillis about doctor blades illuminates how seemingly minor technical differences in the blades are of vital importance. It is immediately clear that doctor blades are not merely simple strips of thin steel with a nicely beveled edge. Every blade is a product of heat-treating, carefully calculated carbon content and metallurgy. You learn that blades can be too hard, too brittle, or too soft. And that any shortcomings can impact the quality of every job you run.

He also talks about why a curved blade is a bad thing. For instance, some commercially available blades for a mid- or wide-web press can vary by as much as 10 mm (3/8”) over their length, making the blade slightly curved when mounted on a press. That curvature—hardly noticeable across a wide roll—can affect print quality across the web and cause additional wear on the anilox roll. The solution is buying straight blades that accurately clean ink across the full width of the roll and also wear longer. This last point touches on durability, which helps reduce operating costs: Straight, high quality blades of the correct type and hardness have longer useful lives and provide a better ROI, which trickles down to improved profitability.

In the webinar, Mr. Gillis will talk about these issues and illustrate the costs associated with improper doctor blade selection. “Using the right blades,” he notes, “can eliminate damage to anilox rolls, and sharply reduce the need for recovery of rolls.” He cites one converter who was sending out several anilox rolls a month for recovery, at a cost of around $2,000 per roll, all because the doctor blades they were using were too hard and were damaging the rolls. “That was over $15,000 a month,” recounts Gillis. “And that doesn’t count the opportunity cost of work that couldn’t be done because some rolls weren’t available.”

The free Provident doctor blade webinar is at 1PM EST on Friday, March 3 2017. You can register right now at and be ready on Wednesday to learn how what you don’t know about doctor blades can hurt your business.

Register Now

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