What’s all the fuss about OEM approvals? - The Avinash Kawadkar blog

In an open conversation about consumables, we often come across a term called ‘OEM approvals'. What it generally means is a FOGRA approval.

16 Mar 2015 | By Avinash Kawadkar

It is an experience of a graphic arts chemical manufacturer that more and more press owners and operators are asking for pressroom consumable products that are ‘OEMapproved’. However, there seem to be some misinformation and misunderstanding on this front.

This article aims to deconstruct the myths that surround this subject by presenting the facts. The same have been collated by TechNova’s chemical business’s technology consultant Chris Searle.
The Fogra approval is a requirement for ‘big three’ German press manufacturers, namely Heidelberg, Manroland and KBA.
They have a contract research institute in Germany to carry out tests on dampening additives and press washes.
The said tests are to quantify the effects that founts and washes have on certain metals and elastomers used for the construction of the presses and dampening systems.
Fount testing specs: The tests are against two alloys of steel and nickel to ensure that levels/pace of corrosion are less than a specification given by the press manufacturers.
Wash testing specs (coldset): It is tested for effects of wash on the elastomers used for the construction of inking and dampening system as well as various seals and valves. Solvent products have less than 0.1% of aromatic hydrocarbons and a flash point of greater than 61deg C.
Wash testing specs (heatset): Here, the explosive limits have to be within set specifications.
Conclusion: OEM approval looks at the single aspect of rate of corrosion and impact on rubber and elastomers. What it does not guarantee or even factor in is:
1)   Product performance, for example, cleaning power or lithographic properties
2)   Low odour or irritancy
3)   Low environmental impact
If, after testing, the independent tester finds that the chemistry conforms with the press manufacturer's specifications, then they inform the press manufacturers who, subsequently issue approval certificates.
Therefore, the term used is ‘OEM’, which stands for Original Equipment Manufacturer, which in this instance refers to the German press manufacturers for it is they who issue the approvals.
Is it only Fogra that does this job?
No. There are many pressroom consumable manufacturers who enjoy the status of ‘self-certification’ that is, if they have the correct testing equipment and methodologies as laid down by the press manufacturers they can carry out the tests in-house and self-certify.
A major issue facing this system of approvals is that every year or so the press manufacturers will amend (generally tighten) specifications - but not retrospectively. This means that products which were approved years ago remain on the approved list even though they do not get approval today.
The OEMs and the testing institutes are aware of this and have been considering reapproving of all currently approved products by 2016; however, this presents an enormous logistical problem for the testing institutes. A problem that is yet to be resolved.
Chris Searle
Chris Searle is the author of the article. He is an industrial chemist who has been working in graphic arts industry for over 30 years. Chris has been spearheading TechNova’s technological advances in chemical business for years, the objective has been to offer its customer with new solutions. He spends significant amount of time in India to work with team TechNova.
Avinash Kawadkar
The article is indigenised by Avinash Kawadkar who currently works for TechNova’s chemical business. He has been working in the graphic arts industry for over two decades in India as well as many overseas markets. He specialises in product application and manages business development portfolio.