What Is Flexographic Printing A Comprehensive Guide Posted On: Sep-27-2019 By: Alex Jones

Flexography is a sort of rotatory in-line method of printing. As it is derived from a Latin word “Flexo” which is “bending” in the literal meaning, so it is used for printing any flexible material. This includes all the flexible materials such as metallic films, paper, plastics, cellophane, etc.

Initially, it was called a rubber stamp printing method. The very first flexo press was built by Bibby, Baron, and Sons in Liverpool in 1980.

Since then, there are a lot of changes and innovations made in the printing process. As of today, almost 60% of the printing industry is relying on flexographic printing. Now, the modern flexographic printing presses also have die cutting process and lamination services within them. Flexographic industry is growing with great speed due to its increased demand.

The Use of Flexographic Printing

If you think about it, you pass through the flexographic printing almost every day. You will find many products around you, whether you are in an office or a grocery store, that are packed with flexographic printing on them. If you want to know, there is a list of the flexographic printing products that you see a lot around you:

  • Flexible packaging
  • Labels
  • Wallpaper
  • Textiles
  • Foil
  • Food and drinking packages
  • Folding carton
  • Envelopes etc.

How Is It Different From Other Printing Processes?

Flexographic printing is growing rapidly because it has a lot of benefits over other printing processes. Let’s get deep into the understanding of the difference among other printing processes and flexographic printing.

Flexographic Printing And Rotogravure

In gravure printing, a metal plate is used to transfer an image on the substrate. The metal plate has a deep surface on which the ink is sprinkled and it is cleaned every time before using. Whereas in Flexographic printing, there is a photopolymer (rubber) plate with a raised image. Overall the main advantages Flexographic printing has on gravure printing are:

  • Low cost for medium to short print runs.
  • Immensely high-speed printing
  • Versatile and diverse application

Flexographic Printing And Offset Lithography

In offset lithography printing, an immediate carrier is used to transfer the inked image immediately from the plate and then it is transferred to a substrate. In short, the image is not directly transferred to the substrate. As compared to this, in Flexographic printing, the image is directly transferred to the substrate from the plate. Not only there is a difference in the process, but also there is a lot more difference in printing type of plate, the substrate, and the ink. Any substrate with a flexible surface can be used in Flexographic printing whereas the only flat surface is allowed in offset lithography.

Advantages Flexographic Printing  Over Offset Lithography

  • Large orders can be printed without any disturbance or interruption through rolls of the substrate.
  • High-speed production
  • Cost-effective for large orders.

Flexographic Printing And Digital Printing

In digital printing, one doesn’t need physical printing plates to make the image. Instead, in digital printing positive and negative electrons are used to attract ink to the substrate. Moreover, it is still a growing method and thus it has not made any advancements yet like the other printing processes.

Flexographic Printing Has Advantages Over Digital Printing

  • Cost-effective for longer runs
  • High-quality result
  • The high-speed printing process

Some Advantages Of Flexography

As we all know, every printing process has its own advantage and perks. But, Flexographic printing is a leading printing process in the industry nowadays. Moreover, it is known to be the best process for long term ROI for long to medium runs. We have enlisted a few of the advantages of Flexographic printing here for a clearer understanding:

  • Quick production process:  Flexographic printing has average speed of 300 meters/min. So, the normal amount of time required for set-up is quickly compensated by this and it is reducing day by day through the advancements made in the field. It is making shorter runs economical too.
  • Maintenance:  The equipment and machines used in Flexographic printing require very less maintenance thus reducing the maintenance cost and making it very economical. In this world of inflation, everyone needs good quality in less amount. So, Flexographic printing is doing a great service in those terms.
  • Color palette: Four process colors are used in Flexographic printing. These are cyan, black, yellow, and magenta. But a flexo press can accommodate more colors (10) in order to extend the color gamut. Due to this, Flexographic printing has made the printing of Pantone colors so easy and affordable at the commercial level.
  • Cheap Consumables: The consumables used in Flexographic printing like its packaging material, the ink, etc. are of very low prices than the ones used in other printing processes. Even though the initial cost of the plate is comparatively high, but when it is about price per unit, it is very much low. This makes the Flexographic printing the most convenient, cost-efficient, and suitable solution for your market needs. And it provides quick turn around on the investment made.
  • Versatility: Along with offering a wide variety of substrate, Flexographic printing also used a wide range of inks in the process. It all depends on the type of substrate being used. On can use U.V curable ink, solvent-based ink, or water-based ink depending on the requirement. Also, flexible and porous materials can be used. This all makes Flexographic printing a very versatile and easy to use process.
  • Automated process: Now is the world of AI. Manpower is used less and more is being done by the machines. Same way, in Flexographic printing, die-cutting. Laminating, sheeting, are all the processes that are integrated with the process up to the finishing stage. Once you set it all up, the process is pretty fast and it is all done by the end. No need of doing any finishing job by the hand. Once it is done, you will get the final completed process. That’s why Flexographic printing is the choice of the market now.
  • Environmental friendly: World doesn’t only need solutions but It needs environmental friendly solutions. Flexographic printing is ahead in this as well. The water-based inks, water washable flexo plates, and recycled inks that are used in Flexographic printing make it very eco-friendly and safe. The effect of Flexographic printing on the environment is made very less by the use of fewer solvents and toxins used in the production process. SO, the Flexographic printing is made very much eco-friendly and user-friendly as well.

The Flexo Graphics Printing Process

We have divided the process of Flexographic printing into two phases: prepress and printing. Let’s dig into it:

Prepress:

Everything that happens before the printing part lies in the prepress process. In this step, everything that is required to start a press is taken care of. The plates are made either in the house or the shops can be approached that deliver your desired designed plates. For one print design several plates are made, one of each particular color. These different colored plates overlay over each other thus giving color combination and shading to the design.

When the plates are ready, they are placed over a plate sleeve or a cylinder. It is very important to place the plates correctly because incorrectly placed plates can lead to unusual printing result. The slightest difference will give a really bad impact. The ink is prepared in ink-kitchen. The main colors are cyan, magenta, yellow and black and spot colors are made with the mixture of these colors to make a Pantone shade. The colors that are using in final printing are based on customer’s choice.

Printing:

So, how does Flexo graphics printing works? There are several printing stations to be seen in one press, it all depends on the color we are using for the printing purpose. Each color is printed in each printing stations. The substrate goes through several printing stations. When different colors are overlaid with each other on the top, the actual design is produced.

Initially, ink is transferred from the ink pan over the plate. It is made sure that the ink is uniformly distributed over the plate.

There are two cylinders: the impression cylinder and the plate cylinder. The substrate is passed between them. Through impression cylinder, the design of the plate is transferred on the substrate. When the substrate is fresh, it is passed through a dryer. The substrate then goes to other printing stations once the ink has dried. When everything is done, the substrate is passed through additional dryers to avoid any solvent.

 Now, at the end of it, other processes such as die-cutting. Laminating, sheeting, etc. is done. It is all a built-in process and done by the machine.

This all makes the Flexo graphics printing, the best printing solution right now with very easy and quality process. Along with being user and environment-friendly, flexographic printing is cost-efficient as well thus giving you the best solution to your printing needs. 

Flexographic printing a great way to design your labels and meet the product  product printing specifications. To know more about this, you will find this helpful.

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