5 Interesting Questions About Flexography
First things first, it is important to understand that flexographic printing isn’t new. In fact, the first Flexo type printing press was patented in the late 19th century. In the beginning it was fairly basic in terms of quality and had its fair share of limitations, in terms of ink control and rubber printing plates.
Fast forward about a hundred years, and things have changed quite a bit. Since 1990, significant advances have been made to the quality of flexographic printing presses, printing plates, printing units, drying system and flex storage solutions. These advances have made flexography one of the most efficient printing options available, offering high production speed and lower capital investment.
1. How does flexographic printing work?
Flexography printing, sometimes referred to as “surface printing” or “flexo,” is a traditional method of printing that utilizes a flexible relief plate made of either rubber or flexible plastic. Due to the adaptable nature of the plate, it is able to conform to many different types of surfaces and deliver ink in ways that wouldn’t be possible for other types of printers.
In order for the ink to be distributed properly against these different surfaces, flexographic printers usually use ink with a lower viscosity, and therefore offer many similarities with gravure printing. An upshot of using this kind of ink is also that it is able to dry faster, making the overall production time of flexographic prints relatively low.
2. What are some advantages of flexography?
Compared to the first models that were put out over a hundred years ago, the greatest advances in flexographic printing have been in the area of photopolymer printing plates, the plate material and the method of plate creation. Several key companies, including Asahi Photoproducts, AV Flexologic, Dupont, MacDermid, BASF & TOK have been quick to take advantage of the latest technology and have themselves contributed to significant advances in terms of what a flex printer is capable of.
These improvements have allowed Flexo to grow quickly, and in some cases, even dominate production in print sectors such as labels and packaging, in addition to adding carton printing to their repertoire.
3. What are other advantages of flexography?
Another advantage of flexography is the fact that it prints on large rolls of continuous substrate, rather than the individual sheets of paper used, for example, in offset printing. This added convenience is one of the reasons that flexography has continued to grow, even when confronted with the digital printing market. In addition, digital direct to plate systems now support greater improvements in image reproduction, reducing the turnaround time from a computer to proofing, to press.
4. What types of products are best suited to flexographic printing?
Thanks to its highly versatile abilities, flexography’s printing plates make it well-suited for a variety of substrates. These include, cardboard, cellophane, plastic, paper, fabric and metallic film. As mentioned above, flexography uses low-viscosity ink, and this makes it ideal for both absorbent and non-absorbent materials. Combined with the continuous roll of substrate, flexographic printing is effective at printing continuous patterns on gift wrap or wallpaper. For this reason, large orders of packaging products and labels are commonly printed utilizing flexography.
5. Are there any downsides to flexography?
If this all sounds pretty great, it is because flexography does offer lots of great benefits, but as with anything, there are pros and cons. It is true that, if cared for properly, flexographic printing plates will be good for many runs, but it is also important to understand that the initial cost can be relatively high when compared to other printing options. While the printing process is fast and efficient, setting up such a job is fairly time-consuming. Any version changes would require you to start the process over from the very beginning.