Flexographic printing is one of the best and most popular printing methods for many varieties of print order – but is it the right choice for your project? Read on for some information about the basic mechanics of the flexo printing process, its advantages, and the equipment needed to get the best out of the process – such as the flexcart – in order to decide whether it’s going to work for you.
#1 Design process
Flexo printing is unlike digital printing, in that it transfers ink by way of flexible plates which are mounted on rotating cylinders. It’s essential to master the specific requirements of flexo printing and the material you’re printing on – and how it differs from offset printing – in order to ensure a high-quality final product. These requirements can be as specific as the minimum font size possible for the material in use. Contact your printing company to be sure you’re aware of all the requirements necessary to avoid error or delay.
#2 Traditional roots
Flexographic printing has been around in one form or another for well over a hundred years, and is itself an updated version of the letterpress technique of relief printing. But the processes, technology and equipment involved in flexo printing have evolved enormously over the decades – and so has the potential in how it can be used.
The inks involved in flexo printing can be used to print on a huge range of substrate materials, both absorbent and non-absorbent, including corrugated cardboard, cellophane, fabric, label stack, metallic film and plastic. It can therefore be used to print any number of different products.
#4 Continuous patterns
It’s one thing to reproduce an individual set of images and text at great quality; but printing a seamless, constant pattern over a great length of paper, plastic or fabric – say for wallpaper, gift wrap or patterned cellophane – is much more of a challenge. But not for flexo printing. This method makes use of a rotary operation and has the advantage of consistent ink control, allowing the continuous repetition of the same design many times without interruption.
#5 Large orders
The flexographic method works with ‘web-fed materials’: instead of printing on each sheet individually, raw material is fed continuously into the press on large rolls, and then cut down to size at a later stage. This allows not only for repetitive patterns (see #3 above) but also rapid printing of large runs. Flex storage solutions such as the flexstand are required to keep this process running smoothly.
#6 High speed
Advances in technology have greatly improved the speed at which flexo printing can turn out the final product – modern flexo presses can print at more than 800 feet per minute. It’s worth noting, however, that shorter runs will raise the overall print time because of the time spent in changeovers. Making use of tailored equipment – such as that provided by FlexStor Inc – can help the process run more quickly and smoothly.
#7 Low cost
One of the many advantages of flexo printing is the low cost of the equipment used and the maintenance of this equipment, not to mention the relatively inexpensive consumables used in the printing process. The plates themselves are relatively high-cost, but if treated with care they can be used over millions of impressions.