Flexo Printing Process: The Basics
Also known as flexo printing, flexography is a modern version of letterpress printing. It gets its name from the Latin word flexus, meaning “bending.” It uses a flexible relief plate, and, unlike other printing methods, can be used on nearly any type of substrate. Some common substrates utilized by flexographic printing include:
- Corrugated cardboard
- Metallic Film
- Multilayered film composites
This method can print high-quality images at rapid speeds, making it ideal for label printing. It is especially good for large bulk orders and is utilized in a variety of industries, including food and consumer products and industrial applications.
How Does Flexo Printing Work?
When printing with this method, the starting substrate comes as a roll. During the print run, the material moves through a series of single-color flexible relief plates, each of which is fed by their own specialized roller. As the substrate passes through the relief plates, multiple layers of color are applied to it until the final label is completed.
Unlike most other printing methods, flexographic printing can combine any additional required processes into one single pass—embossing, laminating, and die-cutting don’t need to be performed in a separate process. This means that flexography is significantly speedier than many other printing methods.
Advantages of Flexo Labels / Printing
Flexography can make use of an incredibly wide variety of substrate materials. This makes it ideal for use in almost any industry, as it can easily print on materials that would be impossible to use in other printing methods. It is also excellent for any type of solid color printing, and perfect for long runs—and the durability of labels printed with this method makes it ideal for use in industries such as Automotive and OEM.
Rapid Printing Speeds
Print runs using this method are extremely rapid, and this speed is only enhanced by the fact that flexographic printing can combine each type of printing process into a single pass. Additionally, this method can be used with quick-drying ink.
Affordable Units at Longer Runs
Although the initial cost of the equipment is somewhat high, the consumables used in flexographic printing are cost-effective. This, in addition to its versatility and rapid print speeds, makes it incredibly economical.
Flexo Printing Process vs. Offset
The benefits of flexographic printing are clear—but how does it compare to other methods such as offset printing? In general, flexography is more versatile. The offset printing process has several more steps; the inked image isn’t transferred directly onto the substrate but is instead moved from a plate onto a different carrier before being transferred to the final substrate. Additionally, while flexography can combine multiple processes into a single pass, offset printing requires each process to be done separately.
An important distinction between these two methods is that offset printing can only be done on a smooth, flat surface. This sets flexographic printing apart and makes it the ideal choice for many different printing jobs.
Flexo Printing Process vs. Lithographic
Lithographic printing is a classic method of printing and has been used by many famous artists, including Currier and Ives, since its invention in the late 1700s. In its basic state, lithography takes advantage of the immiscibility of oil and water. During the early days of this method, printers treated an image with grease and then applied ink to it—the ink would stick to the grease-treated areas but would be repelled by the parts of the plate that held moisture.
Today, lithographic printing is used to print a great deal of magazines, newspapers, books, labels, and other types of packaging. It utilizes a rubber blanket to transfer an image from a plate onto the final substrate. Typically, lithographic printing is used on heavy paper stock. In contrast, flexographic printing is more versatile and fast.
Flexo Printing Process vs. Rotogravure
Rotogravure printing uses metal plates to transfer images onto the desired substrate. These metal plates have a sunken surface, which is soaked with ink and then cleaned before it is applied to the substrate. Flexography, on the other hand, uses a rubber plate with a raised surface.
As with offset and lithograph printing, rotogravure printing is slower and more restricted in its applications when compared to flexographic printing. This option is also more expensive.
Contact TLP for your Flexographic Labels:
At Tailored Label Products, we don’t just promise unparalleled service—we deliver. Our team of experienced professionals and engineers are ready to work with you to bring your image to life with flexographic printing. No matter what type of project you’re working on, we can help.