While we understand that printing is crucial to packaging design, it can be quite difficult to determine what printing process will suit your custom packaging project best.
We hear about offset printing and digital printing so often in the packaging world that new comers often believe these are the only choices at their disposal.
However, your capabilities are not limited to the options mentioned above!
Flexography printing, while not as commonly discussed, is another great printing option to consider.
Flexography offers high quality printing and finishing options to choose from!
Let’s delve deeper into what exactly the Flexography process is, so you can make well rounded decisions for your packaging project!
The Flexography Process
Flexography is a commercial printing process in which a flexible printing plate is used to produce high quality prints on different types of materials, including folding carton, corrugated cardboard, plastic, and metallic films.
It is considered to be the modern-day letterpress and can withstand large quantities of packaging products similarly to offset printing.
Flexography is commonly used to print on the surface of different types of food packaging, as it is excellent for printing on non-porous surfaces.
Food packaging has to be non-porous in order to keep products fresh and uncontaminated, which is why food packaging is often the best candidate for flexography printing.
The process of printing several substrates involves the usage of fast-drying inks, and it is considered to be a rapid printing method.
The major processes involved in flexography are image preparation, plate-making, mounting, printing, and finishing.
There are various ways to develop flexographic plate-making such as the photochemical method, laser method, and the photomechanical method.
A number of different printing presses can be used for flexography, and the type chosen usually is dependent on what exactly needs to be printed.
Flexographic inks have a low level of viscosity, and as a part of the process, they lie on the surface of substrates until they solidify.
The finishing process usually involves operations such as folding, cutting, binding, and coating.
While this may seem simple enough, flexography is actually more complex as different types of flexographic printing options come into play.
Types of Flexographic Printing
Flexographic printing has changed rapidly over the years and has developed to deal with a variety of different printing options.
Some of the types of printing options include:
Traditional flexo: This process uses doctor blades to remove excess ink and spread solvent inks on the printing plates to ensure that color is spread evenly on the material as the plates are in direct contact with the substrate.
Enhanced flexo: A refined version of traditional flexo, this process utilizes central impression cylinders to produce crisp images at a much greater level of quality. It is also more cost-effective than traditional flexo!
Designing for Flexography
Many improvements have been made to flexography since its first introduction in 1890. We now have a broad spectrum of capabilities through flexography as discussed above.
However, when choosing to go with flexography as your desired printing method specific design considerations need to be kept in mind.
Your design and file preparation could affect the printing quality of your finished product. While this is true for all printing processes, it’s important to take these specifications into account when designing.
For instance, your font size plays a role in the clarity of the print. You need to take your packaging materials into consideration when designing your packaging.
Corrugated coated paper and uncoated kraft paper are only a few examples of the materials that need to be taken into account when choosing your font size.
For most materials, the minimum font size lies between 4 and 10 point type.
While this is quite a broad range in size, your font type also plays a role in choosing your font size.
Keep in mind; Sans serif fonts can be printed smaller in some instances while serif font types should be slightly larger for legibility.
Read more on font types for custom packaging
Advantages and Disadvantages of Flexography
- Prints absorbent & non-absorbent substrates: It is able to print images on plastics, brown papers, acetate films, corrugated boards, fabrics, cellophane, and it can effectively print brilliant continuous patterns at a high quality.
- Utilizes a wide variety of inks: It can apply water-based inks, UV curable inks, and solvent inks, all of which are incredibly fast-drying making it sustainable and time saving.
- The process is highly flexible: The process is capable of printing millions of impressions and can cater to a tremendous range of cylinder repeat lengths to accommodate customer specifications.
- Low cost & efficient: The process is also more cost-effective when compared to its competitors as it leads to faster production due to its fast-drying inks.
- Generic printing: Flexo printing cannot create meticulous artwork that other forms of printing are capable of such as offset printing.
- Costly equipment & materials: The cost of the plates is also usually very high as separate plates must be purchased for different colors. The cost of wrapping and distorting images is also exceptional.
- Lacks short-run capabilities: This type of printing is typically not viable for short orders or sampling, unlike digital printing, since digital does not require plates to print and setting up presses.
Looking to learn more about your printing options for custom packaging? Get in contact with our packaging specialists for more information!