Flexography is a commercial printing process in which a flexible printing plate is used to produce a print for different types of materials, including folding cartons, corrugated cardboard, plastic, and metallic films.
It is considered to be the modern-day letterpress and can withstand large quantities of packaging products like 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 substances.
The process of printing several substrates involves the usage of fast-drying inks, and it is considered to be a rapid printing method.
Types of Flexographic Printing
Flexographic printing has changed rapidly over the years. Some of the types of printing are:
Traditional flexo: This process uses doctor blades to spread solvent inks evenly 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.
Process flexo: This technique combines the CMYK colors when it is printing the material.
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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
Process of Flexography
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 is being 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.