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Flexo print and everything about it

By Steffen Andersen · 13. May 2020

Flexo print is also known as flexography which is an efficient printing method for more complicated printing in high volumes. The reason why it is mostly used for high-volume printing is that the set-up and set-up cost is normally a high part of the cost. Where pad printing normally would be used for smaller quantities, this printing method is commonly used for high quantities. In this article, we are going to go through the whole process flexo print and what it is used for and compare it to the other printing methods.

How does it work?

Flexo printing uses printing plates to make the print, and the printing is transferred directly to the object via printing plates. The printing plates are either made of photopolymer or rubber since they then can adjust to the surface they need to print on and the printing plates will also last for a longer time. The reason why it is called flexo printing/flexible printing is referring to the flexible printing plates. 

The most flexo printing plates are made today by using direct “computer-to-plate” technology. First, the graphics are engraved into the printing plates via a laser, and then the plates are exposed to light from a UVA source, on both sides of the printing plates. The printing plate is then normally cleaned with water, but other materials can also be used, and when it has been washed it is then dried and on last time it is exposed to light. The printing plates are then ready to use. 

The printing plates are then attached to cylinders in the printing machines. Each printing plate can only contain 1 colour, so depending on the number of printing plates depends on the number of colours used in the design. The printing process does both works with CMYK and Pantone colours, but it is mostly used for Pantone colours since each printing plates gets a colour added. The ink that is added does normally also dry really quickly, by going through drying rollers to make sure that the colours are not mixed together. When using CMYK colours the drying process first starts when all the colours have been added. 

The ink is applied through rollers that connect through to the printing plates. The rollers with the ink and the printing plates are applied against each other with a slight pressure to transfer to ink. There is also another roller that removes excess ink to make sure that the correct volume of ink is applied to the printing plates. The process makes sure that a small layer of ink is added to the printing plates during the whole printing process because at the same time the printing plates apply ink to the objects that need to be printed. 

Rollers are what connect the process together since it is rollers that hold the printing plates and it also the ones that move the printed objects from step to step. The number of rollers depends on the number of colours, and the colour schemes used. 

What is it used for?

Flexo printing is used a lot for printing on packaging, and it is especially used to print on plastic surfaces. But since the printing method is really efficient it can also be used for printing labels and other more normal printed objects. We work with a couple of manufacturers who use this flexography printing method, for example for our greaseproof paper in high quantities. It is also the most used printing method for textile printing since the print is added directly to the clothes. 

Flexo print vs Offset printing

Offset printing and flexographic printing have many similarities which give them some of the same benefits: Fast and efficient process that makes it good for large quantities, easily adaptable for both CMYK Pantone colours (offset do though primarily work with CMYK), and high-resolution printing of both graphics and images. 

There are two differences though; The printing plates do take more time to make for flexo print, which makes the start-up cost higher for flexo printing than offset printing. The second one is that flexography is better at printing on more complex surfaces such as plastic, metal, and not plain surfaces. If you want to know more about offset printing then we have made this article about it.

Flexo print vs Tampon printing

Flexo printing and tampon printing are the two printing methods that are commonly used when it comes to printing on more convex surfaces on for examples plastic and metal. The two differences are though that flexo print can both use CMYK and Pantone colours, where Tampon printing only can use Pantone colours. The second one is that tampon printing is better for low quantities since the set-up cost is low, where the set-up cost for flexography is rather high and is made for higher volumes. If you want to learn more about tampon printing then we have made an article about the process

Flexo print vs Letterpress

Flexo print is one of the most common printing methods in the packaging industry, where letterpress is mostly used by hobby printing enthusiasts. Letterpress is primarily used for very small quantities and very specialised printing with for example embossed printing. The letterpress process is not very adaptable to different surfaces, where flexo print can print on almost everything and in high volumes. The quality of letterpress printing is often also a bit lower, but many people like it because of the authenticity it gives. Do you want to learn more about Letterpress, then have a look here? 

Flexo print vs Rotogravure

Flexo print and rotogravure print does primarily have in common that they are used for printing products in large quantities. They are though used in different industries, where flexo printing is used in the packaging industry, and especially for printing on complex surfaces, then rotogravure is used for printing on paper and textile products. Rotogravure is not a widely spread printing method, because the start-up cost is really high and there needs to be printed many millions for it to be cost-effective. They can both use CMYK and Pantone colours in the printing process, but they do normally use Pantone colours. Do you want to know more about rotogravure? Then we have written an article about the whole process. 

Flexo print vs Digital print

Flexo print and digital print does not have much in common, they are often opposites when talking about printing methods. Digital print is great for small quantities because it doesn’t use printing plates and uses CMYK colours. Flexo print is great for large quantity printing because the printing plates can be used a lot of times, and it uses Pantone colours when printing. Making the printing plates for flexo printing is quite expensive. The main difference is that flexo print is primarily used for printing on convex surfaces where digital printing only can print on paper products. Do you want to learn more about digital printing, then you read an article about the process here

Content and Marketing Manager at Limepack

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