What is Flexography?

What is Flexography?

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Flexography

Flexography is a commercial printing process in which a flexible printing plate is used to produce 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 high-speed printing method.

For other printing options, you can check out: Offset Printing & Digital Printing

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

Advantages:

  • Prints absorbent & nonabsorbent 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 extremely fast-drying.
  • The process is highly flexible
    The process is capable of printing millions of impressions and can cater itself 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.

Disadvantages: 

  • 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 normally very high as separate plates must be purchased for separate 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 typically involved in flexography are image preparation, platemaking, mounting, printing, and finishing in their respective order.

There are various ways to develop flexographic platemaking 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 is normally 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.