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Moving From Digital to "Flexo", the Tipping Point

There are a variety of ways to produce custom labels.  Two of the most popular methods are flexographic printing, also known as “flexo”, and digital printing. 

This blog will take a close look at both printing methods and help you decide which is right for your label.

Flexography is a printing process that utilizes plates made from rubber or plastic to transfer an image to a substrate.  This flexible plate is wrapped around a printing cylinder and adhered with sticky tape.  These plates pickup ink and transfer the image to the label material or substrate.   Due to its use of fast drying inks, it becomes a high speed printing process and is an extremely popular method within the food industry.  The substrate shoots rapidly through the press, resulting in speedy, economical and high quality label production.  Flexographic label printing is ideal for larger runs of custom printed labels.  Because of the high speed and volume capabilities of the press, flexo is typically a more economical alternative to other printing processes.  This printing method affords a wide assortment of materials and technical capabilities.  It is versatile and can be used for printing on almost any type of substrate, including polypropylene films, metallic films, and many papers.  Flexo does well printing metallic inks and opaque whites; flexo inks anchor well on a broad range of materials including polyester, polypropylene, florescent labels, vinyl labels, and most coated papers.  Most flexographic printing companies have the ability to make photopolymer plates on site.  Photopolymer plates withstand millions of impressions.  Plates, along with the presses inking system, can deliver a predetermined amount of ink with minimum on-press adjustments.  These fast-drying inks can be solvent based, water based or ultraviolet (UV) curable.  Flexographic printing is constantly evolving and manufacturers are taking successful steps to make flexo even more productive, cost effective, and sustainable while printing with even more consistent quality.

Digital printing is commonly used for short run, full color labels.  This process does not require plates, which makes it easy to implement changes or run multiple lots. 

Digital printing gives labels the professional appearance without the professional cost.

Labels can be printed easily with variable data.  This allows consumers to personalize labels with customer’s names or account numbers. Digital printing relies on CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow and key – black), also called 4-color process.  Digital printing is an excellent option for short runs with multiple designs.  The set-up costs for digital labels can be an ideal solution for smaller companies or those wishing to purchase a small quantity of product labels.  Also, the turnaround time for digital labels is quicker by eliminating the set-up time needed to create plates and set up presses.  One of the key advantages of digital printing is the accuracy of the proofing it allows.  Extremely detailed samples can be made of your print job quickly and cost effectively, enabling you to hold a sample in your hands that will be replicated in the final print run.

Digital printing has emerged as a viable option for customers to get high quality on smaller print jobs while also keeping costs down.   It has actually helped make flexo an even better process because of what it forced flexo to accomplish: better registration, rapid changeover, wider color gamut and higher quality prepress. 

 

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Topics: digital printing Large Run Printing flexographic label printing
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