Updated: Nov 14
In the dynamic world of modern printing, there are a lot of printing techniques you should consider if you need something printed out. One of the most popular techniques for its speed, precision, and versatility is flexography printing. But what is flexography printing, and what can you use it for?
At Citypress, we care about our clients and want them to make informed decisions. Hence, we compiled a comprehensive guide about the flexography printing process so you can understand what makes it better than other printing techniques. But at the same time, we will explain the challenges and limitations of flexography.
Let’s find out whether you should use cutting-edge technology for your next project that requires printed materials.
What Is Flexography Printing?
Flexography printing is a high-speed form of rotary printing. The process includes utilizing flexible relief plates to transfer ink on the desired substrate. The printing plates are typically made of rubber or photopolymer and mounted on a rotating cylinder.
It is a highly efficient technique that we use to make prints on various materials, such as:
What Is Flexographic Printing Used For?
All businesses can benefit from flexographic commercial printing. At Citypress, we most commonly get requests for printing wallpapers, textiles, business forms and newspapers.
Yet, thanks to the variety of flexographic printing materials, the printing technique can be used for but is not limited to:
Engraving print on paper towels and tissues
Various types of food packaging
Packaging for medications and medical supplies
School and office supplies
Marketing materials like cardboard, shipping, and display materials
Product label printing
How Does Flexographic Printing Work?
We use a flexographic press for this printing technique. It contains four basic sections:
Unwind and infeed
Outfeed and rewind section
The flexography printing process starts with the preparation of the plate. If the print requires multiple colors, we must prepare separate plates for each color. There are three main methods the printing plates can be developed, and they are:
Plate development by utilizing light-sensitive polymer
Digital plate-making process with a computer-guided laser
Creating plates with molding
After the plate is done, we wrap it around the rotating cylinder that goes in the printing press. We use various registration marks to align the plates correctly. Some of them are registration crosses, microdots, register crosses, and others.
Since flexographic printing is a rotary printing technique, we use four types of rollers: fountain, anilox, plate cylinder, and impression cylinder. Each of them has a special function.
For instance, the fountain roller gets the ink from the ink pan and transfers it to the anilox roller. Then, the ink goes to the plate cylinder. The ink is applied to the substrate as it passes between the plate and the impression cylinder. Finally, the job of the impression cylinder is to apply pressure so the ink can be transferred to the substrate correctly.
The flexography printing process continues with the plate-less sections of the machine. When we transfer the relief image from the plate onto the substrate, it passes through image carriers. If we use more than one color during the printing process, it should pass through drying sections. The drying process is extremely important because it fixes the image and prevents faults.
The last step of flexographic printing is the outfeed and rewind. We extract the substrate from the machine and roll it up. Then, we transfer the printing into the cutting section and separate individual prints.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Flexography Printing
To fully understand what is flexography printing, you must know its pros and cons. Knowing the limitations and benefits can help you decide whether the technique will fulfill your needs and expectations.
Working with flexography brings a lot of possibilities and advantages, such as:
Fast production process
The ink dries really fast
Ability to print on rough substrate materials
Can print with a variety of ink types and colors
Cost-effective printing solution
Durable and robust printing technique
Availability of eco-friendly flexographic printing equipment
A single pass can handle printing, varnishing, laminating, and die-cutting
Like other printing techniques, the flexography printing process has its limitations. Luckily for you as a client, the only disadvantage is that the technique is not recommended for complicated and extensive artwork.
But when it comes to us as a printing company, there are a few challenges we face with flexography printing:
The flexographic printing equipment requires regular maintenance to avoid costly repairs
For prints that require several colors, we must make separate flexo plates for each one, which is daunting and expensive
Due to the complexity of the setup process, we advise our clients to use flexography printing only for medium to large printing values.
Frequently Asked Questions
How much can you print with flexography?
The flexography process offers high printing speeds. The modern technology high-end printers may achieve up to 2,000 linear feet per minute.
Should I use digital printing or flexo?
The printing method you should choose depends on your needs. We recommend using our digital printing services when you want to place small to medium-sized orders and don’t need the end result in a short time. On the other hand, if you have large volume orders and want to take advantage of the fast printing process, you should go with flexo.
What type of ink can be used for flexographic printing?
There are different types of flexographic ink, including solvent-based, water-based, electron beam curing, ultraviolet curing, and two-part chemically curing inks.
Flexography printing has an important role in the printing industry. It is a versatile technique that can be utilized on many substrate materials, making it highly adaptable according to your requirements.
Now that you have it clear what is flexography printing, you can use its advantages for your business or personal needs. By hiring our dedicated and experienced team for your printing job, you can rest assured you will get high-quality end products. With us, you will benefit from high printing speeds and reduce your costs without sacrificing quality.
Steve is the president of Citypress and brings a wealth of knowledge from the printing industry to readers, helping them make more informed decisions in an ever changing printing space.