Flexography Basics, Advantages, And Disadvantages
Flexography is today’s version of letterpress printing, and can be used on pretty much any surface like cellophane, label stock, cardboard, metallic film, plastic, and fabric. The process uses semi-liquid, quick-drying inks, and flexible photopolymer printing plates wrapped around rotating cylinders on a web press. The inked rubber or plastic plates rotate at high speeds to transfer the image to the chosen substrate. Flexography offers many advantages as a printing technique, as well as some limitations. Let’s have a look.
- High Press Speeds
Flexographic printing is performed faster than rotogravure, which is used for long print runs of stamps, newspapers, and magazines. It’s possible to print thousands of labels, for example, in just a short period of time using the flexo technique.
- Relatively Low Cost
Most consumables for the process are fairly inexpensive, as are the equipment and maintenance costs.
- Prints on a Variety of Substrates
Perhaps one of the most important advantages is that you can print on a huge variety of substrates. As mentioned above, you can print on everything from plastic to fabric. It is commonly used for printing large batches of labels.
- Eliminates Additional Work
The flexographic machine automates other tasks like die-cutting, laminating, and others. When you use other printing techniques these processes are done on separate machines, which takes up more time and manpower, and cost, since you have to purchase, rent, or lease that extra equipment.
- Supports a Range of Colours and Inks
Flexography can be used with water- and oil-based inks, in a variety of colours. Water-based inks tend to be used more because of their non-toxicity and environmental concerns with oil-based inks. Today’s presses can print up to 12 colours at the same time on a single central impression drum.
UV curable inks are another type of ink available for this process. The type of ink used will be determined by the substrate, speed, price, and other factors.
- Uses a Definable Amount of Ink
Any given project will use a definable amount of ink; this makes it easy to estimate costs.
- Cost of Plates
The number-one cost when it comes to flexographic printing is the cost of the plates. These are laser-cut and cost around $75 to $100 each, on average.
- Setup Time
It takes several hours to set up the complex jobs, especially when they will include printing, varnishing, laminating, and die cutting. Furthermore, if version changes are necessary, these are just as time-consuming.
- Not Advanced
Unlike rotogravure printing, flexo printing isn’t very advanced. You cannot produce extensive and complicated artwork, and the colours aren’t as bold or crisp as with other methods.
Designing For Flexography
Flexography has certain issues relating to template and die cut specs, proofs, and issues with fonts, tints, ink colours, drop shadows, knockouts, image formats, and image resolution. The file prep and design will have a huge impact on the quality of printing you get, so it’s important to master each of the specific requirements.
For example, the smallest font sizes you will use for both reversed serif and positive type will be based on the type of web press and if you are printing to uncoated newsprint, corrugated coated paper, polyester film, or different substrates. In most cases, the minimum range is 4 point to 10 point type. Sans serif type can usually be printed in a smaller font than serif type. Reversed type is hard to master in flexo printing.