What Type of Printing do We Require For Flexible Packaging?
Do you process flexible packagings such as self-supporting packaging, films, or labels? If so, there are a surprising number of print options. There are a variety of printing and curing technologies available for applying color, text, and graphics to compliant printing mailing boxes packaging.
We are often asked how printing technology can be brought to flexible packaging at industrial packaging companies. This article provides an overview of the different printing applications on flexible packaging and related substrates.
What are the different printing processes for flexible packaging materials?
- Flexographic printing
- Digital printing
- Gravure printing
Flexographic printing (also called flexo printing) is a printing technique that uses a flexible (rather than rigid) printing plate. It is a new form of letterpress printing. Flexographic printing is a widely used printing process.
The most common flexible packaging produced using the flexographic printing process is plastic and free-standing packaging. Flexographic printing is used throughout the packaging industry to print graphics, text, and images on non-porous materials for various food packaging.
Digital printing is an inkjet printing process that directly applies graphics and branding elements onto a plastic substrate. Modern digital printing does not require labels or cardboard inserts. It dramatically reduces waste, lowers inventory requirements, and accelerates market dynamism.
Digital printing technology for flexible packaging also enables variable and dynamic content in flexible packaging printing applications. It means that a range of graphics and text can be used, tailored to target groups and buyer personas. They are the best for custom box packaging.
Dynamic content uses the usual amount of market segmentation in variable content and further subdivides it into targeted subgroups based on any combination of demographic, geographic, psychological, and behavioral data. It is where accurate 1-to-1 communication comes in.
Essentially, dynamic content is content that is regularly updated, either manually or automatically, based on precise segmented data. This content is highly targeted to specific buyer personas to increase the effectiveness of the content and drive buyers to buy.
Variable content is a collection of text and images that changes or updates periodically based on a set of data and corresponds one-to-one with a more significant market segment. Are you interested in using printed wrapping paper to make your products visually appealing?
Gravure printing is a printing process in which graphics are etched onto the surface of a printing plate, mold or cylinder and then applied to the final substrate. In gravure printing, graphics, text, and other images are etched onto the surface of an image carrier such as a cylinder or flatbed.
Gravure printing differs from flexo printing in that it uses machines similar to web printing techniques. Applications for gravure printing include commercial printing of magazines, newspapers, cartons, and flexible packaging. For flexible packaging, the process is typically used for self-supporting packaging.
In lithography, oil paints are used to paint on lithographic prints. The plate is then treated with acid. Areas of lithography that are not protected by oil can cause etching of the image. Water is then added to the board to keep the etched areas hydrated.
The oil-based ink is applied to the surface of the printing plate. The ink’s water resistance means that the ink will only stick to the graphics.
The ink is transferred to a blank substrate at the end of this process. It forms the final lithography of the graphic design. Although this method is outdated, it still produces prints for artistic applications.
Today, graphics are often made with polymer coatings and applied to plastic or metal sheets. The picture is then transferred to the plate from left to right or mirrored in reverse. Offset lithography can also be used in printing applications to attach graphics to a flexible substrate (usually rubber).
Lithography is not usually printed directly on flexible packaging but is often used to print labels on flexible packaging for shipping or educational purposes.
What type of printing is suitable for flexible packaging materials?
When deciding on a printing method for flexible packaging materials, you should discuss packaging material issues with the printer of your choice. Depending on the type of material used and the design, graphic or text elements, one printing process may be more suitable than another.
For example, if cost is a priority and the printing budget is not very large, flexo printing can be cost-effective with short turnaround times. However, the image quality is not the best, and there are often problems with distortion bands. Flexographic printing also does not produce high-quality photographic images.
On the other hand, if you’re on a budget and want high image quality without banding, lithography may be a better choice because it produces high-quality images. However, lithography is usually one of the most expensive forms of printing. Lithography tends to be very expensive because it is limited to flat surfaces, long lead times, and high minimum order quantities.
If you are not sure where to start when choosing the best printing solution for flexible packaging, we recommend that you contact at least three or four suppliers. Talk to a knowledgeable representative from each supplier to ask about their printing capabilities and which type is best for your product.
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