A close look at offset vs. flexo in label printing
Every printing job has a different set of needs.
In the label printing industry, there are mainly two factors that determine which printing technique is best for your company: quality and cost.
Flexo and offset are two of the most popular printing processes in this industry. But when is either one the better fit?
The pros and cons weighed
Advantages of offset printing:
- It guarantees high-quality images
- Provides flexibility with label material
- Is suitable for large printing jobs: the price per 1000 labels goes down as the number of labels goes up
Disadvantages of offset printing:
- It’s expensive due to the complex print units
- It requires more time and produces more waste during set-up resulting in higher costs
- To keep the quality up to par you need skilled operators because the press and offset printing processes are very complex. Ink and water balance, pH value, temperature etc. all influence label quality.
Advantages of flexo printing:
- Flexo presses have short set-up times with minimum waste and guarantee high-quality output
- Eliminates the need for additional work and cost as the press automates additional commonly needed label embellishments in-line, such as die-cutting and lamination. Offset printing requires performing these processes on separate machines after completing the print run, requiring additional time and manpower.
- The flexo printing technique is simpler. It’s a relatively straightforward and more controlled printing process that can quickly train operators to achieve high-quality output.
Disadvantages of flexo printing:
- The printing plates that print the image onto the label are more expensive than offset printing plates. (On the other hand, you can use them for repeat orders, whereas in offset you always need to make new plates, also for repeat jobs).
In-line die-cutting on a flexo press
Flexo printing is the future
Historically, offset was the printing technique that provided the highest quality. But with the evolution of flexo printing, quality is now on par with offset.
With the clear benefits of flexo printing — low-cost, high-quality, simple process, no need for additional work and cost — more and more companies are switching to flexo.
However, when you switch to a new printing technique, it takes time to adjust to the new print results. To avoid losing any customers, it’s smart to consider your current order demand and ease into the transition.
Three ways to make the switch to flexo printing
1. Combine offset and flexo printing in one press
Some offset presses can be equipped with one or more additional flexo units. These units can also be available on the converting rail for flexible positioning. This is a smart solution if you don’t want to switch to flexo printing completely: you can have the best of both worlds.
2. Replace offset printing with flexo printing
This requires a short-term investment because you need flexo presses. However, in the long run this transition will result in lower costs.
3. Embrace hybrid printing
If flexo printing is the future, hybrid printing is the ‘future’s-future’.
This innovation merges the capabilities of flexo and digital printing, integrating the reliability and efficiency of flexographic printing with the creative possibilities of digital printing.
What do you obtain? High print quality and low cost of flexo printing, with the flexibility and rapid change-over times of digital printing.
Maximize your press productivity
To keep your place in the competitive and fast-changing label printing industry, it’s important to start thinking about the viability of your printing process.
So, what can you do to take press productivity to the next level?
We can help you in defining performance goals and actions to achieve press performance improvements - and thus increase competitive advantages and maximize profits.
Visit our website here to get started.
Leopold der Nederlanden
Leopold der Nederlanden joined MPS in 2011 and is currently our Training Centre Manager. He has a wealth of experience in the printing industry and shares his knowledge regularly through training programs.