Offset vs Flexo printing: when to use which technology?
Every printing job requires 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 price. Flexo printing and offset printing are two of the most popular printing processes in this industry. But when is either one of them the better fit? That’s what I’ll explain in this blog.
Flexo printing vs offset printing: the pros and cons
Advantages of offset printing
- It guarantees high-quality images.
- This printing technique allows a lot of flexibility with label material.
- It’s suitable for large printing jobs: the price per 1000 labels goes down as the number of labels goes up
Disadvantages of offset printing
- An offset printing press is expensive; due to the complex print units .
- It requires more set-up time and produces more set-up waste, so higher set-up costs.
- To keep the quality up to par, you need skilled operators because the press and offset printing process are very complex. Ink and water balance, pH value, temperature etc. all influence label quality.
offset operator setting up the offset press
Advantages of flexo printing
- Flexo presses have short set-up times with a minimum of waste and guarantee high-quality output
- Flexo printing eliminates the need for additional work and cost. The press automates additional tasks in-line that are most commonly needed for labels, such as die-cutting and lamination. Offset printing requires performing these processes on separate machines after completing the printing, which asks for additional time and manpower.
- The principle of flexo printing is simpler. It’s a relatively straightforward and more controlled printing process that requires less-trained operators to achieve high-quality output.
Disadvantages of flexo printing
- The printing plates that are needed to print the image onto the label are more expensive than offset printing plates. (at 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 is the printing technique that provides the highest quality. But because flexo printing has evolved, it can now provide the same quality. Because of the clear benefits of flexo printing; low-cost, high-quality, simple process, no need for additional work and cost — more and more companies are using this technique.
However, when you switch to a new printing technique, you’ll always notice the difference. You don’t want to lose your existing customers, so therefore it’s smart to take into account your current order package. There are three ways to make the switch to flexo printing.
Three ways to make the switch to flexo printing
- Combining offset printing 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 at the converting rail for flexible positioning. This is a smart solution if you don’t want to switch to flexo printing completely; you can make use of the best of both worlds.
- Replacing offset printing with flexo printing: This requires a short-term investment because you need flexo presses. This transition will however result in lower costs in the long run.
- Embrace hybrid printing as your main printing technology: 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 you obtain? The high print quality and low cost of flexo printing, and the flexibility and rapid change-over times of digital printing.
offset press with flexo unit on rail
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. What can you do to take it to the next level? We are happy to answer just that question.
Schedule a non-binding talk with one of our printing specialists and discuss how you can optimize your process with flexo printing or hybrid printing to make it more viable.
Hans Poortinga is Printing Technology Expert at MPS since 2015. He knows all about printing technology, the total printing process and is a specialist in connectivity within the printing industry.