What is flexo printing? The printing technique explained

Flexographic printing has grown to the most used print technology in the label printing industry today, providing an optimal combination in quality, productivity, and flexibility. But what is flexo printing and how does it work? In our operator and engineer trainings I will explain this printing technique. This blog gives you a little introduction to flexo printing, and hopefully it will help you make a more confident decision on what printing method is best for your business.

A short introduction

Flexo printing isn’t what you would call a new technology, but it has evolved considerably with numerous innovations. These developments make it still one of the most reliable ways to produce large orders of high-quality custom labels at rapid speeds.New call-to-action

Flexographic printing is a technique that uses a flexible printing plate. In the past, these printing plates were made of rubber, and nowadays businesses use flexible photopolymer printing plates. The plates are wrapped around cylinders on a web press. The inked plates have a raised image and rotate at high speeds to transfer the ink through small holes from the anilox roll to the substrate; each color requires a different printing plate. Due to developments of anilox rolls, printing plates, inks, and the printing press amongst others, you can print images with high line count in flexo.  

Flexo printing is unique because it adapts well to different materials (like our own EF multisubstrate flexo press that prints on thin film, paper, cartonboard, shrink sleeves, inmould, lamitube and flexible packaging)  and can use a wider range of inks, including water-based inks and UV inks. Because this type of printing holds up and is adaptable, it can be printed on almost any kind of substrate, like plastic, metal, and paper.

MPS_EF 430 Plate_print units_01 LRMPS EF 430 multisubstrate flexo press

The advantages and disadvantages of flexo printing

I’ve explained what flexo printing is, but what are its pros and cons? These are often essential parameters in your decision-making process.

The advantages of flexo printing:

  • Runs at extremely high speeds and is ideally suited for long printing runs
  • Prints on a wide variety of substrate materials
  • Short set-up times with a minimum of waste; guarantees high-quality output
  • Eliminates the need for additional work and cost: printing, varnishing, laminating and die cutting can be done in a single pass
  • A relatively straightforward and controlled printing process that requires less-trained operators to achieve the desired output
  • Low cost of equipment and maintenance
This video of Geostick shows the MPS EXL-570 / 10 colour press running 128 m/minute including ABG turret-rewinder

The disadvantages of flexo printing:

  • The price of flexo printing plates is relatively high compared to other types of plates, but they last for millions of impressions if they are properly cared for.
  • Version changes are time-consuming to make

It is for good reason that flexographic printing is the most common technique. I hope this blog has helped you to get a clear picture of what flexo printing is and how it could help you to become more viable. At MPS, we are in regular contact with customers to understand their evolving print technology requirements and to develop innovative solutions to improve the printing process and customer experience.

If you have any questions about flexo printing or if you want to discuss if it is a suitable option for your business, reach out to one of our specialists or register for a flexo operator training.

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