Printing is the key factor when it comes to product packaging. These days, Flexography is the printing method commonly used by most product packaging companies to ensure high quality impressive print. With the popularity of sustainable packaging materials like corrugated cardboard on the rise more and more packaging services are turning to flexographic printing. Other than corrugated cardboard boxes, flexography is used to print on cartons, gable boxes, paper sacks, disposable containers, labels and wrappers of food items.
The prime reason behind the increasing popularity of the method is its simplicity. Flexography is quite simple and can be used on wide variety of materials ranging from paper to plastic. It requires easy and simple operations to carry out printing.
Secondly, this method is easily adaptable to use water-based ink. The use of water based ink helps to reduce the emission of volatile organic compound (VOC) that is highly pollutant. Compared to other printing processes like gravure printing, flexographic printing technology is much safer for the environment.
Like Lithographic and Gravure printing Flexography uses 4 basic colors for ink – yellow, magenta, cyan and black. These inks are mixed in proportion to create wide variety of shades on a surface. These inks feature low viscosity and hence dry a lot quicker.
Now let’s take a look how flexographic printing method is carried out. The entire process can be segmented in four stages –
- Image preparation
- Plate making
Image Preparation: This is the initial stage when images are produced or captured electronically using digital camera or scanner. It can also be composed in computer using software. The various image components are then assembled to create a single composition to be printed on the surface of the packaging box or container. A sample called as “brown print” is prepared and sent along with a color proof for customer approval.
Flexographic Plate Making: The next step is creating Flexographic plates. These plates are made implementing the basic printing technology that uses plates with relief (embossed images). The plate is generally made of plastic or rubber or a special type of polymer and is attached to a roller for applying ink. The embossed images come in contact with ink on the roller.
Printing: printing is done applying any of the common 5 types of printing presses – stack type, newspaper unit, in-line, central impression cylinder (CIC) and commercial publication flexographic presses. The printing press uses a roller apply ink to the plates during printing. Some advanced flexographic presses use a “doctor blade” for better ink distribution.
Finishing: The base material (commonly known as “substrate”) undergoes various procedures. The processes include coating, cutting and, folding to produce a finished packaging item ready for delivery to the customer.