How Flexography Works And How It Differs From Other Printing Methods

Flexo printing differs from other standard forms of printing in the way its plates are constructed and utilized, the properties of the inks used, and the relative speed at which production can be accomplished.

Flexo differs from offset printing in that no intermediary transfer step is required. In the case of offset the ink is transferred to a printing plate, then “offset” to a series of rollers before being transferred to the final substrate - whereas in Flexo printing the ink is transferred directly from plate to substrate.

As the plates used in flexographic printing are made of flexible photopolymer, they can be easily wrapped around a cylinder. The cylinder then rolls over the substrate, transferring the ink directly from the printing plate to the surface being printed.

Flexographic printing can be utilized on a broader range of non-porous substrates compared to offset; such as foil, cellophane, plastic, and metal. Offset is limited to flat, smooth, porous surfaces.

Depending on the desired substrate, effects and production speed; water-based or UV curable ink can be utilized. UV curable ink can speed production time as it doesn’t need to be removed from the press and cleaned off the plates every day. Water-based inks tend to dry on the equipment if left there. UV inks also enable higher running speeds when the printing press is in service.

In the packaging realm, flexographic printing is an excellent option for decorating laminate tubes, labels, and secondary packaging, but is often more expensive than other print methods.