Flexographic or “flexo” printing starts with your approved design, which is converted to a film negative. This film is used to make a flexible water-based polymer printing plate, which is mounted to a printing cylinder. The print cylinder is inked using a series of rollers and an ink well. As the roll of material feeds through the press, the print cylinder applies the image much the same as a rubber stamp would. Because the printing plate is on a rolling cylinder, the image is printed repeatedly. After the image is printed, a laminate is applied and the finished product is die cut using a rotary die. Finished labels are unwound from the press, and later counted and inspected using a state of the art inspection table.
Flexo printing has many advantages over other methods of printing. It is better suited, and more economical, for larger production runs compared to digital printing.
Flexo printing is effective on a wide variety of substrates using fast-drying inks. This makes it ideal for packaging and publication printing. It is widely used in the printing of newspapers, grocery/retail bags, self-adhesive labels, and other products. Common substrates include both porous and nonporous materials, such as paper, plastic films, and cardboard. Aside from conventional solvent-based printing inks, flexo printing can also use water-based, UV-curable, fluorescent and metallic inks.
Another advantage flexo printing has over other printing processes is production speed, which results from a number of factors. Setup time is much faster in flexo printing than offset printing. Flexo presses normally use thinner, faster-drying inks. When the flexo press uses water-based inks, the cleanup time is much faster. Lamination, die cutting, or other finishing processes can be incorporated down the press line, making production continuous. This gives you a finished product in virtually one operation. Flexo presses are capable of running up to several hundred feet per minute.
The high-speed and high-volume production in flexo printing makes it considerably cheaper than other printing processes. Faster set up and cleanup increase the profit margin by producing more sellable product and reducing production costs. Customers also benefit from this, as lower operating costs mean less expensive products of higher quality. Press parts and maintenance costs are relatively low, as a polymer flexo plate can withstand much abuse and can turn out millions of impressions before needing replacement. The press also saves on labor, as no work is really needed between set up and unwinding the finished product from the press.
As a whole, the printing industry has developed a bad environmental reputation due to its use of harmful chemicals, such as platemaking solutions, solvent-based inks, and cleaning products. However, Plasti-Fab, Inc. uses a water based plate making process and inks. This results in a reduction of VOC (volatile organic chemical) emissions, which is safer for both the environment and our production staff.