Flexographic Printing vs. Digital Printing

01.08.2020

Flexographic Printing vs. Digital Printing

There are several methods to choose from when it comes to printing labels. Understanding the differences between each method will help you make the best choice for your next unique label opportunity. At I.D. Images, the two prominent print methods we utilize are flexographic printing and digital printing. To better understand the basics of each method and the advantages and disadvantages associated with each, we provided an overview of both below.

Flexographic Printing

Flexographic printing is a rotary in-line printing process. For every color that needs to be printed, a flexo plate is created. Plates are created by exposing a flexible photopolymer plate to UV light, which builds up and raises the image to be printed above the base level of the plate. When the plate is finished, it is mounted to a plate cylinder. Ink starts in a fountain and is picked up by the fountain roller. The fountain roller coats the Anilox roller and transfers ink to the plate cylinder. The flexographic plate (attached to the plate cylinder) picks up the ink and transfers it directly to the substrate, resulting in a quality printed image. Similar to other print methods, flexography prints four colors (CMYK), but can also have additional print stations with other colors to print high-quality process images. Flexography can also provide in-line special effects such as foil, tactile, and security features along with a wide variety of substrates from shrink film to tag stock. Combined with high speed and multiple stations, the flexo process provides a completely finished label coming off the press ready to be applied by the end-user.

Advantages

  • Durable high-quality print
  • Ability to run at high press speeds
  • Once set up it is suited for long, fast runs
  • Capability to print on a variety of substrates
  • Large quantities can be printed cost-effectively

Disadvantages

  • The cost to create flexo plates can be high
  • Set up can take longer than other print methods
  • Setting up a job may require a lot of waste material
  • If artwork needs to be updated or changed, can be time-consuming and expensive

Digital Printing

When printing digitally, the artwork is sent directly from the computer to the press using digital files such as PDFs. There are no printing plates involved; artwork is printed directly on the substrate using toner.  Digital printing is great for companies that are trying to create or update their brand image or companies that are testing new label designs for a product. There are little to no minimums, so you can print the exact number of labels you actually need. Digital printing also provides the ability to print variable data, so you can print altering logos, data,  designs, and colors without having a roll for each design. and doesn’t require a lot of waste to set up.

Advantages

  • Great for short to medium runs
  • Quicker turnaround times
  • Setup costs are usually lower for short runs
  • Ability to print variable data such as images, logos, names, addresses, numbering, etc.
  • Flexibility to change artwork throughout the process

Disadvantages

  • Color isn’t absorbed into the material like it is with offset printing. If printed areas are cut or folded, it can leave cracks in the ink.
  • May have a limited color palette

Do you have a unique label opportunity or are you unsure which print method is best for the job?

Reach out to your dedicated I.D. Images sales representative or one of our customer service representatives at 866-516-7300 or customerservice@idimages.com to discuss which method fits your opportunity.