The Flexo and InkJet Great Discussion.

The Flexo and InkJet Great Discussion.

Flexography is commonly used within the modern-day printing industry, as it provides a quick turn around speed for mass production. Flexography printing adapts well to a variety of materials and can be used with a wide range of inks.

Inkjet however, is commonly used for digital printing processes. This is a high-speed and versatile process offering printing onto a wider range of material and substrates than the flexography process. It is a cost-effective process with a higher turn around and less wastage for a short process.

There is a debate about which process is better to use, as well as a hybrid of both processes in machine form for industrial printing. Thus, boasting a solution to those hesitant to migrate from flexographic printing to inkjet.

Flexographic History:

The flexographic process, began in the 19th century. Where quality was limited due to the initial use of rubber printing plates and limitations within ink control. Therefore, commercial print applications were open to all except the most basic of print and packaging products. When the consumer industry grew, packaging and labels requiring high-quality print were being produced using the offset and letterpress processes, due to the limitations and low quality of flexography, until more recently. Flexographic advances have been made to the quality its printing presses, printing plates, printing units, drying systems and inks in the year of 1990. These advances rival offset quality, with improved; practicality, higher production speeds, and are Cost-effective.

There has been a main focus and advance within photopolymer printing plates, regarding the material and plate creation for a higher quality advancement. Pioneering the way in these technological advancements are; Asahi Photoproducts, AV Flexologic, Dupont, MacDermid, BASF & TOK. Creating; faster processing, washout and the latest reprographic screening techniques to reproduce high tonal values. Thus, allowing Flexographic printing to become a favoured production within many print sectors.

InkJet History:

The concept was fist idealised in the 1950’s, although it has taken time to produce this process. InkJet has only been developed within the past 20 years as technology has advanced to meet ideology. Although originally, Inkjets were created for the publishing industry to replace the slow and noisy dot-matrix printers, several tech companies at that time, were working out new methods of printing at higher speeds, with Hewlett-Packard, Epson and Canon among the biggest contributors in advancing the technology as they remain today. The advances in technology from initial ideology to modern inkjets produced, help image how the process has evolved since its inception. Thus, becoming a popular choice among printers for its economic and environmental values. The only remaining limitation worth noting within this process, is the printing volume. As technology is increasing quality in this method is greater and possible future technology may fix this limitation.

Discussion:

The hybrid method using both techniques, as briefly mentioned. Opens an area in process where you can combine and utilise several techniques and advantages. Not only that but you can increase the production in a shorter time period than if you were to stick to one method.

Although hybrid is a great option for those wanting to test out InkJet before making the switch to suit their needs of business. It is worth mentioning the pros and cons of the flexographic and InkJet methods as depicted below:

Flexo vs. Inkjet Printing – Pros and Cons:

InkJet:

 

 

Flexographic:

So, as the tables depict there are numerous pros and cons for each process to suit the needs of business. However, one of the top discussions is the sustainability and the environmental impact using these processes have. It is inevitable that the digital InkJet process will have more sustainability and less wastage having a better environmental impact which may be a great marketing factor within your own branded use if this process is selected, as the government and the world battle to reduce climate change and help the environment.

Ultimately the winning process will depend on the suitability for your printing needs and budget factor that you have. Digital printing may be cost-effective but it will depend on your label design, substrates and any specialised printing techniques you require. You will need to choose a process that optimises your label at a cost-effective price per label printed.

Digital printing can sublimate some printing techniques and mimic flexography. Although, it can be limited with substrates and speciality effects where flexographic processes dominate.

Label quantity matters when choosing a process, for example; when you have very high bulk quantities to print in excess of 5,000 labels, flexographic printing produces more labels at a faster speed production with exact colour matching to your design. However, if your print run requirement is for a; seasonal product, limited edition, or you just want to test out new branding, digital printing is going to be the optimal choice for you as it is cost-effective in short run production with less wastage. There is also no contact touching within the substrate and the jetting system of InkJet printers. Thus, eliminating potential damage to a substrate that can happen with analogue presses.  InkJet offers numerous customisable and unique qualities to add to your label becoming brand specific and providing more security. Therefore, it is favoured among many businesses and printers whom provide in-house printing and specialise in software such as Tolarus.

Arguably the hybrid method could be favoured as it seems to have most of these capabilities. Although, could become more cost-effective if you don’t take into account all the needs of your business and printing requirements.

The Take-away:

In order to make the best choice for your needs of business, you must weigh up all pros and cons and the options available to fulfil your printing needs at a cost-effective price that won’t bring your company to its knees within the first few runs.

You have the research and information available without the need to extensively look further. Therefore, you will be able to make an informed decision in a proactive way to create some fantastic looking print. It is worth noting that there are many print companies who offer their own services such as; in-house design, bureau and graphics in order to help you stand out among the competition and comply with laws and regulations. Therefore, much of the burden is taken away providing more warehouse space with less waste saving your business money.

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