Flexographic Printing vs. Digital Printing: What you need to know

Flexographic Printing

Do you need Flexographic or Digital printing? Unsure of the difference? That’s ok. PaladinID is here to help you figure out the best printing solutions for your needs. Let’s break it down and examine the basics of each type of printing and pros and the cons so you can figure out what is best for your business.

RelatedNeed New Labels? We need to know these 5 things

Flexographic Printing

Flexographic printing, or Flexography (often abbreviated to flexo), is a printing process that gets its name from the flexible plates it uses. You can think of it as a modern day letterpress. It can be used for printing on almost any type of substrate, including plastic, metallic films, cellophane, shrink film, tag stock, and paper. However, it is typically used for printing various types of food packaging. It is also a great option for printing large areas of solid color.

How do the plates work?

For all you techy geeks like me that get excited about this stuff keep reading below. If you just want to know the pros and cons you can skip down to that section.

  1. A flexo plate is created for each color in a particule print job. Four colors are typically available (CMYK), but it can accommodate additional print stations with other colors.
  2. The plates are created by exposing a flexible photopolymer plate to UV light.
  3. This builds up and raises the image to be printed above the base level of the plate.
  4. Then it is mounted to a plate cylinder.
  5. Ink starts in a fountain and is picked up by the fountain roller.
  6. The fountain roller coats the Anilox roller and transfers ink to the plate cylinder.
  7. The flexographic plate (attached to the plate cylinder) picks up the ink and transfers it directly to the substrate.

Flexographic printing can also produce special effects such as:

  •  foil
  • tactile
  • security features

Credit: ECTran71 [CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)]

Pros of Flexographic Printing

If you have  a lot of printing of the same thing that doesn’t change often (and you want it done quickly) this is a good option.

  • Produces durable high-quality printing
  • You can run it at high press speeds
  • Great for long, fast runs
  • Can print on a variety of substrates
  • Large quantities can be printed cost-effectively

Cons of Flexographic Printing

If you anticipate a lot of changes to your printing and have variable data, this might not be the best option.

  • Creating new flexo plates can be expensive
  • The set up takes longer than some other print methods
  • You often waste materials in the set up process
  • Making changes and updates to the printing can be time-consuming and expensive

Check out our Label Design Tip article for ideas on how to design the perfect label.

Digital Printing

Digital printing does not use printing plates. Instead, the artwork and text is sent directly from a computer to the printing press using digital files such as PDFs. The images are printed directly onto the substrate with toner.

Digital printing includes small-run jobs from desktop publishing to other digital sources that are printed using large-format and/or high-volume laser or inkjet printers. Digital printing has a higher cost per page than more traditional printing methods. However, you avoid the cost of all the technical steps required to make printing plates.

If you are testing new label designs, updating your labels, or printing a lot of variable data, this is the right option for you. You can run small or large batches with no minimal requirements. Digital printing doesn’t require as much time or waste when setting up.

Epson C7500 Inkjet Printer By PaladinID

Pros of Digital Printing

  • Great for shorter runs
  • Setup time is shorter and less expensive (especially with short runs)
  • Much less waste during setup
  • Quick turnaround times
  • You can print variable data and change artwork often

Cons of Digital Printing

  • 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

So, there you have it. An overview of  Flexographic Printing vs. Digital Printing. As you can see, there are many things to consider when choosing a printing solution. We’d love to help!

Please give us a call at  (888) 972 – 5234 or email us at info@PaladinID.com.

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About PaladinID, LLC
PaladinID develops and supports high-performance barcode labeling applications. We work with our clients to “Make Your Mark” by providing the expertise and tools necessary to create an entire product label printing solution. Located in central New Hampshire, PaladinID has been serving Massachusetts, Vermont, Maine, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New England, and beyond for over 30 years, and in 2017, became an RFID-certified company. We look forward to working with you.

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