Packaging design | Flexographic printing | Printing plates

Flexographic printing

In 1890, the first such patented press was built in Liverpool. In the early 1900s, other European presses using rubber printing plates and aniline oil-based ink were developed. This led to the process being called "aniline printing". By the 1920s, most presses were made in Germany, where the process was called "gummidruck".

During the early part of the 20th century, the technique was used extensively in food packaging in the United States. However, in the 1940s, the Food and Drug Administration classified aniline dyes as unsuitable for food packaging.

In 1951 Franklin Moss, then the president of the Mosstype Corporation, conducted a poll among the readers of his journal The Mosstyper to submit new names for the printing process. Over 200 names were submitted, and a subcommittee of the Packaging Institute's Printed Packaging Committee narrowed the selection to three possibilities:
— permatone process
— rotopake process
— flexographic process

Postal ballots from readers of The Mosstyper overwhelmingly chose the latter, and "flexographic process" was chosen.

A flexographic print is made by creating a positive mirrored master of the required image as a 3D relief in a rubber or polymer material.

The ink is transferred from the ink roll which is partially immerged in the ink tank. Then it transfers to the anilox roll whose texture holds a specific amount of ink since it is covered with thousands of small wells or cups that enable it to meter ink to the printing plate in a uniform thickness evenly and quickly (the number of cells per linear inch can vary according to the type of print job and the quality required). To avoid getting a final product with a smudgy or lumpy look, it must be ensured that the amount of ink on the printing plate is not excessive. This is achieved by using a scraper, called a doctor blade. The doctor blade removes excess ink from the anilox roller before inking the printing plate. The substrate is finally sandwiched between the plate and the impression cylinder to transfer the image.

Printing of CMYK images requires small amount of paint in comparison with vivid Pantone color images. Increased amount of paint offers more color saturation, but at the same time limits the printing of halftones. Therefore it is recommended the larger areas of solid colors to coat with Pantone colors, and a small areas consisting of halftones (photos) - create from CMY or CMYK colors.

Advantages of flexography:

— prints on wide variety of materials
— prints using resilient photopolymer image carrier, so that more than million of impressions can be made
— it uses fast drying inks
— wide range of cylinder repeat lengths gives oportunity to match customer's requirements
— cost effective
— short-run jobs remains profitable



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