Digital VS Flexo – Who’s your winner?

May 8, 2018 9:19 am Published by

Before I start to explain the Pros and Cons of both processes, Bristol Labels have both an 8 colour Nilpeter (Flexo press) and a 7 colour Epson SurePress (Digital Press).

This enables us have no minimum or maximum print run and help ensure each customer is getting the best quality label for the best price.

We are also more than happy to answer any questions you may have on either process to help you make the best decision.

Flexographic Printing

Flexo printing uses flexible polymer printing plates wrapped around rotating cylinders. The plates have a slightly raised image and rotate at high speeds to transfer the image to the substrate.

Each plate represents 1 colour. For example, if you have a label that consists of 4 colours, you would need to purchase 4 plates.

Flexo printing is designed for high volume print runs and ideally a low number of colours or basic design.

Reason being it takes time to set up each plate. 1 plate means 1 colour. This means depending on the colour, we would need to mix that ink by hand. To mount a plate and mix a new colour takes approx. 30-45mins.

You wouldn’t run 1000 labels on a Flexo press that has 4 colours. It could take up to 2-3 hours to set up 4 colours, mount 4 plates and then only take 10 minutes to print.

You would run 100,000 labels on a Flexo press that has 4 colours. Yes, it will take 2-3 hours to set up but that time is saved when running the job. Flexo presses are faster than digital. Also, the ink is cheaper which means it’s more cost effective for customer and supplier.

Pros

  • Runs at extremely high press speeds
  • Prints on a wide variety of substrate materials
  • Low cost of equipment and maintenance
  • Relatively low cost of most consumables
  • Ideally suited for long runs
  • All printing, varnishing, laminating and die cutting done in a single pass

Cons

  • The cost of the flexo printing plates is relatively high, but when they are properly cared for, they last for millions of impressions.
  • It takes several hours to set up complex jobs.
  • Takes a large amount of substrate to set up the job, potentially wasting expensive material.
  • If version changes are necessary, they are time-consuming to make.

 

Digital Printing

Digital printing refers to methods of printing from a digital-based image directly to a variety of media. Digital printing has a higher cost per label than more traditional offset printing methods, but this price is usually offset by avoiding the cost of all the technical steps required to make printing plates. It also allows for on-demand printing, short turnaround time, and even a modification of the image (variable data). The savings in labour and the ever-increasing capability of digital presses means that digital printing is reaching the point where it can match or supersede offset printing technology’s ability to produce larger print runs of several thousand sheets at a low price.

Basically, you are printing directly from artwork and it doesn’t matter how many colours, how complex the design or even how many types of design you want to print.

Pros

  • Quick Turnaround
  • High quality
  • No plates and less press setup time
  • Able to cope with short print run
  • Design flexability

Cons

  • Large volumes are very expensive
  • Ink limitations (hitting specific pantone colours)
  • Lower speed

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This post was written by Ben Stokes

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