Have you ever wondered how all the packaging of your favorite products comes to life? Most of us are only familiar with digital printers, but professionals know regular printers are only the tip of the iceberg. The crisp, bright, and attractive images we see on the shelves every day take a lot of mastery. The mystery behind those prints is flexographic printing that uses flexo plates to transfer the images and produce 100% realistic colors.
Whether or not you knew about it, it does not take from the fact that flexo is one of the fastest-growing printing sectors in the world. It is also one of the most diverse. Just as there are thousands of types of packagings and materials, they are many types of flexo plates. Each of the types allows to optimize the impact of the technology and make it work for the conditions at hand in the best way possible.
So, to help you make sense out of the confusing world of flexo plates, we have compiled a definitive list. We hope you will find it useful in navigating the world of flexo printing.
Flexible Packaging Plates
First, on our list are flexible packaging plates. The name comes from the packaging that uses the flexo plates the most. Think snack bars, your favorite cookies, chips, wrapping papers, and grocery bags — the choice for the packaging of all kinds, including plastic and textile. As the demand and the popularity of the products that need that kind of paper to grow, so does the demand for the flexible packaging plates.
Most of the time, to produce those packagings printing companies use sheet photopolymer plates. The material allows for producing better resolution images on the material and works well with water-based inks.
Many industries use flexographic printing. But overall, companies that use corrugated materials are the largest users of flexo plates worldwide. From one-color shipping containers with only a few signs to the most extravagant boxes, the method is amongst the most popular printing methods internationally.
And all your favorite milk, beer, and juice boxes have also been made with the help of corrugated plates. The solution allows simple printing images and covered cardboards with equal ease.
Label & Narrow Web Plates
Labels are often tiny. Yet, reading the small prints and instructions is never as difficult as you would have thought it should be. The readability of those small labels, checks, and manuals is achieved though exceptionally high-quality of plates and high-density dot distribution.
The high-definition plates allow printing detailed labels and signs that consumers can read with no difficulty. Depending on the material used for the printing, the flexo plates themselves can also be different. It is a smart solution from the flexo printing industry has helped to solve a problem many supermarkets, businesses, and shops face every day.
Water-washable plates allow for even better printing quality with less environmental impact. The special structure of the plates does not allow the ink to get in between the dots. Their design makes it easier to clean them and thus more durable and sustainable.
The prints produced using washable water plates are often of higher quality. The main reason is the material itself — it is not oxygen sensitive and allows for better dot reproduction, which leads to better image quality.
Varnish & Metal-Based Plates
Some packagings need special attention. You might want it to stand out and attract attention, living in people’s memory for a long time. And nothing will help you do it better than varnish finishing. Those additions to the print are done using special varnish and metal-based plates.
Varnish flexo plates make the image more durable and give the prints an expensive look. On their turn, metal-based plates not only allow for excellent quality reproduction but can also last for ages. It is the better choice for high-volume and long-term projects.
Mounted & Pre-Mounted Plates
Traditionally, you had to take measurements whenever fixing flexo plates on the cylinders carefully. But the rapid development of technologies has allowed to automated the process and changing plates the regular way became an old-fashioned approach of doing flexo printing. To solve the problem, pre-mounted and mounted pales entered the game instead.
Their special layout allows you to attach the flexo plate to the cylinder in a matter of minutes. With their help, you can avoid mistakes and drastically increase the speed of production.
Elastomer sleeves have the shape of a cylinder from the beginning. They are the better choice for continues and repetitive patterns, like wallpapers and wrapping papers. The best thing about them — you need not remove or change them. They help you save time and simplify the process. Considering mounting often requires additional supervision, you will also save costs.
You can add the plates to the machine and cut down on the printing time. That way, you will not only save time on changing the plates but also improve the quality of prints.
The future of digital flexo plates
Choosing the right digital flexo plate is difficult. Just as many variables go into deciding on the packaging go into the flexo plates design. Durability, material, colors, and price of the final product all influence which flexo plate you will need to print. It is difficult to understand which one is the best — we get it. It is where you might need the help of professionals who know which type and material work well with specific projects.
Flexo printing is on its infancy stage. There is still a lot to be discovered. It is a dynamically developing that shows no sign of slowing down. And more is yet to come — no question asked.