Digital printing is a process that doesn’t require plates, it is ideal for multiple runs that may require frequent changes. This form of printing is most commonly used for shorter runs and full-colour labels.
Flexography is a printing process that involves the use of plates, these are made from rubber or plastic and transfer an image to a substrate. The plate is then adhered with sticky tape to a printing cylinder where it is then able to pick up ink and transfer it directly on to a substrate or label material.
Flexography is a popular printing method within the food industry due to its fast drying inks and its high speed printing process. It can be an economical alternative to other printing processes due to the high volume capability of its press and the high speed at which it can perform.
However Flexography isn’t always the best option. There are a few key factors to digital printing which make this a better alternative. Digital printing gives labels a professional appearance at the same time as being the most cost efficient. The process relies on the 4-colours known as CYMK (Dylan, magenta, yellow and black), it is an ideal option for smaller companies looking to print a smaller quantity of product labels.
Unlike Flexography, Digital printing does not require the creation of plates and takes very little time to setup. It can be set up in a matter of minutes compared to several hours in Flexographic printing. To create the plates used in Flexography, you must first output your artwork to film in order to create the printing plates. They are then loaded onto the printing press where the inks are mixed and the machine is then calibrated. So if it’s speed you’re after then Digital printing is the best option.
The quality of the image is also greater in Digital printing and a noticeable difference can be seen in the detail and colour of custom labels. This is therefore more desirable within the retail industry based on appearance.
For producing a smaller quantity of labels, Digital printing may be the cheapest option. Unlike Flexography, there is no initial setup costs for the plates and film just a fixed cost.however, should you require an extremely large amount then you may find lower pricing in a Flexo shop.
Finally, the biggest advantage to Digital label printing is definitely its flexibility. The process allows you to produce a 1,000 custom labels with each containing slightly different data, for example, product labels with different numbers within the barcode or consecutive numbers but allowing the rest of the label to remain the same. For this reason, Flexography just doesn’t give this flexibility due to the involvement of the the plates and is unable to deliver what the Digital printing industry can.