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FLEXO Magazine : March 2013
Plants & Processes Digital & Flexo Printing Impact and Innovation By steve Deering Today ’s world is dominated by speed. Turnaround quickness depends on a number of factors. Obviously, speed brings with it a number of issues including, most importantly, accuracy and cost. Flexographic printing is the method of choice for those customers with large, long runs—and it is expected to continue to be, thanks in large part to cost. But, it seems digital printing is beginning to take the printing world by storm. With rich images and the ability to expand a printer’s capabilities, the digital-flexo partnership is expanding. Digital’s development is due in large part to its handling of short runs. Although, these characteristics may not help digital printing surpass flexo, they may certainly make it a perfect complement to many flexo plants looking to broaden their market. With industry innovations in UV and water-based ink technologies and larger color gamuts, the next logical step is for the introduction of digital printing for many flexo printers. Because of its speed and high-image quality, digital printing can and will help in the proofing process, as well as provide printers a more diverse customer base. DIGITAL ABSTRACT Digital printing does not require platemaking and set up of the machine is minimal. For some digital presses, a custom job can be prepared and printed in minutes. In regards to flexographic printing, on the other hand, setting up a four- color process job can be somewhat time intensive. Before a flexographic press can even get started printing, plates must be made, inks must be mixed and the machine must be cali- brated. Alternatively, following approval, digital presses can turn an order around in as little as three businesses days. Granted, one of the advantages of flexographic printing— an advantage that will continue to make flexo the process of choice for industrial-sized runs—is that it can produce longer runs at much lower cost, compared to other printing methods, including digital. But, a tremendous advantage of digital printing is its ability to quickly produce stunning images. Digital printing presses can print at 230-line screen, while most flexographic presses print at 133- or 150-line screen. But the biggest issue for all business is the cost of doing business. And this is where the digital versus flexo debate begins to diverge. While digital printing does not necessitate 54 FLEXO march 2013 www.flexography.org FLEXO PLUS DIGITAL • With rich images and the ability to expand a printer’s capabilities, the digital-flexo partnership is expanding • Digital printing has the ability to remake the flexo pressroom thanks to innovations in speed, image quality and variable printing • Digital presses can turn an order around in as little as three businesses days. • Its ability to expand a customer base will be one of digital printing’s major benefits • Versatility: digital presses can print onto a number of materials including vinyl, removable vinyl, translucent, reflective, polyester, and lexan the epson surePress