What is Flexography?

Flexography, also called Flexographic Printing or Flexo, is part of people’s everyday lives, even if they don’t know it. In fact, you’ve probably touched an item today — such as a drink carton or food package — that was printed using Flexographic Printing technology.

Commonly Used for Food and Beverage Packaging

Flexographic Printing is commonly used in the production of flexible food and beverage packaging, labels, boxes, and folding cartons.

Those printed packages are the “face” of their products, so the printed images and packages themselves are important to both brand owners and package producers.

A Precise, Innovative Process

With Flexo, a high-speed rotary printing process delivers ink onto a range of web-fed substrates, including plastic, metallic films, cellophane, paper or cardboard.

In the artwork design process, graphics and images needed for the final print requirements are carefully prepared. The prepress process then assembles all the elements — from artwork, colour and final printed piece — needed to begin producing the printing plates.

Flexographic Printing Plates

The flexible raised-image printing plates are then mounted on various repeat cylinders, and the press is configured according to the final product’s needs. A low-viscosity, fast-drying liquid ink controlled by a doctor blade wiped metering roll delivers ink onto the printing plate’s surface.

The ink is transferred to the desired substrate — plastic, metallic films, cellophane, paper or cardboard — which varies in width from narrow to wide.

Multi-coloured graphics require individual printing plates and print stations on the press. The substrate travels through these colour stations, where ink from each station is added to complete the final printed image.

Suitable for Printing Large Volumes

Flexography is well-suited to printing large volume, continuous orders with few interruptions, mainly because of the large rolls of substrate materials used.

While labels, cartons and corrugated boxes can be finished in-line, the majority of finished products are completed off-line. The extreme requirements of printed plastic, particularly for food packaging, often requires various additional steps.

Whether you’re new to Flexography, or looking for additional reference materials, the Flexographic Technical Association (FTA) is the premier destination for flexography training, articles, events and other resources. Visit Flexography.org.