Concerning Digital and Flexo
Ray Dickinson, VP marketing and business development – Digital Solutions, for Mark Andy, agrees that the prospective customer base of the new company is of paramount importance when making the decision. “The type of label to be produced and the book of business secured to support the revenue stream are critical considerations. Most decisions are based on economics of the run, asset capacity, or potential form factors that make it more desirable to run on a specific technology,”. In short, the decision in selecting digital vs flexo processes is never an easy task. Are you running short runs? Or are you running long runs? Do you run more solids? Process colors? Line work? Etc. There are solutions to incorporating both methods in a job. Some of these solutions involve retrofitting a flexo unit with a digital printing station. Some digital printing stations have coating units to lay down process colors towards the end of a run after more intricate details have been processed. Some of the other advantages of using a coating unit on a digital press would be more advanced applications such as tactile varnish. In short, anilox rollers and meter rollers still have their uses even in digital applications. The options can be overwhelming, but it is all dependent on the job a customer would like the printer to do.
Why Would YOu Choose Digital Over Flexography?
It is ideal for low volume jobs and provides superb consistency throughout the entire process. Computers manage the job in digital printing, leaving less room for human error. This means that “[when going] label to label, job to job, the colors are consistent and repeatable with no variation between operators,” explains FLEXO Magazine. One other item to consider would be cleaning. The upkeep on a digital printing press is a little less hectic when compared to a flexographic printing press. There is no need for anilox cleaning systems, purchase of cleaners, maintenance of anilox rollers, etc. This advantage can tip off due to the costs of ink and other accessories required to run a digital printing press, but it is much easier to maintain. Factoring in this examination provided by Katz from Label and Narrow Web; there are a lot of advantages to using a digital printer for low volume jobs. It removes the need for operators in some cases, makes the registration process easier, requires a shorter set up operation, and provides repeated results without worry.
Why Would You Choose Flexography Over Digital?
One of the primary reasons to select flexography over digital processing would be the run time. Is this a long running job? Do you have a tight deadline? You would probably want to run a flexo unit for the job versus the digital option. The pace of development in the digital world is slowly (but surely) catching up to the flexo world. Unfortunately, it’s just not quite there yet. Perhaps in another ten to twenty years there will be better options for digital. For now, flexo reigns as king over the long run jobs and processing speeds. Anilox roller applications truly shine when all the above-mentioned conditions are demanded in a task.
So, is there any real difference between either process at the point of sale? Does the quality of the print differ from flexo to digital? The short answer: no, not really. There are no discernable differences when comparing the quality and appeal to each label. According to a study conducted by The Sonoco Institute at Clemson University, “Two hundred and forty-eight participants (57% male, 43% female) took part in the study. Ages ranged from under 18 to 64 with about 53% being between 21 and 39. Participants were either married or single (split 50%) with 42% having children. With our participant pool consisting of people attending the trade show, the education level was predominately people that had a bachelors or graduate degree (70%) with a variety of income levels, which is representative of a tradeshow such as this rather than the overall population.” (Rupert Andrew Hurley, 2015). When asked why they picked a certain label each participant stated that they simply did not notice any difference and that all the labels looked the same. In terms of quality, each process is equally adequate. There is no right or wrong answer. The method of printing is dependent on the individual need and circumstance.
Katz, S. (2016, April 08). Flexo vs. Digital. Retrieved from Label and Narrow Web: https://www.labelandnarrowweb.com/issues/04-2016/view_features/flexo-vs-digital/
Rupert Andrew Hurley, J. C. (2015, July 24). The Impact of Flexographic and Digital Printing of Fruit Drinks. Retrieved from https://www.mdpi.com/2306-5710/1/3/149/pdf