For custom printing, flexography and lithography are two common methods in the printing and packaging industry. These processes are also employed to mass-print paper materials such as maps and books.
Each of these processes come with their own pros and cons. So, if you are ordering custom packaging, then here is a guide to select the best printing method.
Flexographic printing, or Flexo, is a technique for bulk printing using flexible relief plates. The manufacturer applies the ink to the plate first and then on the surface. Flexographic printing is a low-cost printing method, and it has progressed much in the last few years. It is one of the primary methods of printing custom boxes.
Flexographic printing requires initial setup cost. Flexo uses flexible plates mounted on a cylinder. The manufacturer uses a partially immersed ink roller to apply ink on an anilox roll. The anilox roll is a hard cylinder, usually made from steel or aluminum with a ceramic outer layer that comes with many dimples. The manufacturer uses the anilox to uniformly distribute the ink on the flexo printing plate.
The corrugated boards, or the Kraft paper, run directly between the impression cylinder and the paint roller. Finally, the manufacturer runs the substrate through a dryer to prevent smudging.
For printing boxes, flexo is an economical option as manufacturers can print and cut the boxes in a single run. It is suitable for printing a large number of boxes that do not require color detailing. Increasing the number of colors increases the number of stages in flexographic printing and that raises the costs too.
Lithography, also known as offset lithography, is an offset process. Lithography printing also uses a printing plate. The ink is first applied on the printing plate and then, from the printing plate to a rubber blanket. To print the substrate, the rubber plate is transferred to it. However, while printing boxes, the procedure is not direct.
Lithographic lamination is the second process used for box printing. Here, first, the print is made on paper and is then laminated on the box. This gives the boxes glossy and premium finish. Lithographic printing allows printing in high color details. So, if you wish to print photographs on the box then lithographic printing is suitable.
However, lithographic printing does have a downside. Often, the print takes on wear and tear, as it is printed on a paper surface. In addition, lithographic printing for boxes also means higher cost.
Another method of printing on boxes is digital printing. It functions similar to the inkjet printers that we use at home. In the print industry, digital inkjet printers are quite different from the ones used in homes, but follow the same working principle.
Digital printing needs no initial setup. Prints may become pixelated or faded over time. Digital printing is also expensive for bulk orders. However, digital printing is excellent for short runs, such as prototyping boxes.
What’s best for your business?
The printing process you choose should depend solely on the design you have. If you have a minimalist design with bright solid colors, then flexographic is the way to go. However, if you have photographs or complex color details that require full color prints, then you should use lithographic printing method.
It is also important to know the printing costs before you start designing. Hence, based on the type and number of boxes to print, you can ask for quotations and decide accordingly.
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