What Are Elastomer Printing Forms?
Elastomer is a synthetic polymer used for creating the sleeves section of flexographic printing. The elastomer sleeves are the image carriers within the printing process. Soft and flexibility are the key aspects of elastomer compounds. In addition, elastomer materials are hard and extremely durable compared to other image carrier materials.
Flexographic printing with elastomer compunds when used as sleeves do not have sticky backs. This makes it free from the problem of plate lifting. Furthermore, the durability and strength factors of elastomers materials make them viable to use with all ink systems, such as water-based and solvent-based inks. Elastomer can easily withstand the impacts of harsh solvents without degrading the print quality. Elastomeric materials are generally engraved with a laser.
What Are Photopolymers?
Photopolymer, mainly used as plates is an image carrier in flexographic printing and is a resin material. The properties and functionality of photopolymers are dependent on their material formulation and the processing.
The UV curing will harden the imaged areas of the plate. After the hardening of the imaged surfaces, the photopolymers undergo chemical treatment to remove the access material of the non-imaged areas.
Photopolymers are used in all printing aplpications from label, to flexible and corrugated board printing.
Comparing Elastomer and Photopolymers
Photopolymer is by far the most used material in the flexographic printing industry thanks to its high printing quality and universal use. Elastomer has never managed to get out of the niche applications of very abrasive ink system or when seamless printing forms are a requirement.Following is the comparison of these carriers in terms of decisive factors:
Elastomer coumponds used in sleeves generally have a longer turnaround time when in comparison with photopolymers. That is because the sleeves are mostly custom made. Whereas photopolymers come in standard sheet forms and are readily available for processing.
Ink Types Compatibility
Elastomer sleeves offer higher compatibility when choosing the types of ink. Water-based and solvent-based inks are compatible to use with elastomer compounds. Furthermore, the harsh solvents of these inks will not impact the sleeves or the print quality.
On the contrary, the photopolymers offer often a finer resolution in print and are fully compatible to all in systems with some limitations on very abrasive ones.
A printing run is the number of consecutive printings and is further categorized as short print runs, and long print runs. Elastomer are more viable for long print runs, making them perfect for large-scale printing requirements. While photopolymers meet most of the requirements as print runs are generally not longer than the life span of a plate.
Elastomers, manufactured from synthetic polymer, yield higher strength and, therefore, higher durability especially for highly aggressive or abrasive inks.
The photopolymers can damage easier when harsh solvents or aggressive inks are in use.
The photopolymers have a lower cost in the processing and tend to be more efficient in the printing process. Elastomer often has a higher cost as the products are custom made and direct laser engraving is the slower and more expensive process compared to flexo plate manufacturing.
Quality and Accuracy
Elastomer blends are more accurate when you are up for full tone printing as the printing form is ground to size.. On the other hand, photopolymers offer higher quality and are viable when several design changes are required.
Elastomer Blends VS Photopolymers: Concluding Remarks
Both elastomer and photopolymers are the both used in in flexographic printing. The above-discussed factors present a clear outlay of comparison between the two image carriers. Photopolymer plates are used approximately in 90% of the cases when it comes to printing forms. Elastomer has very specific niches due to the high resistance against aggressive inks and solvents as well as the easier process when endless printing forms are required. If you need any components or equipment related to flexographic printing Anyflexo has all the latest equipment with the highest quality standards.