Clash of the Titans: Flexo vs Litho Printing - Which Is the Better Choice?

Clash of the Titans: Flexo vs Litho Printing – Which is the Better Choice?

Commercial printing is rapidly evolving, as are the processes that produce the consumer goods that we all see. Every day, we grow and change at the same rate.

That’s why we thought it was time to revisit two distinct methods – flexo printing and litho printing – and see how they compare today. In case you missed it, we’ve also compared flexo to some other popular printing methods:

Battle of the Titans: Flexo vs Litho Printing – Similarities Revealed

Both flexo and litho printing can produce consistent prints in large quantities. They can be used to create high-quality product packaging, labels, and printed paper materials. While lithographic printing may dominate some markets, flexo printing has grown in popularity since the introduction of direct laser engraving in the 1970s.

The Cutting Edge of Printing: Flexography Printing Basics

Flexo image carriers, such as sleeves, cylinders, and plates, are typically made of elastomer or polymer. To create the design for the final desired product, the image carrier is engraved or imaged. 

Ink is transferred from the ink pan to the image carrier via an anilox roll before being printed onto the substrate. Flexo printing is most commonly associated with flexible packaging and labels, and it can be done on a variety of substrates such as film, paper, foil, and non-woven.

Lithography Printing: A Fundamental Approach

A printing plate is used in the offset process of litho printing. The ink is first applied to the printing plate, then to a rubber blanket via multiple ink rolls, and finally to the substrate via the blanket. This means that the image is not printed directly from the plate onto the substrate.

Revolutionizing the Printing Industry: The Power of Digital Printing.

Digital printing, the newest contender in the printing arena, is very different from Flexo or Litho. Consider the old Inkjet printers we used to have. 

Digital printing works in the same way, with thin layers of ink applied to substrate surfaces using a combination of ink cartridges and heat. And… That’s pretty much it. Isn’t it simple?

The Digital Printing Revolution: What makes it the Game-Changer in the Industry?

When compared to Flexo or Litho, digital is distinct in that it is not intended for mass production or long print runs. Digital has several advantages:

  • High-quality images
  • Low setup costs
  • Data variability from print to print

That last point is crucial. Each print can be customized based on the data entered into the printing software, allowing businesses that require custom barcodes or unique identifiers on packaging to easily adapt their templates. Flexo and Litho, which both require custom-made plates for large-scale production, are unable to accommodate print jobs in this manner.

The Great Debate: Flexo vs. Litho – Uncovering the Crucial Differences

The main areas where flexo printing and lithographic printing differ are:

  • Cost
  • Substrates
  • Inks
  • Image quality

The extent to which this affects your operation is largely determined by the types of final prints you hope to achieve.

To Save or Spend? The Cost Comparison of Flexo vs Litho Printing

Litho allows for foil stamping, spot gloss, embossing, and other embellishments, but these options are more expensive. Furthermore, because the only way to print with litho is through an indirect pre-print, this adds an extra step in the production and thus raises costs.

When printing large runs of basic needs, both processes can be very cost-effective. Flexo image carriers can be reused many times before they need to be replaced if properly maintained and stored, as well as an investment in durable image carrier materials.

From Paper to Plastic: Choosing the Right Substrate for Your Printing Needs

Because the image must be pressed onto the substrate, litho printing is generally limited to smooth, flat surfaces. Printing on corrugated substrates necessitates an additional step in the manufacturing process in which the images are first printed on linerboard and then attached to the corrugated substrate. Flexo printing can be done on both porous and non-porous surfaces, making it suitable for a wider range of substrates such as coated linerboard and paper.

Ink Wars: Sustainable, Efficient, and High-Quality Inks for Flexo and Litho Printing

Litho inks are typically oil-based, and printing typically consists of four process colors, each requiring its printing station. Flexo also uses one image carrier per color and can print with oil-based inks; it can also print with a variety of other inks, including water-based, solvent-based, and UV inks. 

Curable inks, such as UV, dry more quickly. Faster drying times can result in shorter production runs.

A Picture Speaks a Thousand Words: Exploring the Image Quality of Flexo vs Litho Printing

Flexo printing is known for producing high-quality prints with fine lines and text detail. The final decision on whether to print with flexo or litho depends on the substrate, budget constraints, and a variety of other production requirements.

Read next about Battle of the printing titans: Flexo and offset go head to head in inks, maintenance, cost and convenience – who reigns supreme.

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