Choosing the best printing options for your products can be difficult for small and medium-sized manufacturers. Many larger printing companies specialize in large print runs that are simply out of reach for smaller businesses.

After all, you don’t want to have to buy an entire year’s worth of stock just to get your labels printed. Fortunately, there are other printing options available to you. Two of them are narrow web flexo printing and offset printing.

Mastering the Art of Narrow Web Flexo Printing and Offset Printing

Offset printing focuses on high volumes and fast printing speeds to produce impressively large runs, but that volume can be prohibitively expensive for smaller manufacturers. Narrow-web flexo printing, on the other hand, is a better solution for short print runs. Both have their uses, but narrow web is more accessible to businesses that need labels and other items printed in small quantities.

The 4 Narrow Web Flexo Printing and Offset Printing Process: From Plate Creation to Ink Transfer and Techniques to Enhance the Printed Image

1. The Creation of the Printing Plate

The plate is made by taking a digital image of the artwork and then exposing it onto a photopolymer plate. The plate is then developed and cured, creating a relief image of the artwork. This plate is then mounted onto a plate cylinder on the flexo press.

2. The Inking Process

The plate cylinder is loaded with ink and then brought into contact with a rubber impression roller, also known as a doctor blade. The doctor blade controls the amount of ink transferred onto the plate cylinder, which is then transferred onto the substrate.

3. Transferring the Image onto the Substrate

The substrate, such as paper or film, is then fed through the press. The plate cylinder, carrying the ink, comes into contact with the substrate and transfers the image onto it. The substrate then passes through a series of dryers, which cure the ink and make it resistant to smudging or rubbing off.

4. Techniques for Enhancing the Printed Image

In addition to the standard process, three techniques can be used to enhance the quality of the printed image, and they are as follows:

  • The Use of Anilox Rollers: Anilox rollers are used to transfer a precise amount of ink onto the plate cylinder. This results in a more consistent and accurate image. 
  • Laser-Engraved Plates: The use of laser-engraved plates, can produce finer details and sharper images compared to traditional photopolymer plates.
  • Multi-Color Printing: Multi-color printing allows for the printing of multiple colors in a single pass, resulting in a more vibrant and eye-catching image. This technique is commonly used for printing on packaging materials and labels.

Narrow Web Printing and Offset Printing: The Technical Definition

Narrow Web Printing and Offset Printing is a rotary process with multiple in-line converting processes that is defined with a width of 16″ or less. It might be more useful to go over some of the key differences between narrow web flexo printing and offset printing, such as:

  • Printing width: The most obvious distinction is that narrow webs operate with webs that are typically between 16″ and 10″ wide.
  • UV-curable ink: It works well with offset printing and is environmentally friendly because it meets solvent emissions standards.
  • Ink viscosities: Narrow-web flexo printing requires ink viscosities of approximately 34 sec, #3 Zahn. Offset flexo printing, on the other hand, takes about 25 seconds, according to #2 Zahn.
  • Slower-drying inks: Water-based inks are slower-drying when used in narrow flexo applications.
  • Less waste: Offset printing creates less waste per printing run.
  • Lower costs associated with warehousing: Narrow web printing can help you save space and money on warehouse storage.

Utilizing the 2 Capabilities of Narrow Web Flexo Printing and Offset Printing

Narrow web printing and offset printing have numerous applications. You can not only print flexible packaging, labels, and polybags, but you can also meet other important product requirements. Let’s look at a few of them:

1. Efficient Printing for Smaller Runs with Narrow Web Flexo and Offset Printing

You would need to order a significant amount of offset printing for such applications to justify the printing doing a run for your business. This is not the case with narrow web label printing. Printers that offer narrow web as an option will often accept your order even if you only need a small amount printed.

2. Meeting Environmental Standards through Narrow Web Printing and Offset Printing

Narrow web flexo printing and offset printing are excellent for reducing VOC emissions, which can be an important consideration when establishing a pressroom. Furthermore, narrow-web flexo printing and offset works well with UV-curable inks. They dry much faster than other inks and eliminate the need for costly drying equipment.

Sustainability in Action: Choosing Narrow Web Flexo Printing or Offset Printing

Narrow web flexo printing and offset printing are versatile and cost-effective technique. It is commonly used for printing on packaging materials, labels, and other products. Understanding the process and techniques of both printing can help to ensure that the printed image is of the highest quality.

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