Despite all the advancements in digital technology, the process still only accounts for a small percentage of the label industry's global output. When confronted with the task of purchasing a press, converters continue to look at flexography, the technology they have relied on for decades. And while digital has experienced growth, flexo presses continue to see developments and enhancements that have contributed to their market share dominance.
Due to the magnitude of the decision a business faces when investing in a flexo press, it will often look at several important factors, including speed, image quality, cost, flexibility and environmental friendliness. A flexo press is primarily used for longer runs, typically many thousands and often well into millions of labels. Digital printing, on the other hand, is featured in short runs, which can range to up to 10,000 labels, but are often considerably less. A short run might only include one single print.
Flexography offers more versatility when dealing with complex substrates and inks. A flexo press can complete jobs on substrates that include paper, film, foil and metallic materials. If a printer is using water-based, thermo, UV or solvent-based inks, the repeatability, quality and relatively quick drying all favor a flexo press.
Although it remains the primary technology for label printing, Mary Sullivan, global marketing director at Mark Andy, believes there will be changes to the process. She says, "Flexo technology continues to move toward a higher level of automation. With decreasing availability of experienced and well-trained operators, it is becoming even more important for advancing flexo technology to include more automated features to create production processes that reduce the human factor from the printing process. Machines with systems such as job save and recall functionality and automated pre-registration and running registration, as well as the use of make-ready carts to assist in making set ups and changeovers more fluid and flawless, all contribute to this more automated and standardized manner of production,
"The technology of tomorrow will allow the flexo printer/converter to manage their own destiny with fluid, interchangeable systems that meet their specific needs," Sullivan says.
As the industry evolves, here is a look at what some leading flexo press manufacturers are currently offering.
Mark Andy offers its Performance Series of flexo presses in three models: the P3, P5 and P7. Each press can run at speeds up to 750 fpm and comes in printing web widths of 10", 13", and 17". The P7 also offers a web width of 20".
The P3 features immediate registration settings and the Load & Lock inking system. Its substrate range handles 2 mil--12 pt.
According to Mark Andy, the P5 can accomplish 4-color changeovers in three minutes. The press also has waste savings and servo-driven productivity to go along with an optional web turnbar.
The P7 has multiple servos and independent web pacing. Its short web paths and ink requirements result in 50% waste savings, and the substrate range is 1 mil--14 pt.
In response to the evolving marketplace, press manufacturer Mark Andy has ventured into the world of hybrid printing. To complement its Performance Series of presses, the St. Louis, MO-based company has released its Digital Series to offer high speed printing and increased automation.
The Digital Series has a web...