The history of printing totals thousands of years. Many years have passed since the invention of the first printing press. Technologies and the tools used have changed. The quality has improved significantly, and the time spent on producing one piece has decreased. Generally, printing methods are divided into 2 main groups, namely digital and conventional ones.
Flexographic Label Technology
Karl Holwego, the owner of the German company K. und A. Hollweg GmbH is the inventor of flexography. At first, the label printing technology was used to replicate inscriptions and images on paper products and packaging materials. Already in the 19 century, room wallpapers were printed with aniline paints. The next stage of development was in 1912 when a French company applied the method for the manufacture of packages with inscriptions and drawings.
The Tech Process
Flexography is a kind of printing, in which ink is applied to the surface using a special cliché made of an elastic material – the so-called flexo plate. They can be made from rubber or a light polymer substance, either digitally or analogously. Almost all flexographic devices belong to the category of roll rotary machines.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Flexography
The main pros of the method include:
- printing on any surfaces of any dimensions;
- environmental safety, allowing using it for food products;
- integration into the technological chain of related procedures (lamination, embossing, folding);
- faster print speed.
Currently, the flexo method has received the greatest distribution in the manufacture of promotional products. The application of sticky label printing on self-adhesive paper, corrugated cardboard, plastic and other synthetic substrates helps increase sales by creating visually appealing goods.
Gravure Label Process
Letterpress was the first to appear, but the process was time-consuming and toxic inks were used. It was replaced by offset, and then, gravure technology. The latter was used to protect securities from counterfeiting. Then, it started to be used in the manufacture of advertising catalogs and magazines. But later, offset technology started to replace gravure printing in all directions, except for the manufacture of packaging.
The peak of popularity for technology fell in the 70-80s of the last century. Today, it serves about 10% of the modern market.
The Tech Process
According to the gravure method, the form is completely covered with ink. Color saturation varies depending on the thickness of the layer. In dark areas, the layer is thicker, in light areas, it is thinner.
Before proceeding with the image application, the paint is removed from the blank components. To do this, a special knife (a squeegee) is used. The squeegee module in gravure printing machines is needed to control the accuracy when dosing ink. In industrial production, rotary machines are used. Matrices for them are made on plate cylinders.
Pros and Cons
The benefits of the technology also include:
- high productivity and effective tool application;
- realistic colors;
- a detailed study of tint gradients;
- the ability to reproduce single and multi-color products with the utmost accuracy in relation to the original;
- the ability to apply paint and cold glue in one run;
The weaknesses of the technology include the complexity and high cost of manufacturing plates and the high cost of production for small circulations.
Digital Label Method
The term encompasses technologies that allow printing text and images in electronic format without resorting to plate processes. The technology of direct application of paints is cheap, which contributes to its increase in profitability.
The digital method differs from an offset method in the absence of a form for inking. The image is applied directly to the paper without the use of an intermediate material (a rubber sheet).
Digital equipment is used for both home users and businesses. Digital technology is applied to special uncoated or coated paper, self-adhesive material, and cardboard.
Benefits and Drawbacks
The main advantages of the described technology:
- Immediate printing without the need for plate production;
- No risk of loss of image quality;
- The capability of producing multipage documents and separate circulations;
- It is possible to make trial samples and make corrections;
- More suitable for small runs.
This technology has some drawbacks. The resulting image is not very durable on folds. The cost of consumables is quite high, so the digital application method is preferable for producing small runs.
This is the method of transferring a picture/image or text onto the material using a stencil template. This method is considered very ancient: according to one conception, it was first used by the ancient Phoenicians, who extracted purple from the glandular secretion of mollusks and manually transferred it through a template onto fabrics Other researchers consider the Chinese and Japanese to be the pioneers of the screen method.
Today, screen technology is used in industrial printing, souvenir business, street painting, car tuning, and many other areas.
Pluses and Minuses
The stencil application process has several advantages over other printing methods:
- The thickness of the finished image is at least 10 times greater if compared to offset or digital technologies. As a result, patterns look more voluminous and colorful.
- Any pattern can be achieved. These are textured imitation, varnishing, additional volume, or shiny elements.
- The method deals with a wide range of materials for applying graphics: paper, film, cardboard, fabric, metal, ceramics, wood, and others.
- – Work with both flat and three-dimensional surfaces.
Yet, it is not the best solution for large runs.
The modern printing industry counts many modifications of print applications on surfaces. Each process is designed for a particular purpose and circulation. Thus, the printing environment has all the needed tools to meet the demands of modern customers.