Knowing how much flexographic ink you need for a particular job and making sure you use that ink most efficiently can make a significant difference in your profitability.
It’s important to look at some ways to calculate ink amounts and examine steps you can take to make the whole printing process more efficient.
One word of caution: While online ink consumption calculators are good for estimating, be aware that accurate estimates of how much ink is needed require a thorough production consumption test with the press-ready ink, substrate, image carrier, and press to be used.
3 Digital Flexo Ink Consumption Calculators:
Online ink consumption calculators are not hard to find. However, there are differences from one to another. Here’s a quick rundown on a few of them:
1. Flexo Exchange
Of the three calculators considered here, this one takes into account the most variables, including:
- Substrate width
- Substrate length
- Substrate quantity, including overrun for waste and any other overruns
- Ink amount minimum needed for print station operation, including not only the ink consumed but also the minimum amount of ink required to ensure smooth system flow
- Anilox volume needed for a particular color
- Percentage of ink transferred, taking into account the ink that remains on the anilox roll after transfer to the image carrier and the amount actually delivered from the image carrier to the substrate. This value will be based on experience and adjusted as needed.
- Ink coverage percentage, based on the label area the ink color covers, in other words, color image area/label area
Taken together, these numbers will yield the total ink consumed, in gallons, for a job, as well as the amount of ink, again in gallons, you need to blend.
This company offers an online calculator with the caveat that customers shouldn’t use it to estimate how much ink will be needed to create quotes or generate print runs.
The calculator uses quite a bit less information to provide an ink amount:
- Method of printing
- Print area width
- Print area height
- Print run size
For quick, rough estimates of ink requirements, this calculator can come in handy because the needed numbers are fairly easy to come by. However, something closer to the first example will likely yield more accurate information.
3. Zeller + Gmelin UV Printing Inks
Paring the number of variables down even further, Zeller+Gmelin asks for four:
- Width of substrate
- Length of substrate
- Print run number
- Number of stations
The company also mentions other variables that can change from printer to printer and print run to print run, such as:
- Type of printing image carrier
- Wear affecting the anilox
- Printing speed
- Kind of substrate
Again, this calculator can be helpful for a quick estimate of ink requirements. However, your circumstances can vary widely from what Zeller+Gmelin calls its “approximate best-fit" and you should test it in your own shop before relying on it.
Calculating Ink Consumption Can Save Money
Before getting into specifics about how ink consumption calculation can reduce costs, it’s important to mention that how you manage the ink you use can affect the price of the job.
Using the wrong ink or not blending the ingredients properly for a particular application can lead to problems such as:
- Poor adhesion
- Smearing and bleeding
- Incorrect color strength
Poor ink management can also lead to excessive consumption resulting from:
- Losing ink when starting or completing a run
- Too-soft metering roll
- Old or weak ink
- Too-high viscosity
- Too much anilox volume
Comparing actual ink use with the calculated ink requirement can get you started on making necessary corrections. These fixes might include:
- Lowering ink viscosity
- Replacing parts, such as the anilox
- Changing the way you handle ink at both ends of the printing process
Work with Vendors You Trust
Using an ink consumption calculator doesn’t guarantee cost savings. What it can do is help you find any areas where savings are possible. That alone makes the time required to use a calculator well worth it.
The best way to guarantee cost savings during flexographic printing is to work with vendors who you can trust to provide a quality product and a quality process.
At Luminite, we offer services such as in-house surface tension testing, ink coverage calculations, and color management assistance to ensure the quality of your image carrier is supported throughout the entire flexo printing process.
If you're currently experiencing problems with your prints, please reach out to us for a free printing consultation:
(Editor’s Note: This blog was originally published in September 2019 and was updated in October 2022 to reflect current information.)