Flexographic Printing Blog

Digital vs. Flexo Printing: Pros and Cons

Posted by Luminite on Oct 5, 2023 10:07:35 AM

flexo printing

Flexographic printing, which is a type of relief printing, uses a laser-engraved sleeve to transfer ink onto paper. The presses run at a high speed, making them ideal for longer print runs. Flexo printing has been a relied-upon technique for many years, providing quality prints that are cost-effective and clear on a variety of substrates. 

Over the last two decades, digital printing has become increasingly popular. Digital printing technology offers higher-resolution prints with greater color fidelity than traditional flexo methods. Digital printers also provide new capabilities such as variable data printing that allow for more customization options for businesses and individuals alike. However, when it comes to longer print runs, flexo provides the best speed and reliability. 

When deciding between Digital and Flexo Printing, it is essential to consider:

  • Your production timeline
  • Color range for the image
  • The type of material you need to be printed 

Understanding Flexo Printing

Flexo printing involves the creation of a raised design on an image carrier - typically a sleeve, cylinder, or plate that can be made of polymer or elastomer. The anilox roller takes ink from the inkwell and transfers it to the image carrier, which then applies the image to the substrate.  

Substrates that utilize this method can be paper, flexible plastics, and other non-porous materials. This can range from film and labels to foil or other packaging materials. 

Flexo printing is best used when it comes to large volumes of production over several days or weeks as it tends to be more economical in that sense than digital printing. This method is also more efficient in terms of speed and time spent from setup to completion of a print run. 

 Pros of Flexo Printing Cons of Flexo Printing
  • Speed: Efficient for high-volume runs.
  • Cost-Effective at Scale: Per unit cost reduces for large-scale jobs.
  • Versatility: Ability to print on a wide range of substrates.
  • Durability: Long-lasting prints, especially for packaging.
  • Refinement: With advancements, improved resolution, and detail in prints.
  • Due to the somewhat complex process, skilled operators ensure the end product is of the highest quality.
  • Setup Time & Cost: Initial plate-making can be time-consuming and expensive.








Understanding Digital Printing

Digital printing is a process that involves the use of a digital image and specialized printers to transfer the image onto a substrate. The digital image is created on a computer with high precision and accuracy and then printed directly onto the substrate. Digital printing technology eliminates the need for plates or film used in traditional offset printing, making it faster and more efficient than other forms of printing. digital printer - wide format photo

The digital printers output images directly from a computer, scanning each pixel of the image as it prints. This allows for great detail, clarity, and accuracy in producing complex images on substrates such as paper, vinyl, fabric, film, foil, synthetic papers, and various boards. Digital printing also enables variable data printing – which allows different pieces of text or artwork to be printed in one pass without stopping or changing plates.

The advancements in digital printing have improved turnaround times and offered increased customization options to customers. With better quality prints at faster speeds, digital is a preferred method of choice for those looking for quick and effective commercial or personal printing solutions - in smaller batches.

Digital printing offers a higher degree of detail than flexo printing, resulting in better image quality and accuracy. 

Pros of Digital Printing Cons of Digital Printing
  • Speed for Short Runs: Quick turnarounds for low-volume jobs.
  • Cost-Effective for Small Batches: No need for plates or long setups.
  • Flexibility and Customization: Suitable for variable data printing (VDP).
  • Precision: High accuracy and consistent quality.
  • Costly for High Volume: Per unit cost remains constant, becoming costly for large quantities.
  • Substrate Limitations: Some digital printers have restrictions on material types.
  • Wear and Tear: Print heads and components may need more frequent replacements.
  • Ink Challenges: Limited by ink types, sometimes less vibrant than flexo.


Digital vs. Flexo Printing | Summing Up

Digital offers speedier turnaround times and better detail while Flexo provides larger volume print runs at an economical cost. As for flexibility, both methods offer various options for different paper types and sizes but Digital is often more versatile when it comes to small orders on different substrates, while Flexo is the preferred method if you are relying on longer print runs, especially for an extended amount of time. 


Need Answers to Your Flexo Printing Questions?

The Luminite staff has been helping printers address defects in their Flexo Print runs for years. If you have issues with your quality, take a look at this resource: 

Download this ebook guide to diagnose your printing problems and defects

Tags: Flexographic Printing, Digital Printing

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