It’s no secret that flexible packaging is one of the most common and popular types of product containers. A “flexible package” is any type of packaging that is flexible and can change shape easily.
According to the Flexible Packaging Association (FPA), as of 2019, flexible packaging accounted for nearly 19% of the $177 billion domestic packaging market while accounting for 52% of all food packaging. However, manufacturers and brands don’t ship their goods in blank or clear packages.
Under the Fair Packaging and Label Act, the Federal Trade Commission requires logos, nutritional labels, and serving sizes on all food and drink products, battery hazard risk indicators, and other labels are printed directly onto the packaging of consumer goods.
Most manufacturers also include production/batch information for quality control purposes as well as UPCs, GTINs, and Datamatrix codes to help track and sell products. For manufacturers, working with a trusted printer is a must for high-quality packaging.
But your flexographic printer is only as good as the technology and materials they use. Ensuring your printer is working with state-of-the-art image carriers is of paramount importance to get the best prints on flexible packaging.
How to Get The Best Prints on Flexible Packaging
Flexographic printing is the intricate process of transferring ink to a substrate via an image carrier. Human error, or any number of component failures, can cause major defects in standard flexo operations. Add in a flexible substrate and the process becomes even more convoluted.
When troubleshooting defects that arise when flexo printing on flexible packaging, chances are you’re experiencing an issue with the ink (PH and Viscosity), a press component, or foreign contaminants.
Ink (PH and Viscosity):
From paper to aluminum to composite material, flexible packaging can consist of a number of different materials, each of which has special properties that require different drying times. Knowing the composition of your substrate is crucial when choosing the right type of ink for your flexo job.
To ensure you’re getting the highest quality prints while maintaining a profitable speed, ensure your ink’s pH level is conducive to the substrate running at high speeds through the flexo press.
Also important when seeking high-quality prints is ensuring you double-check your ink’s viscosity levels to prevent troubles with:
- Spotty ink deposits
- Smeared ink or uneven appearance
- Uneven colors
Since flexible materials are less rigid than most substrates, it's also more susceptible to move or slip during the printing process. Since different substrates have different thicknesses, print quality can differ depending on the tension of your machine.
Worn out, loose, or dirty plates can lead to printing defects such as:
- Dirty prints
- Uneven ink transfer
Adjust the tension to keep the substrate sufficiently tight before every print run, and be sure to perform routine maintenance on the entire flexo press. Monitor printing pressure and eliminate wobbling by checking bearings, shafts, gear tip, and the alignment of the sleeves or plates.
In an industrial setting where machinery is producing static electricity, it’s no surprise that dust, tiny ink particles, and other contaminants get stuck to the press components.
Regularly deep-cleaning your entire flexo press, including printing plates and elastomer sleeves will help minimize printing defects in flexible packaging, however, avoid using harsh solvents or cleaning agents (unless specified by your image carrier manufacturer) in order to preserve your image carrier.
Flexible Packaging Printing Defects Still Not Solved?
Flexographic printing can be challenging regardless of the substrate, adding in a pliable, non-rigid substrate only makes things more complicated. Ensuring that you get the best prints on flexible substrates starts with choosing the right image carrier service. Work with a trusted manufacturer that has proven experience working with flexible materials.
Have more questions or concerns about flexo printing defects? Download our Printing Defects Guide created by our team of Flexo Experts or contact us today with any questions.