Flexographic Printing Blog

10 Common Causes of Print Misregistration in Flexographic Printing

Posted by Luminite on Oct 12, 2023 10:45:00 AM

flexo print misregistration

We've all had that moment when we're painting, tracing, or gluing something and in our intense concentration, our hand slips, marring our precious work. 

That's what print misregistration is like. To get the best possible print, the alignment of your ink combinations on the substrate must be precise. Misregistration by the tiniest fraction of an inch can completely skew your print.

It impacts everything from color patterns to design accuracy. It also means downtime for troubleshooting. For your printing process, that means:

  • Wasted time
  • Wasted substrate and ink
  • Unnecessary wear and tear on machinery
  • Delays in delivering prints

Assessing your flexo print registration for these common causes can help your operation save money and undue hassle.

10 Common Causes of Print Misregistration

If you're experiencing any amount of flexo misregistration, one of the following circumstances is probably occurring: 

  1. Inaccurate plate mounting / centering 
  2. Impression cylinder concentricity
  3. Cylinder/ plate/ sleeve condition
  4. Gear condition
  5. Idle rollers drag or rotate irregularly
  6. Malfunctioning web guide
  7. Web growth or fanning out
  8. Wandering web
  9. Substrate surface tension
  10. Incorrect tolerances 

Here's how to troubleshoot and fix these issues:Download this ebook guide to diagnose your printing problems and defects

1. Inaccurate Plate Mounting/Centering

Whether using cameras, mirrors, or the naked eye, the exact centerline of the printing cylinder, plate, or sleeve should be identified. The cylinder or sleeve must be mounted in the same location and orientation.

2. Impression Cylinder Concentricity

Your cylinder’s concentricity (a tolerance zone for the median points of a cylindrical or spherical part) must be close to perfect as possible. A dial indicator capable of showing errors down to 0.0001 inches should be mounted on a magnetic base and used to produce measurements from the middle and near each end of the cylinder.

Generally accepted flexo printing guidelines say total concentricity run out shouldn’t be more than about 0.0005 inches.

3. Cylinder/Plate/Sleeve Condition

Physical defects and ink/grease buildup can easily skew your reproduced images. Clean your plate, cylinder, and sleeve to remove any grime. Inspect your printing surface for damage like cuts and indentations.

4. Gear Condition

Missing gear teeth and general gear misalignment can create flexo print misregistration issues. Make sure all gears are intact and positioned properly. The plate cylinder gear must fit the cylinder journal with a tolerance no greater than 0.002 inches of error.

Also make sure the gears are clear of excess grease and foreign materials.

5. Idle Rollers Drag or Rotate Irregularly

Dragging or wobbly rotation makes accurate ink transfer impossible. Your inked image carrier will not be making contact with the substrate at the proper time and place.


flexo printer's guide to sustainable printing


6. Malfunctioning Web Guide

The web guide is a closed-loop system, which includes:

  • Sensor
  • Controller
  • Actuating cylinder
  • Web

The sensor gives error signals to the controller to adjust velocity differential across the web. Correct sensor prepositioning is critical.

7. Web Growth or Fanning Out

The web width gradually grows as it travels from one station to the next, causing print misregistration as images are applied in layers. You can use prepress software or bustle wheels to compensate for the growth.

8. Wandering Web

Any lateral movement of your web will cause print issues. Manipulate the tension at the splicer to hold your substrate steady.

9. Substrate Surface Tension

If surface tension is off, it will not correctly absorb and distribute pressure to transfer ink from the image carrier. Keep tension at an appropriate level so the image carrier contacts the substrate evenly and uniformly.


10. Incorrect Tolerances

Register shifts can cause two letters, words, or designs printed next to each other to overlap or misalign. Make sure images with different colors are more than twice the image trap dimension from each other.

Troubleshooting Flexo Print Misregistration and Other Defects

Much can go wrong on a printing press, but making sure mechanical components and pre-press calibrations are correct will avoid costly print misregistration errors.

If you’re having issues troubleshooting your press, check out our free guide to diagnosing printing defects!

Flexographic Printing | Why Choose Luminite? DD

Editor's Note: This blog post was originally published on November 2017 and was updated October 2023.

Tags: Insider, Flexographic Printing, Ink Transfer, print misregistration, printing defects

  • There are no suggestions because the search field is empty.

Subscribe to Our Monthly Email Updates!

New call-to-action

Check Out Our Popular Posts!