For small and mid-sized manufacturers, determining the right printing options for your products can be a challenge. A lot of the larger printing companies focus on big printing runs that are simply not an option for smaller companies.
After all, you don’t want to be forced to purchase a whole year’s worth of stock just to get your labels printed.
Fortunately, other printing options can solve your problem. Narrow web printing is one of them.
What is Narrow Web Flexo Printing?
Flexography is one of – if not the most – quickly growing printing processes used today. Two of the main sectors in flexography are wide web and narrow web flexo printing.
Wide web flexo printing focuses on high volumes and fast printing speeds to produce impressively sized runs – but that volume tends to be a barrier for smaller manufacturers.
In contrast, narrow web flexo printing is a better solution for small print runs. Both have their uses, but narrow web is generally more accessible to companies that want labels and other items printed in small volumes.
Narrow Web Printing Definition
Roughly, narrow web printing is defined by any web with a width of 16” or less and is a rotary process with multiple in-line converting processes.
It might be more useful to review some of the key things that set narrow web flexo printing apart from wide web flexo printing, including:
- Printing width: The most obvious difference, narrow webs operate with webs typically ranging between 16” and 10” wide.
- UV-curable ink: Works very well with narrow web flexo printing and offers environmental benefits by meeting solvent emissions standards.
- Ink viscosities: Narrow web flexo printing uses ink viscosities around 34 sec, #3 Zahn. In contrast, wide web flexo printing uses somewhere around 25 sec, #2 Zahn.
- Slower-drying inks: Water-based inks used in narrow flexo applications are slower drying.
- Less waste: Narrow web flexo printing tends to produce less waste per printing run.
- Lower costs associated with warehousing: Narrow web printing can save space and therefore lessen the money spent on warehouse storage.
The Uses of Narrow Web Flexo Printing
There are plenty of uses for narrow web printing. Not only can you print flexible packaging, labels and poly bags, you can also meet other important requirements for your products. Let’s look at some of those:
Smaller Printing Runs
With wide web flexo printing for such applications, you would need to order a significant amount to justify the printing doing a run for your business. The same is not true for narrow web label printing. Printers offering narrow web as an option will often be happy to take your order even if you only need a relatively small amount printed.
Meeting Environmental Regulations
Narrow web flexo printing is great for minimizing VOC emissions, which can be a major consideration when setting up a pressroom. Plus, narrow web flexo printing works great with UV curable inks, which dry a lot faster than other inks and reduces the need for expensive drying equipment.
Choosing to Print the Sustainable Way
Using narrow web flexo printing is a great way to dip your toes into the world of sustainable printing. But, there are many other ways that flexo printers can turn their operations green.
Check out our free ebook about sustainable printing. You’ll learn about environmentally friendly substrates, inks, equipment, and more!
(Editor’s note: This blog was published in November 2020 and updated in April 2022 to reflect current information.)