Step-by-step Flexographic Printing Process
Flexographic (Flexo) Printing Process is an efficient, high-quality label printing solution that combines fast printing, lamination, and die-cutting in a single pass! Flexo uses flexible rubber relief plates (stamps), which are mounted to a cylinder and then applied to a substrate. Almost everything printed today can be produced by a Flexography Printing Press, such as bag stickers, food and beverage labels, plastic shampoo bottle labels, double-sided medication labels, window stickers, and much more.
Flexo Printing also allows for printing on various substrates, including:
- Plastic film
- Metallic/ Foil Surfaces
- Multilayered film composites
- Special Laminated Products and more
We understand that it can be a lot to take in for someone new to the Flexo journey. With that, we’ve simplified the process into 5 easy to understand steps to assist you with knowing what happens from initial order placement to receiving finished, printed labels or stickers!
1. Artwork Approval Process
The first step in flexographic printing is designing your artwork. Creating a design that fits the artwork specifications needed to produce the final print can be challenging. Failure to thoroughly proof your artwork can result in costly mistakes and loss of precious time on your order. That is why Ample has a full art department dedicated to thoroughly proofing your artwork for any errors on your label design.
Our goal at Ample is to ensure a design is printed exactly as our customer envisions their label to be and to take every precaution possible to accomplish that. As such, we always create a digital print proof for review prior to production we send over email or if requested, in person. We want the customer to be 100% satisfied with the final design before we move forward, and we always communicate any potential problems or concerns with a design before printing.
2. Plate Making Process:
After the approval stage, it’s time to create the printing plates—the large stamp-like sheets which transfer the design onto the label. Printing plates are needed on any flexographic label order and can be cut in any custom shape or size. We have over 4,000 cutting dies already available, so a completely custom size is seldom needed for most orders.
First, the flexographic plate starts out in a large blank piece of photopolymer material and is then exposed to light and engraved to the specified label design. Each color that is on your label has to have it’s own separate flexo plate (stamp).
Next, the plate is moved to the digital imager machine to engrave the labels’ images on the plate. After that, it is placed into the thermal processor again for 7 minutes.
Once removed, the plates are placed into the thermal developer to be dusted off to remove any unwanted particles. It is during this step the plate turn from black to an orange/reddish tint.
After 10 minutes they are placed back in the thermal processor for another 4 minutes.
Lastly, the plate is removed and the large plate is ready to be cut into individual plates. The finished plates are then matched with the corresponding job and sent to the press for mounting.
While the printing plates are being made, our estimating & purchasing team must order the right amount of rolls of paper materials for the labels.
3. Plate Mounting Process
Plate mounting is an important piece of the label printing process, and if done incorrectly can lead to costly issues during the production run.
First, each plate is checked for inaccuracies against the final design. They are measured and the edges are trimmed to perfection.
Next, the desired sized cylinder for the flexo plate is secured onto a plate mounter and is then cleaned off.
Plate mounting tape is applied, and cut after a full rotation. Finally the plate is slid into the clamps and the liner of the tape is peeled back.
The plate is lined up on the monitor and the plate is evenly rolled onto the adhesive tape.
Lastly, the plate is adjusted as it is rolled on with a brayer (rubber roller).
The plate is now finished and ready to be mounted on the flexo press for printing.
4. Printing Process:
The flexo plates are brought over to one of Ample’s Flexographic printing presses.
Next, the press is filled with the specified ink color that is for the particular label plate. Flexo presses print with the four color process, which is also known as CMYK [Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Key (Black)].
After the ink and cylinder rolls are in place, the machine starts and the ink is picked up by a roller called the metering roll, which transfers it to the anilox roll, which is used to pick up the right amount of ink to be applied to the flexo plate and straight onto the label substrate as shown below.
5. Cutting and Packaging Process:
Once print production is complete, the labels are taken to a finishing machine to be cut into smaller rolls for easy application. They are then stacked, wrapped, and placed into boxes for shipment. We then communicate with the desired customer to ensure they are informed on how many labels were produced, the shipping rates, and how long each freight delivery will take. We then send a tracking number for reference and stay in communication up until they arrive at their destination and sometimes longer.
The Flexographic printing process can print labels of various materials quickly without sacrificing quality, making it the ideal printing method for food, beverage, and consumer products.
At Ample Industries, we have produced millions of labels and stickers for customers over the last 50 years, which means we know a thing or two about the process.