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Flexo vs Digital

It’s often been hotly debated whether flexographic or digital is better for label printing. Flexographic or flexo printing was the undisputed king of label printing before digital printers became large enough and technologically capable to handle print runs at scale. So, have digital printers surpassed the capabilities of flexo printers?

Let’s first take a closer look at these two types of printers because essentially, they are different technologies: flexo uses specially made plates to press ink onto a substrate, whereas digital printers deposit toner directly onto a surface, much like your printer at home.

Flexo requires some initial setup of the printing plates, ink rollers and plate cylinders, but then is able to do huge print runs very quickly and cost-effectively. Each change or variation in artwork requires new plates to be made and the press to be reset, which also takes time. However, due to its throughput speeds and in-line finishing processes, such as adding cold foiling and varnishes, once the job is set up it can run at phenomenal speeds and allows for fast, continuous production.

Digital printing is faster off the mark and has quick turnaround times as it’s merely a matter of transferring digital artwork files to large format inkjet or laser printers via the computer. Being able to vary print information on each label in the run, such as SKUs and serial numbers, gives digital impressive variable printing and personalisation capabilities. Not having any setup and plate costs makes digital printing competitive for small- to mid-sized label orders, but its slower production speed with no in-line processes makes flexo the better choice for longer runs.

Computers manage the entire job in digital printing, meaning there are high levels of consistency. Flexo, on the other hand, requires an operator to physically turn knobs and pull levers to ensure nothing shifts or goes out of line during printing. This means it’s vital to partner with a top quality flexo printer who has many years of experience and a highly skilled pre-press department and operators for best results.

“There’s no definite answer as to whether flexo or digital is better. In fact, that shouldn’t even be a question. It should be about finding which method is best for the job you want done.” – John Mertsch, FIL MD

Ultimately, the right printing method depends on your specific needs. Do you have many different label formats that require personalised elements and very complex graphics for a seasonal promotion, or a flagship SKU that requires very large runs with little variation? Often, you’ll require both types of jobs to be done at some point, so you need a print partner who’s proficient in flexographic as well as digital printing and able to weigh up every scenario to offer you the optimum solution.

Contact our team for more information or if you need help deciding on the best print solution for your brand, contact us.