Knowing what print process is right for you and your packaging can be extremely confusing, especially if your not aware of the different types of processes for different types of packaging and substrates.
The main types of printing processes used today for packaging are:
Lithography uses simple chemical processes to create an image. For instance, the positive part of an image is a water-repelling substance, while the negative image would be water-retaining. Thus, when the plate is introduced to a compatible printing ink and water mixture, the ink will adhere to the positive image and the water will clean the negative image. This allows a flat print plate to be used, enabling much longer and more detailed print runs than the older physical methods of printing.
Flexography has an advantage over lithography in that it can use a wider range of inks, water based rather than oil based inks, and is good at printing on a variety of different materials like plastic, foil, acetate film, brown paper, and other materials used in packaging. Typical products printed using flexography include brown corrugated boxes, flexible packaging including retail and shopping bags, food and hygiene bags and sacks, milk and beverage cartons, flexible plastics, self-adhesive labels, disposable cups and containers, envelopes and wallpaper. In recent years there has also been a move towards laminates, where two or more materials are bonded together to produce new material with different properties than either of the originals.
Digital is a method of printing from a digital-based image directly to a variety of media. It usually refers to professional printing where small-run jobs from desktop publishing and other digital sources are printed using large-format and / or high- volume laser or inkjet printers. Digital printing has a higher cost per page than more traditional offset printing methods, but this price is usually offset by avoiding the cost of all the technical steps required to make printing plates. It also allows for on-demand printing, short turnaround time, and even a modification of the image (variable data) used for each impression. The savings in labour and the ever-increasing capability of digital presses means that digital printing is reaching the point where it can match or supersede offset printing technology’s ability to produce larger print runs of several thousand sheets at a low price.