POLYETHYLENE 101 “Flexographic Printing”

Posted by on Thu, Apr 2nd, 2015 at 8:55 pm

Bold, Sharp, Eye-catching Packaging with Flexographic Printing

In this day and age high-end printing and eye-catching graphics are a necessity in the packaging industry in order to have a competitive edge and produce brand recognition with customers. Ever wonder how your package is printed with such accuracy to present that “wow” factor? The form of printing is referred to as Flexographic Printing, a modern day form of printing that can be used on many substrates including Polyethylene film.

The process of Flexographic printing using safe inks was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 1949 and requires a three-step process of platemaking, mounting, and printing.

  • Platemaking can occur in three methods, the first of which is plate development using light-sensitive polymer. The second method uses a computer guided laser to etch the image onto the printing plate. And the third method requires that the plate goes through a molding process.
  • Mounting is a process used to ensure an accurate picture image. For each color to be printed, a plate is made and eventually put on a cylinder, which is placed in the printing press. Mounting marks are put on flexographic plates to help with precise alignment on the cylinder. These marks are key to aligning each color in the printing press. Equipment is extremely important at this point in the process as highly accurate and specific machinery is made for mounting these plates on the printing cylinders.
  • Printing is the final process in flexographic printing and produces the end result of a sharp looking package. The process requires that a positive mirrored master of the required image is created as a 3D relief in a rubber or polymer material. The image areas are raised above the non-image areas on the rubber or polymer plate and ink is transferred from the ink roll to the anilox roll where excess ink is removed before inking the printing plate. The polyethylene film is finally pressed between the plate and the impression cylinder to transfer the image.

Next time you’re admiring your bold printing and graphics on your polyethylene package or looking for a new and improved look for your package, remember that flexographic printing can achieve the best results. This complex printing process is the key to producing a polyethylene package that your customers will continue to recognize!