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Differences Between Gravure and Flexo Print in Packaging

July 15, 2015

The packaging industry is assuming a larger role than ever before thanks to global demand. No longer content to deal with local distributors, consumers shop further afield. Businesses and commercial ventures adopt this buying pattern as well, sourcing materials from international resources and selling products in other nations. Whatever the reason for increased packaging demands, there can be little doubt that the packaging industry is reaping the rewards, which is why the two dominant print packing solutions are the topic of our discussion today. Required by marketing necessity to express more than information, print on a package sells company identity, meaning these two print solutions must offer superior features.

Gravure (intaglio printing): This time-honoured print process etches graphics onto a metal plate, thus creating a series of depressions. This sunken surface forms the print area and is screened, filled with thousands of miniature ink-holding cells.

Flexo Print (relief print technique): A print process that utilizes a raised image. The printing plate is manufactured from a polymer or rubber substitute and mounted onto a spinning roller coated with ink.

The main advantage of this form, at least until a decade ago, is the amount of detail possible from a print cycle. The print quality is excellent for most forms of rigid packaging due to the direct print path process. Dependable and precise, other features include fast changeover possibilities and a huge range of substrate options. Unfortunately, the Gravure print process does not suit elastic print packaging profiles, and there are other disadvantages to consider, drawbacks that relate to today’s diverse packaging outlines.

The clue for the usage intent of Flexo Print (Flexographic) can be inferred from the label. Physical and mechanical flexibility is the governing force behind the popularity of this packaging printing process. Flexo can print colourful graphics and sharply defined vector shapes on plastic bags and soft plastic wrappers. It’s also an ideal match for non-porous substrates, the film-like materials that are used as freshness containers for produce and all kinds of foodstuff. Your favourite snack is very likely wrapped in a Flexo Printed sheet of plastic, a branded slice of corporate identity that contains detailed representations of the company logo.

Not to be outdone, Gravure print technology is mature and popular for a reason. Gravure prints are still the most detailed when printed on solid surfaces, still possessed of higher image resolution due to the inherent simplicity of the process, and the technique encourages ink variants, specialist inks that can’t be accessed on the Flexo Print platform. Meanwhile, polymer extrusion science and laser cutting techniques have partnered with newly developed Flexo inks to deliver more detail than ever before on the Flexo Ink side, thus creating two powerful solutions, though elastic surfaces do benefit more from the Flexo approach.

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