According to Focus Label Machinery, while flexography dates from the 19 century, modern improvements have made the technology sophisticated, durable, and adaptable. But how environmentally friendly is flexography? And, long-term, is it a sustainable printing technology?
Flexographic printing plates are a type of reusable, roller-plate technology that are used to print high-quality multicolour labels and packaging, and many other types of non-bound, one-sheet card and paper items.
The great advantage of flexographic printing plates is that they are wipeable and reusable across millions of impressions. When the print run is finished, the ink is washed off and printing plate stored away to be re-used another day. This makes flexography sustainable, adaptable and cost-effective where repeat orders are applicable in your business.
The production of a flexo printing plate can be processed using water, solvent or digitally using the latest computer to plate advances. Where suitable, water and digital processed plates can reduce harmful impact of solvents without any downside to print quality on the press.
As well as being slightly more expensive to set up than other printing processes, flexography also requires more rollers and ink to be used to create full-colour finished products (a minimum of four).
Historically, companies did struggle with removing and storing used toxic inks from flexographic rollers and cleaning the rollers thoroughly to prevent ‘ghost’ impressions and residual dots. However, modern plate materials are easier to clean and have good wear resistance properties.
Automated plate cleaning systems are also common-place in modern print houses, but consideration needs to be given to disposing of cleaning and waste liquid. If you’re just creating labels for reference or shipping purposes, you (and the environment) might be better off with small-scale, adaptable techniques (such as thermal printing).
Flexographic improvements haven’t fully solved the problem of dealing with the disposal of toxic inks and solvents, either. You’ll need measures in place to prevent black water leakage during the ‘wash’ phase of flexography.
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