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Types of printing used food & product flexible packaging films & pouches?

Types of printing used food & product flexible packaging films & pouches?

Moving to fully printed retail packaging or launching new designs means you will be presented with a variety of printing options, but the question is - which one is right for you?

Here, we simplify and outline the four main industry options of Digital, EB Offset, Flexographic and Gravure printing to help determine what might be best for your circumstances when creating your branded packaging.


Digital Print

Digital print is a fantastic option for a variety of reasons. It is great for high quality printing and short runs, as minimum order quantities are minimal. Digital allows you to print multiple designs, variable data and is focussed on speed of delivery to market. There are no printing plate costs or origination costs with digital printing, and design amendments therefore do not incur re-origination fees. It is also the perfect platform for targeted product campaigns, printing exactly what you need and avoiding stock holding or redundant lines post campaign. Another positive is minimal setup waste - positive for the environment and also for pricing!

Pros: Flexible, agile, no MOQ, high quality print, fast lead times, low wastage, no origination costs

Cons: Unit cost higher than other processes, size restriction precludes larger bags (above 3KG)


EB Offset Print

The new kid on the block is electron beam offset print. EB inks are solvent free and the process has a low energy consumption, offering an eco-friendly angle to printing. It also uses up to 70% less ink than other processes, to achieve similar results. To cap this off, it is antibacterial. Print quality is excellent, and uses plates to print – although there is minimal cost to these as they are recyclable. There are low MOQs – more than digital, less than flexo or gravure – and the machine speed is fast, thus reducing pricing. EB Offset is perfect for lower quantities of individual designs (i.e. 10,000 of 1 design).

Pros: Low MOQs, high quality print, eco-friendly printing, low cost, no origination costs, great for film on reels

Cons: Size restriction precludes larger bags, certain inks don’t respond well to pouchmaking

EB Offset Printing Press

Flexographic Print

Flexographic print is the most popular print format in the UK. It uses polymer printing plates which come in various guises, from ‘standard’ to High Definition (HD) to Ultra High Definition (UHD) and also Water Washable. Inks are typically solvent free and production speed is faster than other processes. Flexo is considered a lower quality than gravure printing because it fails to support constant tonal imagework from very complex artwork. However, ‘pound for pound’, flexo offers the best value for money. Particularly when applying a fixed colour gamut, enabling shorter runs and increased number of designs per set of plates/sets of plates – using the same colour space, decreasing costs.

Pros: Solvent free inks, low cost, high definition print, great for up to 8 colour designs, reasonable MOQs, fixed colour gamut
Cons: Plate costs per colour, lack of education around print plate technology, print quality on complex artwork varied

Gravure Print

Rotogravure print is the most popular print format in the EU and Rest of World (globally 40% of all packaging is printed through flexo, almost 60% gravure). It offers the best print quality – when jobs are set up correctly – and is perfect for complex artworks. This is because instead of polymer plates (flexo), aluminium cylinders are engraved by laser and therefore finer details can be deployed and controlled with consistency throughout a print run. The machine speeds are high and the cylinders can last for far longer than flexo plates. Gravure print is typically used for very high print runs that require absolute consistency in colour management.

Pros: highest print quality, cost effective at very high volumes, durability of cylinders
Cons: high MOQs, origination costs high, low cost gravure options with poor quality are in the marketplace

The decision as to which print format you adopt can be difficult, as you have to also consider the future of your brand and whether your design will lend itself better to flexo or gravure after the initial digital run. At Digimock we use all fours technologies - contact us today and we’d be happy to help you decide.

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