What is flexible packaging?

As the name suggests, flexible packaging is packaging from flexible materials that can easily be brought into any desired shape. Typical materials are film and paper as well as combinations of both (laminates). We distinguish between primary packaging, i.e. packaging which is in contact with the product itself, and secondary packaging, i.e. packaging that keeps several product units together for example for transport reasons.

Most product packages for food, personal care and pharmaceutical products have some kind of print on it, this may be for functional, informative or marketing reasons.

Examples of flexible packaging products

Primary packaging

Flexible pouches and bags
Beverage cartons
Folding cartons

Secondary packaging

Carrier bags
Protective and functional films
Envelopes
Pre-printed corrugated liner

Characteristics of flexible packaging printing

Looking at flexible packaging in terms of the printing process, the dominant printing methods are flexographic and rotogravure printing. While gravure printing was traditionally considered the process with the highest print quality, flexographic printing has evolved into an equal alternative, especially in view of the trend towards smaller to medium flexible packaging run lengths.

The majority of the total flexible packaging volume is produced in roll-to-roll printing, that means a roll of blank flexible printing web is unwinded, printed and rewinded in the printing press. The printing happens thus on a continuous web. Alternatively, the printing is done inline on one or several (flexo) printing deck(s) during the packaging material production, e.g. in film extrusion machines or in the converting process, e.g. in bag machines.

Typically, the printing substrates are rather uncomplicated to process. In many cases, the printing speed is therefore medium to high and can go up to 800 m/min (2600 feet per minute).

The most striking aspect about flexible packaging printing is probably the wide range of print quality requirements. This final print outcome is subject to many interacting parameters of the printing process.

Interacting parameters of the printing process

Print motif

Everything stands and falls with the type of image we want to print. Simple marking is much different to high-definition flexo printing.

Depending on how much surface of the web is covered with printed elements and how these are structured, different print settings apply. A full-surface print is different to a line-print.

Solvent based, water-borne and UV inks differ from each other in terms of viscosity, rheology and curing.

The material type is also decisive and stands in close correlation with the ink type. For example, printing with water-borne inks on non-absorbent film is much more delicate than on paper.

Print run length

The amount of meters that shall be printed for a job is a decisive factor for the printing set-up.

How many printing stations are required / available to do the job? Are special colors involved, or can the job be covered with the CMYK color scale?

It makes a big difference in terms of printing speed and finesse whether we are looking at “pure” printing on central impression (CI) presses or inline printing on extruders, bag machines or packing machines.

How much drying capacity and space is there between printing decks for the ink to settle on the substrate?

How AkeBoose can support you in the flexible packaging printing process

AkeBoose can support you with application specific printing equipment which is very versatile and thus enables you to act flexibly upon varying demands that different flexible packaging print jobs implicate. Our chamber doctor blade systems and doctoring systems as well and ink management systems are designed to make every days’ life in the pressroom easier.

They are:

  • straightforward to handle
  • clean
  • cost-effective in operation
  • and offer optimum conditions for consistent print quality.

OUR PRODUCT SOLUTIONS FOR FLEXIBLE PACKAGING PRINTING

NOVA XLS chamber doctor blade system

Versatile and corrosion-safe stainless steel chamber doctor blade system for medium to wide web flexible packaging printing

NOVA Compact chamber doctor blade system

Slim and clean one-piece chamber system for narrow to medium web flexible packaging printing

EPQ 300 ink supply system

Compact ink supply system with integrated cleaning, ideal for frequent ink changes

EPQ 200 ink supply system

Compact and easy to handle ink supply system for a balanced ink flow

EPZ ink pump unit

Centrifugal pump unit for a continuous, pulsation-free ink supply, ideal for long and uniform print runs

End seal spray system

Automatic end seal humidification system for quick-drying water-borne inks in film printing

Blade holders for rotogravure printing

Doctor blade cost savings and increased flexibility in the gravure printing process of flexible packaging