Focused mainly on package and label printing segments, flexo has been the least affected of all traditional printing processes by the rise of digital on the one hand, and by the downturn in graphic printing markets in the West and also some transitional and even emerging economies in some instances. With corrugated packaging generally growing in line with the global economy, and flexible packaging taking share from other pack types, flexo has performed creditably and there are growth opportunities on offer around the world going forward. Only in labels is digital beginning to make real inroads into flexo, although in the longer term the trend towards shorter run lengths could have an impact in areas like cartons and flexibles, albeit mainly in niche areas at the margins.
Flexographic printing is continuing to improve as a result of various developments; these include advancements in plate technology and exposure methods, improved methods to mount plates, print unit and press design, anilox rollers, inks and curing/drying systems. Over the period to 2019 there will be continuing improvements in the process as suppliers continue to innovate to win share of a market that has growth prospects. Whether an individual flexographic printing concern will flourish or not in the new environment will depend to a large extent on its technological investment decisions and how it adapts to changes in technology. With this in mind, Smithers Pira has identified a number of practises that are designed to take advantage of these changes in the future.
This white paper published by Smithers Pira defines the 5 critical steps necessary for flexographic printers drive forward business in the new environment:
1. Optimise prepress workflow to boost quality and turnaround
2. Improved plate materials and imaging – bring CtP in-house?
3. Anilox technology, link to ink and plates to boost process colour – develop maximum process colour gamut to minimise press downtime
4. Growing use of process colour to replace multiple spot colours, reducing change-over and waste
5. Better press control through use of independent servo motors to improve set-up