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The Basics of Flexible

Packaging Printing
Flexography
Rotogravure
Presented by:

Warren E. Durling
Associate Research Fellow
Clorox Services Company / Glad Division

Session #11 A Flexible Packaging Primer

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Design to Substrate

Preproduction
Design Creation
Image Preparation
Color Separation
Ink Management

Substrate
Management
Cylinder or
Plate Making

Press Make Ready

Printing
Converting
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PRINTING INK, Form & Chemistry

yPhysical form
Liquid free flowing
Relatively low viscosity
(closer to water than honey)

30% to 60% solids and 100% solids UV/EB

yChemistry
Solvent based gravure, flexographic
Water based flexographic, (gravure)
Radiation cured (UV/EB) flexo, gravure

Session #11 A Flexible Packaging Primer

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Basic INK Formulation Examples


Water

Solvent

Radcure
Reactive
Diluents
Up to 30%

SOLVENT
65%

WATER
65%

Wet Ink

Wet Ink

ADDITIVES 5%

ADDITIVES 5%

SOLUTION
RESIN 10%

Dry Ink

EMULSION
RESIN 10%
PIGMENT10%

Session #11 A Flexible Packaging Primer

80%
ALCOHOL
20%
ACETATE

Primary
RESIN 15%

Dry Ink

Secondary
RESIN 5%

ACRYLATE
MONOMER

Dry Ink
&
Wet Ink

ADDITIVES 5%

ACRYLATE
PREPOLYMER
55%

PIGMENT
20% - 25%

PIGMENT10%

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Ink Blending / Color Matching


Typical Production Ink Blending:
Color Base Systems:
High Solid, Concentrated Color Pigments
used singly and as blends
specific to the vehicle system
CMYK + many specific colors

Vehicle / Varnish Systems:


Clear Backbone Resins
physical properties
processability
film strength

Additives & Modifiers


Scuff Resistance
Plasticizers (improved flexibility)
Coefficient of Friction (slippery or sticky)
Aesthetic Appearance (matt vs. glossy)
Session #11 A Flexible Packaging Primer

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INK, Viscosity Measurement


SECONDS (time) is the Operators press side, process measurement
CENTISTOKE is the unit of reference in all viscosity cup measurements
POISE is the fundamental unit of viscosity defined as the resistance of a liquid to flow
where gravity is not a factor. 100 CENTIPOISE = 1 POISE.
Gravity is the driving force causing liquid in a viscosity cup to flow through the orifice so a
high density material will flow from a cup in a shorter time than a low density material of
the same viscosity.
STOKE is defined as the POISE divided by density. 100 CENTISTOKES = 1 STOKE.

ZAHN Cup conversions

ZAHN Cup

Cup Number

Seconds Efflux Time

Centistokes Range

40-60

10-36

20-60

19 to 156

12-60

64 to 596

10-60

79-784

10-60

161-1401

Session #11 A Flexible Packaging Primer

SHELL Cup

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PRESS SIDE Ink Management


1) PUMP & MOTOR
2) INK TANK
3) FILTER
4) PRINTING STATION
5) AUTOMATIC
VISCOSITY
CONTROL

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FLEXOGRAPHY Printing
Flexography: (often abbreviated to Flexo)
A form of relief printing where ink is applied to a rubber or polymer
plate on which the printing image is raised above the rest of the
surface as a 3-D positive, mirrored relief.

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FLEXOGRAPHY The Process

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FLEXOGRAPHY - Printing Plates


A photopolymer is a polymer that cures, or
becomes solid, when exposed to light
(1) A photo negative image is used to expose
(image wise), a photopolymerizable sheet to light
(2) The unexposed or unpolymerized areas of the plate
are removed with solvent or water
(3) The resulting plate is dried, then detackify / harden by
exposing it to specific frequencies of U.V. radiation

Conventional rubber plates that rely upon a less


precise molding process have become nearly obsolete
except where lower quality is acceptable
(1) A photo negative and acid wash process is used to
engrave the image into a copper or magnesium positive
image master plate
(2) The positive image master is used to produce a negative
image plastic plate mold
(3) The printing plate is produced by molding raw rubber with
the plastic mold then vulcanizing the resulting rubber sheet

Digital, direct to plate engraving is the latest innovation in flexo plate technology.
A processed digital file controls a laser that directly burns away unwanted areas of the
polymer printing plate. In the past, limited durability plate materials resulted in short plate
life. Recent equipment and material developments are generating renewed interest.
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FLEXOGRAPHY - Anilox Rolls


The anilox roll is a steel or aluminum core cylinder with a ceramic
surface that contains millions of very fine cells.
They are specified by their "line screen", or the number of cells per
linear inch ranging from below 250 to above 1500.
Lower line screens are used to print a heavy layer of ink such as
block lettering. The highest line screens produce fine detail for
four-color process work such as reproducing photographs.

Session #11 A Flexible Packaging Primer

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FLEXOGRAPHY Printing Presses


Stack Flexo Press Design

Historically, stack presses are lower cost


compared to central impression presses
and are used where lower quality printing
is acceptable. However, recent advances
in servo technology have resulted in quality
improvements.
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FLEXOGRAPHY Printing Presses


Central Impression (CI)
Flexo Press
Traditional Open Architecture
Gear Drive

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FLEXOGRAPHY - Printing Presses


State of the Art Central Impression Flexo Press

10 color
servo drive
fully automated, automatic printing plate washing
up to 1,900 feet per minute
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ROTOGRAVURE Printing
Rotogravure: (typically referred to as Gravure)
An intaglio process (in-tal-yo means engraved or cut in) in which a
negative image is etched into the surface of a copper printing
cylinder as tiny cells or dots of various sizes and depths.
The copper is chrome plated for durability. Ink is applied to the
surface and a flexible metal blade called a doctor blade
removes excess ink, leaving the surface clean, with ink only in
the depressions.

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GRAVURE The Process

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GRAVURE - Cylinder Engraving


Acid Etching (Diffusion-Etching and Direct-Transfer) - Light sensitive gelatins or
photopolymers on the coper surface are exposed through a film positive of the image,
resulting in varying levels of acid resistance. The surface is exposed to acid, resulting in
cells of the same size and cell wall thickness but varying depths.

Electromechanical Engraving - The original copy is scanned into a computer and


digitized. The computer then controls a diamond stylus that cuts the cells into the
surface of the gravure cylinder. Cell depth and cell area are varied simultanously by
using a tapered engraving head.

Laser Engraving - The method of choice to produce Flexo anilox rolls with some
applications in gravure printing. An original is scanned into a computer, the various
image densities are determined, then a laser etchs the cylinder. Highly reflective copper
is a poor material choice so alternative special alloys, plastics and ceramics are used.
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GRAVURE - Cylinder Cell Structure

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GRAVURE - Electrostatic Discharge


Electrostatic Discharge (ESA) - A charge imballance is created between the
printing cylinder holding the ink and the substrate. This results in an effect much like a
maganet where the charged ink is attracted to the obsit charged substrate.
Properly functioning ESA is escential to achieve high quality Gravure printing.

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Doctor Blade Design


Doctor Blade shape, construction material, tip honing, set angle and pressure
are becoming more sciencitific and process controlable but there still remains a
great deal of ART in the process.

Stainless Steel
Blue Steel
Ceramic
Plastic
Alloys

Round Tip
Square Tip
Combinations
Straight Beveled
Stepped Beveled

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GRAVURE - Printing Presses


Gravure Press
Traditional
Open
Architecture

Solid line shaft


Manual print station change over
Limited if any electronic process control
Lower efficiency ovens

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GRAVURE - Printing Presses


Rapid Changeover Gravure Press
State of the Art, High Speed

Fully automated print station, trolley change over system


Off-press trolleys washing unit
Electronic line shaft, full PLC control
High efficiency compact dryers
Printing speed up to 1,300 feet per minute
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GRAVURE - Printing Presses

Automated Gravure
Print Decks

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Flexo or Gravure - HOW TO TELL?

Rotogravure

Flexography

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Flexo or Gravure - HOW TO TELL?

Flexography

Rotogravure

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LINE Printing
Single colors are printed at varying densities
Individual colors do not overlap or combine to form new colors
The number of colors in a design is limited by press capability

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Flexo LINE - Reverse Print Film

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Flexo LINE - Screened Print

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Gravure LINE Printing - Surface Print

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4 Color PROCESS Printing - CMYK


Red, Green and Blue (RGB) are the primary colors
of light as perceived by the human eye.
When the three colors are together in a spectrum
they create white and the absence of color
altogether is black. This works great for digital
images on computer and TV screens. Colors are
created on monitors by adding light. RGB is an
additive color system, which means that color is
added to a black background.

Printing utilizes a subtractive color process


based on light reflecting from an object through
pigments or dyes that absorb certain wavelengths,
allowing others to be reflected. Unlike the additive
system, which begins with black and adds color,
the subtractive system begins with white and
subtracts color.
Session #11 A Flexible Packaging Primer

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4 Color PROCESS Printing - CMYK

The base colors for process printing are


CMYK and not RGB
CMYK are subtractive colors or secondary colors
of red, blue and green
Blue + Green = Cyan (B+G = C)
Red + Blue = Magenta (R+B = M)
Red + Green = Yellow (R+G = Y)
And Black = K
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4 Color PROCESS Printing - CMYK


The image is separated into 4 different color values
Cyan / Magenta / Yellow / Black
A printing plate or cylinder is created for each
process color using the individual separations
Individual colors are printed as dots at
varying densities
Individual dots combine to form
additional unique colors
In Packaging printing , 4 color process is typically
combined with line colors to accurately represent
trademarks and logos and to maintain color
consistency over large areas of solid colors.
The number of final colors in a design is nearly limitless
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Flexo PROCESS Printing

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Gravure PROCESS Printing

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Gravure PROCESS Printing

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GRAVURE vs. CI FLEXO


Basic Printing Process Selection Guide
GRAVURE

FLEXO

Printing Press Footprint

larger

smaller

Printing Press Cost

much higher

lower

Operating Costs (utilities and overhead)

slightly higher

lower

Maintenance

slightly higher

lower

Cylinder / Plate cost

much higher

lower

Impressions per Cylinder / Plate

very high w/ rechrome

lower

Make-Ready Time

generally longer

shorter

Water Base / Solvent Base

solvent water?

both

Substrate Flexibility

less

more

Process Flexibility (coating & laminating)

more

less

Print Quality (detailed process printing)

exceptional

improving

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THANK YOU TO THE FOLLOWING


COMPANIES FOR SUPPLYING CONTENT

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Session #11 A Flexible Packaging Primer

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Thank you
PRESENTED BY

Warren E. Durling

Associate Research Fellow

Clorox Services Company


warren.durling@clorox.com

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