Label Printing Machines
Flexo vs. Digital Printer
Flexo printers use the large mechanical presses (and plates) that many
people are familiar with. Each color requires its own "plate" to
be made to impart that particular color in all the right spots - and these
plates cost money. Hence, if you have a single label design with (say) four
colors, the printer will need to make 4 plates before they can start
printing. So, it comes with some additional cost. To properly justify this
expense, it makes sense that you'd need to print a lot of labels and be
satisfied that nothing in the design will change in the short term (as you'd
need to get new plates made in that case).
Digital printing, on the other hand, does not use plates - the artwork is
printed directly on the press. Setup time is usually much less than for
flexo presses - but digital presses are by nature much slower at doing the
actual printing. So it becomes a trade-off - if the volume is large enough,
flexo is the way to go, but if the volume is relatively small then digital
wins hands-down. While it's extremely difficult to generalize, industry
experience would seem to indicate that flexo printing starts to become more
cost-effective once the quantity exceeds 10,000 labels (of a single design).
This will vary somewhat according to size and other factors, but it's a
reasonable rule of thumb that you can easily test by getting quotes from
both kinds of printers - flexo and digital.
The other factor to consider is whether you have a single label design or
multiple designs. Because there are no plates involved, digital printers can
"gang" (or combine) many pieces of artwork into a single "run"
- so long as the designs are all the same size and on the same material.
if you have a line of similar products - say body lotions for instance -
where you have 10 different recipes, scents, flavors or whatever you might
call them, you can combine those orders into a single job with a digital
printer - thereby avoiding substantial plate costs (10 complete sets in this
case) AND getting the price breaks associated with running a single job for
the total quantity of all 10 designs.
In short, flexo and digital printers each have their "sweet spots"
- flexo is an excellent solution for large-volume runs per design, whereas
digital provides the best answer for customers with multiple variations of
similar designs and/or smaller volumes. If in doubt, get quotes both ways
and form your own conclusions.