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Different Printing Methods – And How to Choose the Right One For Your Application

From toothpaste to cars to mobile phones, when it comes to buying almost any product these days, there’s no shortage of choices. But sometimes having so many options in front of you can be confusing and even overwhelming.

The same thing can be said about choosing an industrial printing method. Printing is a very general term because it includes any process that transfers an original image – such as a film negative or positive, electronic memory, stencil, die, or plate – to paper or another substrate. This can be done on the product itself or the packaging.

There are numerous printing methods and technologies available to manufacturers – and each has its unique strengths and benefits. Here is a quick guide on how to determine the best printing solution for your application.

Flexographic printing.

Flexographic printing, or flexo for short, uses a flexible plate and a series of rollers to print artwork onto the desired substrate. These types of printers have been around for a long time, but the advancement of photopolymer plates has elevated the process to a high-quality, high-production industrial solution.

Flexographic printing may be the right solution for:

  • Large volume runs
  • Using up to 8 colors
  • Converting on the same presses (laminating, die-cutting, slitting)
  • Using thinner substrates
  • Making a printed indicator

Screen printing.

Invented in China around 1000 AD, screen printing has long been an incredibly popular and effective printing method. With today's advanced technology, screen printing is more accurate and productive than ever before. But the idea is still relatively simple – a squeegee is used to press ink through mesh fabric and a stencil, which transfers the design to the underlying substrate.

Screen printing may be the right solution for:

  • Durability and longevity
  • Outdoor applications
  • Thicker deposits
  • Abrasion resistance
  • Specialties such as UL, thermoformable/IMD, and conductive inks
  • Thicker substrates
  • Printed electronics

Digital printing.

Just like in many areas of our daily lives, digital technology has revolutionized the printing industry. Instead of spending the time and cost to create physical plates or screens, digital printing allows the computer design to go directly to the printer. Even more recently, digital printing presses have become more accurate and cost-efficient, making them viable options for many industrial printing applications.

Digital printing may be the right solution for:

  • Variable printing
  • High resolutions
  • Faster speeds, compared to other printing methods
  • Complex colors
  • Printing brand-protection features such as microtext, guilloches, and tactile images

Customizing and converting.

Depending on your application and needs, it's also possible to combine these printing methods or incorporate material converting techniques. When developing these custom applications, it's very beneficial to work with an experienced printing partner that also has the materials expertise to ensure optimal quality and avoid production issues.

Get started with functional printing.

At Tapecon, we have over 100 years of experience helping customers solve their complex product challenges. Learn more about our durable printing and coating capabilities.

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