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Heat Transfer Printing Challenges Flexographic Printing

     Now, more and more variable information needs to be printed on drug packaging, which forces packaging enterprises to consider heat transfer printing. So, is there room for flexographic printing?Heat Transfer Printing Challenges Flexographic Printing 

Heat Transfer Printing Challenges Flexographic Printing

      Plate printing is the most widely used printing method in drug packaging. But now, heat transfer printing is gradually occupying the flexographic printing market with a rapid offensive. As more and more companies want to become global sellers, in order to meet the requirements of the European market, the product batch number and effective date must be printed on the product package, so the number of language types and common symbols printed on the package also increases.Heat Transfer Printing Challenges Flexographic Printing

       For flexographic printing, to print different information, you need to change the printing plate every time you print, which is very uneconomical. In order to reduce costs, some pharmaceutical enterprises began to use heat transfer printing. Heat transfer printing has the advantages of designable programming, the printing method is not constrained by the printing plate, and can directly call out variable information from the database. Therefore, once used, it quickly replaces flexographic printing.Heat Transfer Printing Challenges Flexographic Printing

      However, not all flexographic printing machine manufacturers and users have abandoned this ancient printing technology with a history of hundreds of years, because some new inks and plates can still make flexographic printing exude new attraction.Heat Transfer Printing Challenges Flexographic Printing

      Small flexographic press can provide customers with small batch production services to print fixed information on packaging. After collecting and analyzing the opinions of experts in the printing industry at home and abroad, modern printing magazine comes to the conclusion that flexographic printing and heat transfer printing are complementary cooperative relations.Heat Transfer Printing Challenges Flexographic Printing

■ competition between the two technologies

     According to the statistics of Flexographic Printing Technology Association, about 70% of the film processing industry worth 18 billion US dollars is printed by flexographic printing.Heat Transfer Printing Challenges Flexographic Printing

     Tolas health products packaging company is a supplier of pharmaceutical film packaging services. The company said that flexographic printing for drug packaging is very common. This method is very common, various operation forms and low price, so the company’s business is mainly flexographic printing. Another perfecseal company in Philadelphia has also been using flexographic printing.Heat Transfer Printing Challenges Flexographic Printing

        Mr. Ron Fortunato, manager of the company’s printing business department, said: “if it is printed on metal foil, film or DuPont’s Tyvek, flexographic printing is more suitable than thermal transfer.”Heat Transfer Printing Challenges Flexographic Printing

       Wazir nobbee, senior engineer of DuPont’s Tyvek department, added that the quality of flexographic printing on Tyvek is not only good, but also the printing speed is very fast. Usually, it can print 30-40 meters per minute. Heat Transfer Printing Challenges Flexographic Printing

       Nobbee believes that flexographic printing is more suitable than thermal transfer printing. He said: “for mass printing, this method is very economical. You can continuously print the whole volume of packaging materials. Not only the printing format is much wider, but also the speed is much faster. It is very suitable for printing fine stripes or marks. Other printing methods may need to go and stop, which is less efficient.Heat Transfer Printing Challenges Flexographic Printing

       Flexographic printing is economical and fast, but when the printing content changes, it can not be compared with heat transfer printing. When the content or code needs to be replaced in the printing process. Heat Transfer Printing Challenges Flexographic Printing

      The printing plate must be replaced for flexographic printing, and sometimes a new printing plate needs to be made, and the plate making cost of each printing plate is about $500. However, when operators modify text content or effective date, if heat transfer is adopted, all they need to do is input the corresponding content on the keyboard and send it to the printer.Heat Transfer Printing Challenges Flexographic Printing

      Now, printing or packaging enterprises often encounter such a situation that they need to change the printing content in the printing process, because different markets require products to print bar codes, product batch numbers or effective dates, and also require a variety of words. For example, Medtronic needs to print a variety of words on the packaging of its cardiovascular drugs, and the annual cost on the printing plate is as high as 150000-200000 US dollars.Heat Transfer Printing Challenges Flexographic Printing

     Most pharmaceutical packaging enterprises believe that the main defect of flexographic printing technology is not speed, but filling and packaging when packaging household pharmaceutical products. Some experts said that the forming, filling and sealing machine generally works intermittently, so whether it has the ability of continuous high-speed operation is no longer the decisive factor in selecting printing technology, and the speed of heat transfer is not as slow as a snail.Heat Transfer Printing Challenges Flexographic Printing

       For example, bell Mark’s heat transfer system adopts an edge nozzle, which has an angle during printing, not vertical printing, so it can carry out high-speed operation on substrates of any shape. But some people think that the cost of heat transfer printing is too expensive. An industry source said, “flexographic printing is simpler and more cost-effective than heat transfer printing”.Heat Transfer Printing Challenges Flexographic Printing

■ new ways of cooperation

       The two technologies have their own advantages and disadvantages. Therefore, the best way is not to force flexographic printing out of the market, but to complement each other with heat transfer printing. The combination of the two systems can enable users to obtain the respective advantages of the two technologies – when printing standard information content. Heat Transfer Printing Challenges Flexographic Printing

      A low-cost and easy to operate flexographic system is adopted, and when printing variable information content, an easy to program heat transfer system is adopted. Graphic controls has been using a thermal printer installed on the filling and packaging machine to print variable information on polyethylene materials. But Noel gharibian.Heat Transfer Printing Challenges Flexographic Printing

       The company’s engineering manager in charge of Devon product production line, said that thermal printers cannot be programmed, so they can only print limited variable information, so they have to manually replace the metal letters on the printing brush. Heat Transfer Printing Challenges Flexographic Printing

      After using the heat transfer printer, the company can print information including part number, product description, quantity, batch number, service validity and so on, which are generated by computer programming.Heat Transfer Printing Challenges Flexographic Printing

      However, when printing standard information such as company name, contact information and company logo in multiple languages, the company still adopts online flexographic printing. Graphiccontrols’ new system consists of two heat transfer printheads mounted horizontally on the top of the flexographic press.Heat Transfer Printing Challenges Flexographic Printing

       In order to distinguish between variable information and fixed information, the color of variable information printed by heat transfer is black, while the color of constant information printed by flexographic printing is purple.

      The combination of the two printing methods is not effective for all companies. Tom Roberts of Medtronic said he wanted a programmable heat transfer press, just like bell Mark’s heat transfer press, in order to get rid of the ink and plate necessary for the flexographic press. Roberts said, “ink and printing plates are troublesome. Heat Transfer Printing Challenges Flexographic Printing

       Even if you don’t change the text content, you need to change the printing plates frequently because the printing plates are worn. In addition, when you use two different printing systems, you need to train different technicians to properly repair and maintain the printing machine.”Heat Transfer Printing Challenges Flexographic Printing

■ flexographic printing still has a market

      Although there are some criticisms on flexographic printing, flexographic printing system still has its advantages. Pugh of bell Mark said flexographic printing helped their company solve the inventory problem of preprint packaging materials.Heat Transfer Printing Challenges Flexographic Printing

      It is the most economical method to install the roller flexographic printing single line on the filling and packaging machine. This method is most suitable for the situation that the information content changes infrequently.Heat Transfer Printing Challenges Flexographic Printing

     In addition, flexographic printing technology is constantly improving. In terms of printing plate, in the past, it was made by rubber die or laser engraving, but now it is made of photosensitive polymer. For example, the flexible printing plate made by DuPont Cyrel can well match the computer direct plate making technology (CTP), its low hardness characteristics are very suitable for printing Tyvek, and the printing plate can be well consistent with the printing medium.Heat Transfer Printing Challenges Flexographic Printing

     At the same time, in order to meet the requirements of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for reducing the use of volatile organic compounds, users of some printing fields, especially flexographic presses, have begun to shift from solvent-based inks to water-based inks.Heat Transfer Printing Challenges Flexographic Printing

      However, the material manufacturer must produce a special formula of water-based ink, so that it can adhere to the substrate of drug packaging, and ensure that it can withstand the process of packaging disinfection and transportation. Marotta of tolas said that it is only after knowing exactly how the packaging is disinfected that it is possible to produce an ink with stable performance.Heat Transfer Printing Challenges Flexographic Printing

       For example, it must be able to withstand steam disinfection, but experts doubt whether there is such a universal ink that can withstand any disinfection method. Generally speaking, ink can be multifunctional, but no ink can meet various needs.Heat Transfer Printing Challenges Flexographic Printing