The hottest transfer printing challenge flexograph

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Heat transfer printing challenges flexographic printing

release date: Source: China paper

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? Today, China paper will give you a detailed introduction

flexographic printing is by far the most widely used printing method in pharmaceutical 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 distributors, in order to meet the requirements of the European market, the product batch number and effective date must be printed on the product packaging, so the number of languages and common symbols printed on the packaging also increases. 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 it can directly call out variable information from the database. Therefore, once used, it quickly replaces flexographic printing

however, not all flexographic printer manufacturers and users have abandoned this ancient printing technology with a history of hundreds of years, because some very important things are that new inks and plates can still make flexographic printing exude new attraction. Small flexographic printing machines 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 came to the conclusion that flexographic printing and heat transfer printing are complementary cooperative relations

■ competition between the two technologies

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

tolas health products packaging company is a supplier of pharmaceutical film packaging services. The company said that flexographic printing for pharmaceutical packaging is very common. This method is very common, with various operation forms and low prices. Therefore, the company's business is mainly flexographic printing. Another perfecseal company in Philadelphia has been using 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 appropriate than thermal transfer printing."

Wazir nobbee, senior engineer of DuPont Tyvek department, added that the quality of flexo printing on Tyvek is not only good, but also the printing speed is very fast. Usually, it can print 30-40 meters per minute. Nobbee believes that flexographic printing is more suitable than heat transfer printing. He said: "for mass printing, this method is very economical. You can continuously print a whole roll of packaging materials. Not only the printing width is much wider, but also the speed is much faster. It is very suitable for printing fine stripes or logos. Other printing methods may require stop and go, which is inefficient."

although flexo printing is economical and fast, it cannot be compared with heat transfer printing when the printing content changes. When the content or code needs to be changed during the printing process, the printing plate must be changed for flexographic printing, and sometimes a new printing plate needs to be made, and the plate making fee for each printing plate is about $500. However, when the operators modify the text content or effective date, if the heat transfer method is adopted, all they need to do is input the corresponding content on the keyboard and send it to the printer

at present, printing or packaging enterprises often encounter such situations that they need to change the printing content during the printing process, because different markets require that products must print bar codes, product batch numbers or effective dates, and also require printing 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

most pharmaceutical packaging enterprises believe that the main defect of flexographic printing technology is not speed, but filling and packaging when packaging household pharmaceuticals. 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 for selecting printing technology, and the speed of heat transfer is not as slow as a snail. For example, bell Mark's heat transfer system uses an edge type nozzle, which has an angle when printing, not vertical printing, so it can carry out high-speed operation on any shape of substrate. But some people think that the cost of heat transfer printing is too expensive. An insider said that "flexographic printing is simpler and more cost-effective than heat transfer printing"

■ cooperation in a new way

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 use them together with heat transfer printing. The combination of the two systems allows users to gain the respective advantages of the two technologies - when printing standard information content, a low-cost and easy to operate flexo printing system is used, and when printing variable information content, an easy to program heat transfer system is used. Graphic controls has been using a thermal printer installed on the filling and packaging machine to print variable information on polyethylene materials. However, noelgharibian, the engineering manager in charge of Devon product production line of the company, 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. After using the heat transfer printer, the company can print information including part number, product description, quantity, batch number, service life and so on. 1. The machine is controlled by PLC and these contents are generated by computer programming

however, when printing standard information such as company name, contact information and company logo in multiple languages, the company still adopts online flexible printing. Graphiccontrols' new system consists of two heat transfer print heads mounted horizontally on the top of the flexographic press. In order to distinguish between variable information and fixed information, the color of variable information for heat transfer printing is black, while the color of constant information for flexo printing is purple

the combination of the two printing methods is not effective for all companies. Tom Roberts of Medtronic said that he wanted a programmable heat transfer press, just like the heat transfer press of bell mark, in order to get rid of the ink and plates necessary for the flexo press. Roberts said, "the ink and printing plate are troublesome. Even if you do not change the text content, you need to change the printing plate frequently because the printing plate is worn. In addition, when you use two different printing systems, you need to train different technicians to properly repair and maintain the printing machine."

■ flexographic printing still has a market

although there have been some criticisms on flexographic printing, the flexographic printing system still has its advantages. Pugh of bell Mark said that flexo printing helped his company solve the inventory problem of preprint packaging materials. It is the most economical method to install the cylinder flexographic printing single line on the filling and packaging machine. This method is most suitable for the situation that the information content changes infrequently

in addition, flexographic printing technology is constantly improving and its anti-interference ability is poor. As far as printing plates are concerned, they were made by rubber die or laser engraving in the past, but now they are all photosensitive polymers. For example, the flexible printing plate made by DuPont Cyrel can well match the computer direct plate making technology (CTP). Its low hardness is very suitable for printing Tyvek, and the printing plate can well match the printing medium

at the same time, in order to meet the requirements of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for reducing the use of volatile organic compounds, in some printing fields, especially the users of flexographic printing machines, have begun to shift from solvent based inks to water-based inks. 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 packaging disinfection and transportation process. According to Marotta of tolas, it is only after knowing exactly how the packaging is disinfected that it is possible to produce an ink with stable performance. 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 in Asia's largest automotive lightweight composite technology center (rendering). Generally speaking, ink can be multifunctional, but no ink can meet various needs

■ new challengers appear again

in the pharmaceutical packaging printing market, there is another method that may become a bigger competitor of flexographic printing. A research report of Sri international pointed out that pharmaceutical companies should pay close attention to the progress of inkjet printing technology in variable data printing. Eric Schrader, the company's project manager, said: "inkjet printing can also be controlled by computer programming. We have made many innovations in developing low volatile inks that can withstand the disinfection process." He said that the U.S. Postal Service recently replaced the original flexographic printing system with ink-jet printing system to print those high-density bar codes

Dale Ploeger, director of R & D Technology Department of Sri international, said that inkjet printing may also solve some needs that people have not raised. For example, inkjet printing can print on the packaging being filled, while heat transfer printing machines can only print on flat packaging. At present, there are two inkjet printer suppliers in the market, Domino and Videojet, who are engaged in the development of higher quality printing systems

on the whole, although everyone thinks that heat transfer printing can replace flexographic printing, in fact, this does not happen. There are still some companies providing flexographic printing services, such as Bell mark, greydon and kiwicoder, including various types of equipment with high printing quality and fast printing speed, which can be purchased by small enterprises

therefore, pharmaceutical packaging enterprises will generally rely on a printing system with combined functions to meet their printing needs. For some pharmaceutical companies, this combination is very successful. If the new demand for variable data printing can be met economically and successfully, packaging engineers will immediately apply them to more efficient production lines

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