Digital vs. Flexographic
Printing: What You Need to Know

We get a lot of questions about our printing process, and one of the questions we hear every few weeks is: “What is the difference between flexographic printing and digital printing?” It’s an excellent question (and we love questions). At Summit Labels, we exclusively offer digital printing solutions. Truthfully, digital printing may not always be the best fit for you depending on your company’s current needs. In-fact, flexographic printing might even be a better option depending on your output and factory setup. But what’s going to be the best fit (and the best value) for your company in the long run? We’re going to get real here and explain each mode of printing in an honest, transparent way. (We mean that, and not in a creepy wink-wink, nudge-nudge kind of salesy vibe). We want you to make the best choice for you and your business, so here is what you need to know.

Flexo (Flexographic) Label Printing

Flexo printing uses a raised image carrier (plate) that carries the ink. As the stock goes in, the plate presses the artwork onto the materials. It’s a simple process, like a stamp, but you need to buy the stamp first. With Flexo printing, each piece of artwork is custom built for the task at hand, and usually, each colour (CMYK) requires a separate pate. Due to this, Flexo printing takes longer and costs more for the initial set up--making it ideal for long term runs since it becomes far cheaper at scale.

Digital Label Printing

There are no physical printing plates involved in digital printing. That’s the most significant difference between the two processes. Digital printing more flexible than flexo label printing (we know, ironic right?) and it’s ideal for quick turnarounds and varied art runs. This simple set-up allows us to run gang up print jobs. In these jobs, we print labels of the same size and material together in the same run with different artwork (and still on separate rolls of course). That means shorter lead times and less wasted set-up material. You can also take advantage of volume discounts while printing varied, shorter runs. It also makes numbering, text, and product name changes, or even artwork variations super easy as it allows for variable print jobs. However, the typical cost per label is higher than flexo prints. And there you have it! Both formats have substantial benefits to offer, and neither is the perfect fit for every business situation. Hopefully, you have a pretty good feel for things now and understand the pros and cons of each solution. When it comes to choosing between digital printing and flexo printing, the question you need to ask is: “what’s going to offer the most value?”