Why explore water-washable flexo plates in 2024?

06 Oct 2023

One thing that makes the world of label and packaging printing so exciting is that it’s constantly evolving, with new technologies and techniques being developed to improve efficiency, reduce costs, and minimise the environmental impact of printing operations.

An example technology that is grabbing attention and gaining traction in the label and packaging industry is water-washable flexo plates. For printers looking to enhance their operations and turn prepress into a business-wide sustainability contributor, water-washable flexographic plates offer an abundance of benefits.

Why not learn more about Fujifilm Flenex FW – a water-washable flexo plate we supply at Creation? Click here to get in touch with our team.

Remaining the most popular method of printing used in the label and packaging industry, flexo printing involves the use of flexible polymer plates that are wrapped around a cylinder to transfer ink onto the printing surface.

These plates, used in flexo prepress, are typically made of photopolymer materials and are imaged using a digital or analogue process. Once the plate is imaged, it is then mounted on the flexo press, and the ink is transferred from the plate to the substrate. For printers, it’s a time-tested and straightforward process.


Where does water-washable plate technology fit in?

The production of traditional photopolymer plates involves the use of harsh chemical solvents, which bring a number of drawbacks. While commonly used across the flexo industry in plate production, these solvents can pose a risk to the environment, are costly, and become a health hazard to press operatives. With sustainability efforts accelerating around the globe, and carbon reduction staying high on the agenda, printers are moving further away from typical solvent-based plate systems.

The cleaning process is not only time-consuming, but also requires specialised equipment to handle, store and dispose of solvents. At a time when operating margins are squeezed ever tighter, this can create unwelcome and unnecessary overheads. Water-washable plates enter the market as an alternative to solvent-based plates, to demonstrate that sustainability doesn’t have to mean compromising on performance. To the contrary, many of today’s water-washable flexo plates demonstrate class-leading precision, registration and consistency.


The benefits of water-washable flexo

The advantages are enormous – removing VOC solvent washout from prepress means that printers can access a more environmentally-friendly and cost-effective method of plate production. In addition, water-washable plates typically operate without the need for specialised equipment and do not need to account for costly solvent disposal.

Water-washable flexo plates also offer a number of other operational benefits. For example, they tend to have a longer lifespan than traditional photopolymer plates, which can save printers significant money over the long run. In addition, further proving that ‘green’ technology doesn’t mean compromising on quality, they also tend to produce sharper and more detailed prints, which can be especially beneficial for small text or intricate graphics.

Another advantage of water-washable flexo plates is that they are compatible with both water-based and solvent-based inks. Water based inks in particular are not only more environmentally friendly than traditional solvent-based inks, but they also tend to dry faster and produce less odour, which can create a more comfortable working environment for printers.

In prepress, water-washable flexo plates are significantly easier to handle and process, as the cleaning process eliminates the need of specialised cleaning solutions or equipment.

Ultimately, eliminating unnecessary processes allows for more efficient plate production. Furthermore, the environmental benefit of not having to handle hazardous materials or chemicals, as well as the lack of VOC emissions in flexo plate production, are a great sustainability and cost-saving benefit for the prepress department.

In summary, could 2024 be the year we finally remove the need for VOC solvents in packaging and label prepress? With the advance of water-washable flexo plate technology available today, the answer is yes!

They are proving an excellent option for printers looking to improve the efficiency and environmental impact of their operations in label and packaging printing. Water-washable flexo plate technology allows for faster, safer and lower-carbon plate cleaning, longer equipment lifespans, improved print quality and compatibility with water-based inks – which adds up to significant cost control for printers.

As the printing industry continues to move towards more sustainable practices, it’s the ideal time for printers in the label and packaging industry to explore these possibilities, so why not learn more about what Creation can offer?

Trust the Creation team to deliver, combining expertise, the latest repro technologies and an innovative approach to many of today’s common packaging problems. To find out more about Creation and its packaging and label prepress expertise, click here to contact our team today.

Contact us on +44 (0) 1327 312444  or info@creation-repro.com
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