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Printing with water-based flexographic inks

The method of flexographic printing is primarily used in the printing of packing materials – anything designed to package an item, from cardboard boxes and corrugated cardboard to paper and plastic bags, as well as printed materials such as newspapers, catalogues and tissue paper. While the technique of running a roller over a raised surface may sound simple enough, the results of flexographic printing are nothing short of extraordinary – crisp, clear, vibrant, intense colours that virtually leap off the printed surface. And the reason for this? The flexographic inks used to achieve this astounding effect.

Choosing the right type of flexographic ink

Flexographic printing makes use of three different types of ink: water-based, solvent and UV curable. As the most vital part of any printing process is the application of the ink, it is important to decide which type of flexographic ink is the best to use for a particular job. Luckily, there are a number of factors that can help to determine this, such as the printing surface (or substrate), the cost of the job, the speed at which the job needs to be done, and what the packaging will ultimately be used for.

Water-based inks, thanks to their environmentally friendly nature, are fast becoming one of the most popular choices for flexographic printing. The practical application of water-based ink is a simple one – a dye is suspended in a water base, which then evaporates, leaving the coloured print behind without releasing any pollutants or solvents into the atmosphere.

The history of water-based flexographic ink

This type of environmentally friendly flexographic printing wasn’t always the norm in the industry. Early flexographic prints often showed high levels of toxicity in the end results, due to the make-up of the inks being used at the time. In order to minimize the impact of this, flexographic printing on food packaging was banned until an alternative solution could be found.

After a period of trial and error and experimentation, it was found that water-based inks were the most effective alternative to the toxic solvent-based inks previously used; their environmentally safe properties making them a safe, responsible choice for flexographic printing going forward. Today most printers have adapted to the use of water-based inks, allowing the ink to be recycled after use, thereby minimizing its carbon footprint and contributing towards the elimination of pollution.

Water-based inks and their uses

Purchases of water-based flexographic inks are usually made for print work on paper or paperboard substrates. The liquid nature of the water-based ink lends itself perfectly to the high absorption rate of paper printing surfaces, and results in crisp, dynamic colours. It's important to note that printing on foils or films may not have the same effect, due to the different surface qualities of the substrate, although effective results have been achieved on these surfaces through the use of special treatments.

If you’re interested in purchasing a water-based ink for a particular job, then contact us for more information and advice. We'll be able to guide you towards the best type of ink to use for your project, and give you a cost estimate to work perfectly with your budget. New developments in water-based ink technology are taking place every day, and we want you to reap the benefits!

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