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What is flexo print
Flexography, or flexo, is a method of direct press which uses matrix slabs in relief of rubber or photopolymer materials, called cliché.
Flexo print, initially used mainly for packaging, also known as aniline print for the colouring used. Currently it is used also for demanded presses and daily papers, thanks to the improved characteristics of the press support. The flexible and soft matrix is wrapped on a cylinder. It is a direct print: it passes, without intermediate, from the form to the support with a pressure exercised from a cylinder of pressure.
The inking system
The inking is applied by a ceramic or steel roll (Anilox roll) which charges itself of ink from an inkpot full of liquid ink, while a blade (racla) removes the excess from the roll surface, as it happens in rotogravure print.
They can be used other inking systems through an ink immersion in the inkpot, but in this case the roll has never put in contact with the press form, but it is used an intermediate cylinder.
The anilox cylinder is impressed with various little cells from 50 to 500 per centimetre. A high number of little cells enables a detailed print, a low number of little cells enables a full background print. Printable materials with flexo system are several: for example they can use support with rough and little reflecting surface, such as waved cardboards.
Kind of machines
Flexo machines can be sheet (used for example to print on waved cardboards) or rotative. Rotative machines are produced in three different facilities and they usually print on a single side. They introduce a series of different print elements, one per colour, with drying hoods from an element and the following one, working both with hot air and infrared radiations.
Planetary or satellite rotative are similar to offset print, they allow to print thin and highly deformable materials, keeping a good register precision. The big central pressure cylinder reduces the deformations of the materials. The drying is similar to rotogravure print, where the materials pass in drying hoods, in which hot air puffs cause the drying.
They can be used both inks based on water and inks based on solvent. If it is used an ink based on solvent it is necessary to arrange a recovery system of solvent released by liquid ink.
Prepress office is very important in flexo print in order to reproduce in a correct way the graphic elements and to reduce the problems such as trapping, it is essential the use of RIP.
To guarantee a good final outcome it is necessary to apply dot loss or chromatic adaptations through ICC target. In the prepress phase the single elements are analyzed and elaborated considering some technological print aspects, avoiding mistakes in the print phase.