The choice of a packaging material is influenced by several key factors including the type of product to be packaged and the risks associated with the product while in packaging. Any packaging material should create a functional barrier between the product and the external environment to ensure that the product is not exposed to any risk both within the packaging material and the external environment. This implies that the choice of packaging also has to take into consideration the type of inks that can be used for printing the selected packaging material since the ink can also be a form of hazard to a product, especially of the product in question is a food product. Accordingly, the print must be low in odor, with no taint capabilities and low migration rates. These conditions apply for all types of products and for the intended production which will be distributed over a long distance from China to the U.S., this is particularly important since such distribution can expose the product to mishandling, which creates the probability of contamination from the print. As such, the best choice of printing method for this packaging material would be flexographic printing.
Choice of Printing Methods
Flexographic printing is one of the modern printing methods, recognized for its applicability to a wide range of substrates including paper, and plastics. The process is also the most commonly used for printing on packaging materials and is applicable for food and non-food materials due to the ability to adapt to water based inks for printing purposes (Pedersen et al., 2012). The choice of the flexographic printing for this application is justifiable by the precedence in the packaging industry, particularly due to its ability to produce high quality outputs that are finer, with clearer impressions and on a variety of substrates (Pulp and Paper, 2019). The original application of flexographic printing on corrugated cardboards makes this method also applicable for the cartons that are to be used in this particular project. It is also suitable for high speed continuous printing and can be applicable in the printing of the packaging materials for the smaller runs.
Additionally, flexographic printing can help to eliminate solvents in printing through the use of UV-curing systems, which can be applied widely including in the printing of labels for packaging materials. The number of pigments available for use in printing is also wide making it possible for the application of the method in a broad range of printing applications. Since the packaging materials are set in 3 colors, flexographic printing will provide a good capacity for printing the entire range of colors. According (Pedersen et al., 2012), flexographic printing is just gaining popularity as an appropriate method for packaging printing, with increasing quality improvements towards lithographic off-set and gravure printing methods. The quality of printing, ability to print in a range of colors, and applicability to multiple substrates thus makes the flexographic approach suitable for the intended packaging printing.
Another factor to be considered in the selection of the initial printing method would be the cost. Since the initial few runs are expected to work as a pilot for determining the feasibility of the project, a cheap printing method that would not require heavy capital layout should be preferred. One of the reasons why flexographic printing has not previously been preferred relative to the lithographic off-set printing and gravure printing is because it is a ‘cheap’ method, which is often construed to also be of low quality (Lee, 1998). The low expenses in the printing method would reduce the financial risks of the company intending to run the production in case the project seems not to be feasible. Additionally, one major challenge associated with the flexographic printing method is that it requires designs specific to the method. Any design deviations results in a lot of printing problems. Some designs may appear beautiful on the computer but would be a problem printing using flexographic printing systems. This implies that in spite of the probability of very good printing from flexographic method, there needs to be a serious consideration of other factors such as the type of ink required, the printing designs and the available equipment.
While flexographic printing could also be used in moderately high volumes of printing, the off-set approach should be better applicable for printing very large volumes of packaging materials due to the limitations associated with flexographic printing. The flexo printing approach comes with limitations that can be addressed through the use of the off-set printing method. The off-set method comes at significantly high initial costs. However, the benefits associated with this method of printing far outweigh the initial costs. According to Pulp and Paper (2019), off-set printing has unparalleled quality in terms of voluminous production and paper costs. It is also the most dominant form of commercial printing and provides more vivid and sharp pictures relative to other printing methods. With the change from the low production volumes to higher production volumes due to confirmed project feasibility, a faster printing method that provides more voluminous output would be recommended.
Off-set printing has also been described as effective for paper and cardboard printing hence the substrate for this particular project makes it worth considering. Another factor under consideration for the recommendation of off-set printing is the current developments that have been made in off-set printing inks to avoid migration. Movement from traditional solvent based inks to novel fatty acid ester inks for paper and cardboard printing substrates has enabled off-set printing outputs to comply with the requirements for food packaging printing, which means that whatever the product is to be packaged, off-set printing should be able to give output of the required characteristics (Pedersen et al., 2012). The off-set method can be either lithographic or planographic depending on the choice of output characteristics selected by the client.
The choice of a printing method and printing ink depends to a large extent on the targeted printing medium and the expected outcomes. For the unspecified product to be produced in this project, the key considerations made included the type of printing medium that needs to be used, the volumes of print that need to be produced and the range of colors in which the printing is to be done. The initial batches of packaging to be printed will be in small runs, each printed on carton with foldable edges and with three colors of print. These characteristics can be fulfilled through flexographic printing. However, further increase in printing volumes would need better printing methods for voluminous outputs such as the off-set printing approaches. Off-set printing is often preferred for large volumes of printing, mostly in commercial printing activities, to produce high quality print.
Lee, B. (1998). Design characteristics unique to the flexographic printing process. Thesis. Rochester Institute of Technology. Retrieved from pdfs.semanticscholar.org/db74/5edea4fa0bee003003a2ab04c6b9c300ac86.pdf
Pedersen, G.A., Carlson, E., Ekroth, S., Kostamo, P., Nordstrom, A.L., Olafsson, G., Rajakangas, L., et al. (2012). Food contact materials and articles: Printing ink. Nordic Council of Ministers. Retrieved from www.diva-portal.org/smash/record.jsf?pid=diva2%3A702311&dswid=4419
Pulp and Paper (2019). Different types of industrial printing machines. Ochre Media Pvt., Ltd. Retrieved from www.pulpandpaper-technology.com/articles/different-types-of-industrial-printing-machines