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Flexographic, Digital Offset, and UV Inkjet: What are the Differences and Why Does it Matter?

Flexographic, Digital Offset, and UV Inkjet: What are the Differences and Why Does it Matter?

Label Printers | 29 March 2017

Posted by John Masica

Flexographic, Digital Offset, and UV Inkjet_ What are the differences and Why does it matter_

As technology progresses, there are a wider range of options to utilize for the manufacturing of labels and printing barcodes.  Flexographic, Digital Offset, and UV Inkjet are all proven to be superior technologies for imaging color, but depending on your application and specific requirements, each has their strong points and their downfalls. Which is best for your project?  Before deciding, let’s learn the basics:

Digital Offset PrintingDigital Offset Printing:

This method of printing involves electrostatic charging of an imaging plate. The discharged areas receive the ink, which is then transferred to a heated blanket. From there, the inked image is transferred from the photo drum to the blanket, and then from the blanket to the substrate.

This is described as ‘offset’ printing because the image isn’t initially transferred directly to the material. A thin layer of sharp looking 812 dpi colored ink is what results often times in the form of a color stripe, company logo, or graphic. While vivid color is a strength of this technology, resistance to chemicals and abrasion can be a downfall. Topcoats and over-laminates often alleviate these concerns and color labels printed via Digital Offset go on to live thrilling lives surviving water baths, chemical exposures, and extremely cold temperatures.

Digital Offset printing can process 4 colors at a time at speeds of up to 40 feet per minute, making it a great choice for customers with large runs requiring variable data or high mix low volume batching requirements. At Computype, this technology also boasts a Vision System, which scans each barcode while simultaneously checking for errors throughout the process to ensure customers get perfect barcodes every time.

Flexographic Printing:flexographic printing

Unlike Digital Offset Printing, Flexographic printing transfers ink directly onto the material substrate through the utilization of flexible printing plates that are mounted on quickly-rotating cylinders.

Flexographic printing is a tried and true technology, and remains one of the most popular ways to print great looking color labels. Through utilization of continuous stock material on large rolls, flexo printing allows for quick throughput speeds, resulting in a cost-effective way to print high volume jobs.

Over-laminates and topcoats can be required if the application environment is stringent as this type of imaging technology can crack under the pressures of extreme chemicals or temperatures. At Computype, Flexographic imaging technology is recommended for jobs that are large in size (hundreds of thousands of labels at a time) and require vivid color or customer logos.

Epson_3500UV Inkjet Printing:

UV Inkjet printing involves strategically positioned nozzles ejecting thousands of ink drops per second at precise times onto the substrate. After the image has been set, a UV light cures the ink, ensuring a durable solution that can typically perform in chemical harsh environments without needing an over-laminate or topcoat.

One of the primary benefits of UV Inkjet printing includes the impressive throughput speeds of up to 164 feet per minute, making this an efficient way to process color printing jobs. Additionally, there is greater flexibility and economies of scale for customers requiring low volume, high mix color labels because there aren’t minimum color restraints.

Ideal for short runs requiring variable data, UV Inkjet technology has a faster registration and typically provides output that is more consistent than other printing methods. At Computype, this technology is recommended for customers that have a high mix of lower volume labels requiring different colors, variable data, and desire pristine image clarity. 


Regardless of your color printing needs, Computype will work with you to determine the most efficient and economical means of producing your job.

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John Masica

Based in St. Paul, MN, USA, John Masica is Computype’s Technical Support Specialist. Specializing in label printer maintenance and engineering, John is the go-to person for all things label printing. Through his 24 years here at Computype, he has learned many tips and tricks to make your label printing easier and more efficient.