A lot of ink has been spilt on the future of flexographic printing over the next five years. These speculations range from blog posts and casual tweets to large-scale studies. While researching this blog we came across a 284 page book about the outlook for flexographic printing 2018-23, which is retailing on Amazon for the bargain price of £815(!). So these trends are clearly high-stakes questions in some circles. Click here to purchase the book if you are interested. Or read on for our own thoughts about the way the industry is heading, at no cost at all.
How We Fit In…
While we don’t lay claim to be the most authoritative industry trendsetters for flexographic technology, we have been involved with this business for many years now. Our flexographic presses are well-respected and are used by label printers around the world. Furthermore, we have had the pleasure this year of attending a couple of very eye-opening label technology expos, where we have been able to meet representatives from across the industry actively developing new hardware and software to respond to market changes.
So what is the outlook for flexographic printing over the next few years? Will we be looking back on this article in 2023 and say that not much has changed, or will flexo printing have disappeared entirely? Depending on who you talk to at the moment, both scenarios are real possibilities.
Our opinion is that the next five years will be pretty dramatic, but that changes will follow existing trends. Companies will still be using flexographic presses in 2023, and I think it is safe to say, for many years beyond that. In fact, there are exciting opportunities available for companies to invest in new and emerging hybrid solutions before they reach maturity (and before prices begin to rise).
We’ve covered our viewpoint on 2018 trends for the packaging industry in some depth in a blog article we published last month. If you haven’t read it yet, please view it here - 2018 Trends In Packaging Film & Paper Printing Equipment. For flexo technology more specifically, survival over the next five years will be directly linked to how it incorporates and adapts to other printing technologies.
Old school flexographic presses like those we used to see in the 1990s – reliable as they were at the time – are rapidly becoming a thing of the past. We expect to see these being replaced in ever greater numbers over the next five years, to be replaced with what?
Some businesses will no doubt abandon flexo printing altogether and become entirely digital. This makes sense for businesses that already deal predominantly with short print runs, and have to maximise productivity while minimising change over time.
For businesses that still depend on high volume runs – and there is no sign that demand for large-scale printing is dying out – hybrid presses will become the norm. These hybrid machines are technically digital presses. They are far more streamlined and less mechanistic than old-style flexographic presses, meaning there are less parts that can go wrong and less of a learning curve. However, many of the old features that made flexographic printing so cost-effective will be retained, for instance with flexographic print heads. The outlook for flexographic printing is therefore to become flexo print on steroids; adaptable machines that can as easily cope with a long print run as a short turnaround order, that carry a low cost per unit and take seconds to set up.
For label and textile printers in business between 2018 and 2023, perhaps you really can have your cake and eat it? Find out more by having a look through our main website, and by chatting to our team by calling 01949 836 223.