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What is the difference between flexography printing and intaglio printing?

In this blog post, you’ll read: Flexo printing is developing rapidly, and packaging printing has changed from intaglio and offset printing to flexo printing as the mainstay, with about 70% of packaging materials using flexo printing.

Flexography printing, offset printing, intaglio printing and screen printing are the four most common printing methods in the world, each with its own characteristics. In Europe and the United States and other countries with well-developed printing industries, flexo printing is developing rapidly, and packaging printing has changed from intaglio and offset printing to flexo printing as the mainstay, with about 70% of packaging materials using flexo printing.

Flexo is a flexographic printing plate made of resin and other materials, a letterpress printing technology. Plate making cost is much lower than that of metal printing plates such as intaglio copper plates. This printing method was proposed in the middle of the last century. At that time, due to the supporting water-based ink technology had not been greatly developed, and the requirements for environmental protection were not so concerned at that time, so the printing of non-absorbent materials was not promoted.

Compared with other printing methods, flexo printing has following features:

Low cost

Compared to intaglio presses and offset presses with the same color group, flexographic presses are much less expensive. In addition, flexographic printing presses combine printing, die-cutting, and varnishing in a single pass, making it possible to complete multiple processes without the need for other post-processing equipments. 

Simple Equipment

Structure of the equipment is relatively simple and therefore easy to operate.

High Efficiency

Flexographic printing presses with high-quality aqueous inks can easily reach a high speed of 400 meters per minute, while common intaglio printing can only reach 150 meters. In addition, the flexographic printing machine uses roll-type materials, that can be used inline with many post-printing equipment to shorten the production cycle. The cost of flexographic printing is only 10%-20% of intaglio printing, ink consumption is 1/3 less than intaglio, energy saving is 40%, and rejection rate is only 1-2%, which is lower than intaglio and offset printing, thus reducing production costs, saving manpower, material and money, and improving economic efficiency.

Wide Range of Uses

A wide range of materials can be printed, such as paper, plastic film, aluminum foil, self-adhesive paper, and so on.

Less Ink

Flexographic printing uses a flexographic plate, which transfers ink through anilox rollers, reducing ink consumption by more than 20% compared to intaglio.

Better Quality

Printing quality is good, the accuracy can reach 150 lines per inch, color gradation is rich and bright, which is especially suitable for the requirements of packaging printing.

Environmentally Friendly

Using new water-based inks and solvent-based inks, non-toxic, non-polluting, fully meet the requirements of environmental protection, and can also meet the requirements of food packaging.

Intaglio printing belongs to direct printing. The graphic part of the printing plate is concave, and the degree of concave is different with the depth of the image. The blank part of the printing plate is convex and on the same plane. It has following characteristics.


With intaglio printing, the ink is carried in pits engraved according to the original artwork, and the thickness of the lines and the intensity of the ink can be controlled during engraving, so it is not easy to imitate and counterfeit, especially the depth of the ink pits. Therefore, at present, banknotes, stamps, stocks and other securities are generally printed with intaglio, which has a better anti-counterfeiting effect. At present, some enterprises have consciously adopted intaglio printing for their trademarks and even packaging and decoration, which shows that intaglio printing is a viable anti-counterfeiting printing method.

Wide Range of Uses

General soft materials can be used as substrates for intaglio printing, such as plastic, paper, aluminum foil, etc., especially for some materials that are easy to extend and deform, such as textile, it has good adaptability, which is unmatched by letterpress and offset printing.

High Cost of Plate Making

In the early days, intaglio plates were made by chemical corrosion methods, but the effect was not good. Now, laser plate making is possible, so the accuracy is higher, and the printing plates made of copper and other metals are more durable than flexible resin plates, but the plate making costs are also higher.

High Ink Consumption

In terms of ink transfer, intaglio printing consumes more ink, which virtually increases production costs.

High Quality

Intaglio printing uses a large amount of ink, and the graphics are convex, rich in layers, with clear lines and high quality. It is mostly used in the printing of books, magazines, pictorials, etc.

Suitable for Mass Printing

Intaglio printing has a long plate-making cycle, low efficiency and high cost. But the printing plate is durable, so it is suitable for mass printing. The larger the batch, the higher the benefit, and the lower the benefit for printing with smaller batches. Therefore, the intaglio method is not suitable for the printing of small batches of trademarks.

Each printing has its own advantages, in order to get better quality, high efficiency with lower cost, newly machine which is with both intaglio and flexo is designed, it has advantages of both intaglio and flexo but weak disadvantages of them, and better to meet clients’ needs.

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