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The Print Processes

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The print industry is so much more than ink on paper. There are countless sub processes to the six standards – it can be overwhelming when first getting a grasp on printing as a whole. 

When I was first studying graphic communications, I had an old textbook that was just copy paper coiled into a stack of endless information. I read this inside and out. Studying and memorizing terms – it still felt like something was missing. 

This was when I found out I was a visual learner. Reading about lithography, gravure – I could never picture this without something more apparent.

In this article, I am going to explain these processes as simple as its meant to be learned, with informational infographics and videos to aid learners like me. No endless textbook pages for you.

 

The Categories:

Lithography

Flexography

Gravure

Digital Printing

Screen Printing

Wide Format

 

Lithography

Have you ever wondered how mass production items were made? Such as magazines, newspapers, books, and mailers. This is lithography, otherwise known as offset. The main premise to this method is that oil and water do not mix. Easy right? 

By using a plate, a metal substrate that holds the image, the oil (ink) sticks to the image area. Water (fountain solution) repels the oil from the non-image area, creating a printed sheet with your image. As this process happens, the paper is ran through cylinders to create maximum tension. 

 

Flexography

Packaging and flexible material such as labels are made by using flexography – flex … flexible!  Easy to remember!

By using a flexible rubber plate, the image area is raised from plate – letting the image area be inked only. Most flexography presses are webbed presses. This means a roll of paper is ran through the press. In contrast with sheet fed where singular sheets are ran through. 

A doctor blade scraps off excess ink that touches the plate, this process also goes through tension cylinders.  

 

Gravure

This is an older process, and is sadly losing it’s need as offset takes on mass production and fleoxgraphy has packaging. The advantage to this process is it’s ability to preform long run jobs easily. For example, If you have a mailer that goes out every month, with the same image, Gravure is perfect for the demand.

The process works by the image being etched into the cylinder itself, no plate needed. This is a costly process but yields long term use. Like flexo, a doctor blade is used to take off excess ink. 

 

 

 

Digital Printing

There are two digital sub categories:

Xerography: These are your copy printers. Using laser, toner, and heat to fuse the toner to the paper. 

Inkjet: This is your household printers or production presses. By spraying thousands of tiny droplets from print heads, this creates the image.

 

Screen Printing

Ever wonder how clothing is printed? It can either be by screen printing or direct to garmet application. For this article, we will be focusing on screen printing. 

The process is like pushing ink through a stencil, fairly simple! By using a coating, the image is exposed via ultraviolet light and washed out. The open image area is where ink will be forced through the screen by a squeegee and pressure from a machine or operator. 

Screen printing can be done on clothes, hats, and more!

 

Wide Format

Wide format is usually categorized under digital printing. But, I see this as it’s own category – as it’s expanding to be more than just inkjet technology. 

Wide format is printing on applications for signage, packaging, labels, and so much more. 

Here at AGS, we print on our signage, computers, and even on doors

By using inkjet technology, on a larger scale, ink is sprayed on rigid or roll substrates. Cured with heat or UV LED technology. 

 

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