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What’s the Combination

Getting the combination right in package labeling can lead to well-deserved rewards.

September 2007 by Tom Polischuk
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The use of combination printing/processing is not a rarity in package printing—not by a long shot. A printer that has the need could combine any of the printing processes, in addition to converting operations such as foil stamping and embossing.

The value provided by combination printing is that each printing process can bring its own specific attributes to the party, says Andy Colletta, president/CEO of Nilpeter USA. “Flexography and offset printing provide the lion’s share of the coverage on a signature, including the text and four-color images,” he explains. “Rotary screen is often used to provide an opaque background prior to printing, while gravure provides the opportunity for special effects such as high gloss and mirror or chrome-like copy, traditionally used in high-end products such as health and beauty. The digital printing process offers the ability to print variable information, such as numbering or bar codes.”

Steve Leibin, sales manager for Matik North America and representing Omet, concurs with this general assessment. “Each printing process has its strengths and weaknesses. Which print process or combination depends on the graphics required and the run size to best meet the customers’ quality and price objectives. By combining the best of each process, printers can achieve exceptional graphics that sets them apart in the marketplace,” he says.

Specific strengths and weaknesses

Offset printing is commonly the quality standard that all other processes are measured against. “Offset is an excellent process for well-defined images in CMYK/Hexachrome/Opaltone applications and where solids and fine vignettes are required on the same color,” says Chris Davis, sales manager, offset technologies (Codimag and Edelman) for Matik North America.

Dejan Trajkovic, system design engineer for Gallus, adds, “Offset brings lower set-up costs due to the economical production of the printing plates and gives the highest quality printing in large quantities.”

Gravure printing is another standard bearer of high-quality printing, although typically associated with long production runs, notes Denny McGee, president of MPS America LLC. “Gravure provides high-quality printing, great heavy laydowns of metallic and florescent inks, and is commonly associated with long runs based on print cylinder life,” he says.

Terry Trexler, product manager for Gallus, agrees, saying, “Gravure brings rich, deep metallics and basic printing at very wide widths and high speeds.”

According to McGee, rotary screen printing is the “master at heavy laydowns of inks and coatings.” It is typically used for adding opaque white or as a primer for film stock, notes Davis.


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