Paper is not the only material onto which print is applied, and many materials and products require the use of less common and sometimes highly specialist printing processes. One such process is Flexography. Flexography is a derivative of letterpress, using flexible photopolymer plates and thin inks that dry by evaporation. The image is raised as in the conventional form of letterpress printing.
The process is used mainly for packaging - printing on cellophane, plastics and metallic foils; in fact it can be used to print on to virtually any material that will physically pass through the press. It is used also to produce some of the cheaper magazines, comics and newspapers because of it not suffering any problems with the water and ink balance. Flexography is relatively inexpensive as the plates are cheap to produce and make-ready times are short. Also the drying part of the process is rapid and the rotary principles enable high-speed presses to be used. Disadvantages include difficulty in reproducing fine detail and a tendency to colour variation.
Flexography used to be the poor relation of other processes, but improvements in inks, presses and techniques have ensured that it can more than hold its own in areas such as packaging and newspaper printing.