Drug packaging heat transfer challenges flexographic printing
now, more and more variable information needs to be printed on drug packaging, which forces packaging enterprises to consider adopting heat transfer printing. Then, is there room for flexographic printing
flexographic printing is by far the most widely used printing method in pharmaceutical packaging. But now, heat transfer printing is gradually occupying the flexographic printing market with a rapid offensive
it is precisely because more and more companies want to become global distributors. In order to meet the requirements of the European market, the product batch number and effective date must be printed on the product package, so the number of language types and general symbols printed on the package also increases. Therefore, for flexographic printing, the printing plate needs to be replaced every time it is printed, which is very uneconomical. In order to reduce costs, some medical device manufacturers began to use heat transfer printing. Because of its designable programming, the printing method is not constrained by the printing plate, and it can directly call out variable information from the database, it can quickly replace flexographic printing once it is used
not all flexographic printing machine manufacturers and users have abandoned this ancient printing technology with a history of hundreds of years, because some new inks and plates can still make flexographic printing exude new attraction. Small flexographic printing machines can provide customers with small batch production services to print fixed information on packaging. It can be seen that flexographic printing and heat transfer printing are complementary cooperative relations
competition between flexographic printing and heat transfer printing
according to the statistics of Flexographic Printing Technology Association, in the film processing industry worth 18billion US dollars, about 70% of the films are printed by flexographic printing
tolas health care products packaging company is a supplier of pharmaceutical film packaging services. As flexographic printing for pharmaceutical packaging is very common, this method is very common, the operation forms are diverse, and the price is low, so the printing method adopted by the company is mainly flexographic printing. Another perfecseal company in Philadelphia, USA, has been adopting the method of flexographic printing according to the correct steps. Mr. ronfortunato, the manager of the company's printing business department, said: "if it is printed on metal foil, film or DuPont's Tyvek?, flexographic printing is more suitable than thermal transfer printing."
Mr. wazirnobbee, senior engineer of DuPont Tyvek department, added that in Tyvek? The quality of flexographic printing is not only good, but also the printing speed is very fast. Usually, it can print 30 ~ 40 meters per minute. Mr. wazirnobbee found that flexo printing was more suitable than heat transfer printing, He said, "for mass printing, this method is very economical. You can print the whole roll of packaging materials continuously. The printing width is much wider, and the printing speed is much faster, because it is very suitable for printing the fine elimination method: fill the stripes or logo in the oil tank of the universal tensile testing machine. Other printing methods may need to stop and go, which is inefficient."
although flexo printing is economical and fast, it cannot be compared with heat transfer printing when the printing content changes. When the content or code needs to be replaced in the printing process, if it is flexographic printing, the printing plate must be replaced, and sometimes it even needs to make a new printing plate, and the plate making fee for each printing plate is $500. However, when operators are modifying text content or effective date, if heat transfer is used, all they need to do is input the corresponding content on the keyboard and send it to the printer
now, printing or packaging enterprises often encounter such situations that they need to change the printing content in the printing process, because the market requires products to print bar codes, product batch numbers or effective dates, and also requires printing a variety of words. For example, Medtronic company needs to print a variety of words on the packaging of its cardiovascular drugs, and the annual cost on the printing plate is as high as 150000-200000 US dollars
for pharmaceutical packaging enterprises, what cannot really benefit from flexographic printing is not the speed, but the filling and packaging problem when packaging household pharmaceuticals. Mr. Pugh said that the molding, filling and sealing machines generally work intermittently, so the continuous high-speed operation ability is no longer the decisive factor. Moreover, the speed of heat transfer printing is not as slow as a snail. Bell Mark's heat transfer system uses an edge type nozzle, which has an angle when printing, not vertical printing, so it can carry out high-speed operation on any shape of substrate. But some people think that the cost of heat transfer printing is too expensive. An insider said, "flexographic printing is simpler and more cost-effective than heat transfer printing"
a new way of cooperation
therefore, the best way is not to force flexo printing out of the market, but to complement it with heat transfer printing. The combination of the two systems allows users to gain advantages in two areas - when printing standard information content, a low-cost and easy to operate flexographic printing system is used, and when printing variable information content, an easy to program heat transfer system is usedGraphiccontrols has been using a thermal printer installed on the filling and packaging machine to print variable information on polyethylene materials. But Mr. noelgharibian, the engineering manager of the company in charge of Devon product production line, said that because thermal printers cannot be programmed, they can only print very limited variable information, so they have to manually replace the metal letters on the printer. However, after using the heat transfer printer, the company can print information including part number, product description, quantity, batch number, expiration date, etc., which are generated by computer programming
however, when printing standard information such as company name, contact information and company logo in multiple languages, the company still adopts online flexographic printing machine. Graphiccontrols' new system consists of two heat transfer print heads mounted horizontally on the top of the flexographic press. In order to distinguish between variable information and fixed information, the color of variable information in heat transfer printing is black, while the color of constant information in flexo printing is purple
the combination of the two printing methods is not effective for all companies. Mr. tomroberts of medt universal material testing machine displacement sensor ronic company said that he wanted a programmable heat transfer machine, such as the heat transfer printing machine from bell mark company, in order to get rid of the ink and printing plate necessary for flexographic printing machine. Mr. Roberts said, "ink and printing plates are troublesome. Even if you don't change the text content, you need to change the printing plates frequently, because the printing plates have wear problems. In addition, when you use two different printing systems, you need to train different technicians to repair and maintain the printing machine correctly"
flexographic printing has killed back the market
although there have been some criticisms of flexographic printing, flexographic printing system still has its advantages. Bel plastic is a very broad definition. Mr. Pugh of l-mark said that flexo printing helped his company solve the inventory problem of preprint packaging materials. It is the most economical way to install the cylinder flexographic printing unit online on the filling and packaging machine. This method is most suitable for applications where the information content does not change frequently
moreover, flexographic printing technology is also constantly improving. As far as printing plates are concerned, they were made by rubber stamping or laser engraving in the past, but now they are all photosensitive polymers. For example, the flexible printing plate made by DuPont Cyrel can match the computer direct plate making technology (CTP) well, and its low hardness is very suitable for printing Tyvek materials, because Tyvek is not like other materials, so the printing plate can match the printing medium well
at the same time, in order to meet the requirements of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for reducing the use of volatile organic compounds, in some printing fields, especially the users of flexographic printing machines, have begun to shift from solvent based inks to water-based inks. However, the material manufacturer must produce a special formula of water-based ink, so that it can adhere to the substrate of drug packaging, and ensure that it can withstand the packaging disinfection and transportation processMr. Marotta of tolas said that only after knowing exactly how the packaging is disinfected can it be possible to produce an ink with stable performance. For example, it must be able to withstand steam disinfection, but it is doubtful whether there is such a universal ink that can withstand any disinfection method. Generally speaking, ink can be multifunctional, but no ink can meet various needs
another big Challenger appears
in the pharmaceutical packaging and printing market, there is another method that may become a bigger competitor of flexo printing. A research report of Sri international pointed out that pharmaceutical companies should pay close attention to the progress of inkjet printing technology in variable data printing. Ericschrader, the project manager of the company, said, "inkjet printing can also be controlled by computer programming. It has made many innovations in developing low volatile inks that can withstand the disinfection process.". He said that the U.S. Postal Service recently replaced the original flexographic printing system with inkjet printing system, which is used to print those high-density bar codesMr. daleploeger, director of research and Development Technology Department of Sri international, said that inkjet printing may also solve some unmentioned needs. For example, inkjet printing can print on the packaging being filled, while heat transfer printing machines can only print on flat packaging. At present, there are two inkjet printer suppliers in the market, Domino and Videojet, who are engaged in the development of higher quality printing systems
on the whole, although everyone thinks that heat transfer printing can replace flexographic printing at any time, in fact, this situation has not occurred. There are still some companies providing flexographic printing services, such as Bell mark, greydon and kiwicoder, including various types of equipment with high printing quality and fast printing speed, which can be purchased by small enterprises
on the contrary, pharmaceutical packaging enterprises will rely more on a printing system with combined functions to meet their preferred goals. Because for some pharmaceutical companies, this combination is very successful. If we can also economically and successfully meet the new demand for variable data printing, packaging engineers will immediately apply them to more efficient production lines
source: Zhonghua printing and packaging