Benchmarking and Worldwide Market Trends for Flexographic Printing

Projected replacement of screen, letterpress, gravure and offset printing by flexo.

One of the more exciting growth areas for flexography is printed electronics. While reportedly only accounting for $3 million in sales in 2008, the printed electronics market is forecast to grow to $89 billion by 2020. Even sharing this growth with the other print processes, there are tremendous opportunities for flexo in this area.

As part of the research, LPC surveyed more than 75 print buyers or specifiers to learn about their purchasing practices and any biases they have towards flexography. Not surprisingly, 63% of those respondents believe that flexography has limitations when it comes to their specific applications. Many of the limitations cited related to print quality issues, however some felt flexo lead times were longer, flexo printing plates were too costly, and there was concern around authentication of packaging using flexo versus other print processes. But, despite those concerns, more than 70% of those respondents also indicate that their company’s use of flexography will increase during the next five years, often replacing materials printed by another print process (see Figure 1).

It is also interesting to note that print buyers expect in the next five years they will be sourcing their flexo printed products from regions of the world separate from the one in which they are located. In fact, 70% anticipate sourcing these materials from Asia, while 60% will be sourcing from Latin America.

Getting back to the quality perceptions about flexography mentioned earlier, clearly those concerns are not an issue in the tag and label sector where an estimated 92% of label printers in North America use flexography on their production floor. In fact, the quality levels of flexo-printed graphics are the highest in the tag and label marketplace where the narrow to mid-web presses produce six to ten-color, 175 linescreen applications with sophisticated graphics targeted at discerning consumers. It should be noted though, that digital presses are making a tremendous impact on the flexographic label industry as flexo printers around the globe install digital press systems alongside their conventional flexo presses. Given this development, it should be no surprise that the study predicts that as digital press systems offer faster run speeds and enhanced processing options, digital printing will undoubtedly take market share from flexo in the tag and label sector.

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