If you watched the updated movie about Walter Mitty, you saw the end of Life Magazine in printed format. You may have wondered if printing was becoming an extinct art form. Actually, it is very much alive and is truly an art.
When ink is put on a plate which then transfers the ink to a rubber blanket before being applied to the surface, it is considered offset printing. Another term for this is lithographic printing. It often uses a number of different ink rolls being applied to the rubber before the image is put on the substrate or printing surface.
This has been a popular method of printing, but as newer methods have been discovered, it is taking a backseat. The image is often inferior to newer methods. As with any process, if proper cleaning is not maintained, background images or smudges can become part of the printed image.
There are two main printing methods that are still quite popular today. Flexographic printing used a roller to create what is known as relief printing. Flexo is also very flexible in the types of surfaces that can be printed on. The inks used in this process tend to have a lower viscosity, which means they dry quickly. This means that production rates often go up.
It is important to use the proper anilox roll cleaner in order to completely clean the delicate roller between uses. If any of the miniscule cells on the roller get clogged, it will leave tine pinholes on subsequent prints. Using a fine brush is important to minimize possible damage to the roll when cleaning.
Gravure printing usually has the desired image etched into the plate. A laser is often used to make the image clear and precise. There is a cylinder created to hold the image for each color that is going to be used. This type of printing generally produces work of the highest quality, but the cost of creating the individual images may be prohibitive for smaller jobs.
This method of printing utilizes a thin mesh screen made of silk or polyester that is tightly stretched over a frame of the desired size. A negative image is printed on the side of the screen where the ink will be touching the fabric, as in T-shirt graphic printing. When the ink is rolled across the screen, it goes through the printed areas to the fabric below – only those areas receive the ink.
Each method has it’s own benefits and specific uses, but they are all being used and are not going the way of the dinosaurs any time soon.