Flexography is the fastest growing conventional printing process, especially in packaging such as corrugated containers and flexible films.It has also made significant advances in publication printing, particularly newspapers.Because the quality flexo printing has improved so much, it is now used extensively for process color printing, as well as spot color, on a wide variety of substrates.
It is used extensively for printing tags and labels, many in full process color. Flexography was originally called “aniline” printing because of the aniline dye inks that were originally used in the process.
The aniline dyes were made for coal tar and were banned from food packaging by the FDA because of their toxicity.
Other coloring agents were developed which were safer, but the name aniline printing persisted. Because the name still carried bad connotations, Franklin Moss in 1951 started a campaign to change the name of the process.
Over 200 possible names were submitted by readers of Moss’ publication “The Mosstyper”. A subcommittee of the Packaging Institute’s Printed Packaging Committee narrowed the choice down to three names,: permatone process, rotopake process and flexographic process.
Mail-in ballots from readers of The Mosstyper overwhelmingly chose flexographic process. Flexo plates are flexible and imaged in relief, a natural outgrowth of letterpress printing. The origin of these plates was in rubber stamps, which were formed in plaster molds that had been pressed with lead type.