Flexography is a type of printing that utilizes plates and an assembly line-type process to produce products such as labels and material packaging.
Flexographic printing uses rubber plates and ink to transfer an image onto the intended substrate. It has its origins in the late 1800s but grew into its currently used form in the 1950s.
This print process is primarily used when printing labels such as those that go on food products because it is able to handle high run jobs incredibly smoothly with consistent results. What happens is the mirrored master of the image is on the rubber plate, which then picks up the ink and places it on the substrate with precision. The image is raised on the rubber plate acting almost like a stamp.
For a label with multiple colors, multiple plates are needed to pick up the different inks in the different wells. For example, the logo might be red, the content blue, and the image green. Three different plates will be needed: one with just the logo, one with just the content, and one with just the image. They will be placed strategically so that as the substrate runs through the flexographic machine, it gets "stamped" with each portion of the label in the appropriate color.
The ink rolls hold the rubber plates and grabs the ink from the ink well to be placed on the substrate. These rolls ensure even ink application on each label for a quality end product. The sheet on which is being printed is fed through a dryer after the ink is applied to ensure the ink dries to the substrate.
Flexographic printing has come a long way and still holds a pivotal roll in today's printing industry.