Versatile, effective, and more eco-friendly than other packaging materials, flexible packaging is one of the fastest-growing elements of the global packaging industry. Used to house food products, personal care goods, pharmaceuticals, and more, flexible packaging is valued for its ability to successfully extend shelf life and boost sustainability without sacrificing aesthetic appeal.
For these reasons, the flexible packaging market has steadily risen in value over the last decade and is expected to continue this growth well into the future. The most recent projections predict that the global flexible packaging market will grow from its current value of USD 230.49 billion to reach USD 289.89 billion by 2026.
Contributing to this popularity is how flexible packaging comes in a variety of forms to meet the needs of different products and industries. Some of the most popular forms of flexible packaging today include:
- Stand-up pouches
- Blister packs
- Film covered trays and packages
Regardless of which packaging type is used, companies are frequently required to place traceable markings on the outside surfaces. Although these markings vary by industry, they most often include expiration dates, lot codes, serial numbers, and barcodes/data matrices.
To make these codes last throughout the product life cycle, companies must apply them using substrate-compatible ink formulas. If you’re looking for the best ink for flexible packaging, here’s how to find it.
The Various Forms of Flexible Packaging and Their Marking Considerations
As we touched on above, flexible packaging is an umbrella term that encompasses a range of packaging forms that differ in construction style and material makeup. The Flexible Packaging Association defines flexible packaging as “a package or container made of flexible or easily yielding materials that, when filled or closed, can be readily changed in shape.” Flexible packaging is most commonly constructed from a combination of paper, film, aluminum foil, and a variety of plastics including:
- Polyolefin (POF)
- High-density polyethylene (HDPE)
- Low-density polyethylene (LDPE)
- Polyethylene terephthalate (PET, PETE)
- Polyvinyl chloride
Using these materials, flexible packaging manufacturers are able to construct shrink films, beverage pouches, blister packs, resealable bags, and more.
When attempting to print on flexible packaging, it’s important to consider both the package’s shape and the material that it’s made from as these two elements will inevitably affect how well certain ink formulas adhere to the substrate’s surface.
For example, an ink formula that works well on a polyvinyl bag will not adhere properly to an aluminum foil-covered blister pack. The two packaging forms have vastly different shapes and surface properties and thus require their own formulas and possibly different marking hardware. Other factors such as facility temperature, humidity presence, and printer/product orientation must be accommodated to ensure code legibility.
How To Find the Best Inks for Flexible Packaging
Considering how diverse the world of flexible packaging is, it’s essential to meet with an expert to determine how to best place codes on particular flexible packages. Depending on packaging specifics, companies may utilize the following hardware to mark their flexible substrates:
- Thermal transfer overprinters, a type of industrial printer that utilizes ink-covered ribbons to create sharp, well-defined codes at high speeds.
- Continuous inkjet printers, a production line printer type that sources large bottles of ink for uninterrupted marking at high speeds.
- Thermal inkjet printers, an intuitive, cost-effective printer type that uses removable ink cartridges to intermittently print on substrates moving at moderate speeds.
Each of these printer types can mark flexible packaging as long as they are equipped with substrate-compatible ink formulas.
InkJet, Inc., for example, carries flexible packaging-compatible ink sources for all three of these printer types. Within InkJet, Inc.’s portfolio of printing consumables are several formulas that are able to flex along with the material allowing all applied codes to remain legible throughout the product’s life cycle.
Available formula options include:
- VW682, a fast-drying, retort-proof ink made that is designed for flexible film applications.
- DOM i222, a fast-drying flexible ink that is perfect for printing on coated plastic cards.
- OS411, a PVC-compatible black ink that offers a drying time of fewer than 2 seconds.
Along with these options are dozens of other formulas that are crafted for specific applications. By consulting with our expert team, you can find the perfect ink for your operation, no matter what hardware you use.
Wondering How To Make Your Flexible Packaging Code-Compliant? We Can Help
Printing on flexible packaging can be a tricky task. Flexible packages can be made with a variety of materials and take on many different shapes. However, with the help of an ink expert, you can find the perfect solution for your flexible applications. Call InkJet, Inc. today to learn more.
To find ink for flexible packaging and other industrial marking consumables, contact us online today or call 1(800) 280-3245.