February 6, 2024

The Best Method of Corrugated Box Printing for Businesses

Introduction to Corrugated Box Printing

Corrugated box printing is key for companies looking to boost their brand and show off their products better. It’s about stamping your logo, designs, and info on corrugated boxes that pack a punch in strength and flexibility. This printing adapts to a mix of packaging types – whether it’s a shipper box for sending stuff or primary retail packaging for sitting pretty on store shelves.

Choosing the best printing method for your corrugated box matters a lot. It’s not just about making it look good; it also touches on cost, how long it takes to make, and what it does to the planet. From the tried-and-true flexo printing to high-tech digital presses, companies need to weigh things like how crisp the printing has to be, how many they need, and the box’s job.

corrugated box printing

Printing Methods For Corrugated Boxes

Direct printing and pre-printing are two primary methods to flexo print on corrugated materials. Understanding these different print processes allows businesses to make informed decisions about which method aligns best with their requirements.

Direct Printing

Direct Printing, just like the name suggests, is directly applying ink onto individual sheets of corrugated cardboard, which are then fashioned into boxes. This process, often called post-printing, is the most common way of printing on corrugated materials. You typically get the job done using flexography or digital printing techniques. Initially, direct flexo printing on corrugated board was limited to basic single or two-color text with logos. However, modern flexo presses can achieve multicolor printing, including full-color designs. Printing directly onto corrugated board is cost-effective and boasts high production speeds, but it lacks the precision required for high-end corrugated packaging. It’s best suited for basic packaging needs, such as shipping containers and bulk retail goods.


Pre-Printing involves laying down your image onto another material first, like a smooth label or a sheet, and then sticking it to the corrugated stuff. When you’re after top-notch print quality with sharp, realistic pictures or plenty of color – think product boxes, pop displays, or the main packaging you see in stores – this is the way to do it. Generally, offset and screen printing are go-to techniques for pre-printing. Yet, with advancements in technology, modern methods now enable the printing of patterns onto roll paper using wide-web flexo presses in a roll-to-roll manner before laminating with corrugated paper and then cutting it to size to manufacture boxes. This results in stunning designs on the finished boxes. This technique not only outpaces offset and screen printing in speed and cost but also surpasses the quality of printing directly on uneven corrugated surfaces. So, if your goal isn’t ultra-fine printing precision but rather attractive, multicolored, and fast printing, flexography can easily meet your needs.

corrugated box printing

What is Flexographic Printing?

Flexographic printing, often referred to as flexo, is a form of rotary printing technology that delivers streamlined, high-quality printing on a variety of rough and smooth materials, including corrugated boards. At its core lies a simple yet elegant mechanical process: sophisticated rubber stamps (flexible polymer plates)—each etched with an image to be printed—are attached to rolling cylinders. The plates are inked by anilox rollers, whose engraved cells are designed to deposit a precise quantity of ink, enabling consistent print quality and color fidelity. As the anilox roller comes into contact with the printing plate, it inks only the raised areas—the parts forming the image—while recessed areas remain ink-free. As the substrates feed through the press, these cylinders rotate, transferring ink from the plates onto the substrates.

Advantages of Flexographic Printing

Flexographic printing is ideal for handling big print jobs thanks to its swift operating speeds and quick-set inks. The latest flexo presses offer great customization options and are versatile with various materials. This makes flexo printing the preferred choice for companies needing fast, dependable, and excellent printing for their corrugated box requirements.

Multiple Materials Friendly

Flexo printing shines when it comes to printing on different types of surfaces, not only corrugated paperboard but also plastics, metal sheets, and others.

Range of Inks

Flexo machines can handle a wide array of inks, spanning solvent-based, water-based, and UV-curable options.

Speed and Productivity

Thanks to water-based or UV-curable inks that dry quickly and last long, flexo presses can run rapidly without reducing print quality. This results in higher production rates. Large-volume orders that need speedy delivery find flexo to be highly economical. The initial outlay for making plates is quickly balanced by the lower per-item cost on big orders.

Superb Color Quality

Flexo stands out with its central rotating cylinder that supports the material while each hue is added at successive stations. This delivers a multi-colored item in one go, enhancing alignment and color accuracy. Flexo is especially good at keeping colors consistent, especially with the Pantone Matching System (PMS) ensuring that brand colors are replicated precisely and evenly across lots.

In-Built Finishing Options

Flexo presses can integrate extra steps, like cutting shapes and adding protective layers, right during the print phase, offering an all-in-one production answer. This cuts down time and resources by avoiding the need for separate finishing procedures.

corrugated box printing

Corrugated Products for Flexographic Printing Applications

The versatility of Flexographic printing makes it suitable for a multitude of packaging applications, from kraft mailers to more complex box styles. Its capability to accommodate different print runs and quick setup times makes it an economical choice for businesses requiring large quantities of printed corrugated boxes without compromising on print quality.

Below is the table that visualizes various corrugated paper products and their applications across different industries:

IndustryFlexographic Corrugated Products
E-commerceCustom-sized Shipping Boxes, Branded Packaging, Return Mailers
Food & BeverageWaterproof/Oil-resistant Packaging Boxes, Food-safe Liner Boards, Cold Chain Shipping Boxes
PharmaceuticalsAntimicrobial Packaging Boxes, Temperature-Controlled Shipping Containers, Tamper-Evident Packaging
CosmeticsLuxury Gift Boxes, Waterproof Display Cases, Special Material Sample Packaging
ElectronicsAnti-static Protective Boxes, Heavy Equipment Packaging, Foam-lined Protective Boxes
Home & GardenLarge Appliance Packaging Boxes, Easy-to-Disassemble Gardening Product Boxes, Multi-layer Corrugated Protective Boxes
AutomotiveComponent Partition Boxes, Large Transport Containers, Durable Tool Packaging Boxes

What to Consider for Flexographic Printing on Corrugated Packaging

When you’re looking to use flexo printing on corrugated boxes, you need to think about the design of your printing plates, ink that works well with corrugated stuff, and the type of product you are packing. It’s crucial the plates are made just right to get the image you want, plus the ink must stick nicely and handle the tough journey through shipping and handling.

Flexo Plate Make-up: To get a good print with flexography, you need to pick the right base for your plates and figure out how many you need. Plates are usually layered with materials like rubber or light-sensitive resins for a sharp image. You’ll need a different base for each ink color in your design.

Choosing the Right Ink: You want ink that can become best friends with your corrugated material. Ones that are used a lot include water-based and UV-curable inks that need to latch onto your box and stay put, even when faced with moisture or scratches during transit and storage.

Types of Corrugated Cardboard: There’s a whole bunch of different strengths and styles of corrugated cardboard, and you’ve got to pick one that fits what you’re packaging – from light inner padding to tough boxes meant for shipping.

Matching Product and Packaging: Your packaging has got to work well and look good with whatever’s going inside. It’s all about making sure whatever you’re selling stays safe and gets noticed.

corrugated box printing

What is Digital Printing?

Digital Printing on corrugated boxes is a modern solution that involves using digital files to guide inkjet or laser printers in reproducing images on corrugated materials. This method is well-suited for short runs, as it eliminates the need for printing plates. With digital printing, the range of colors available is unrestricted, significantly reducing setup time and allowing for easy customization.

This type of printing thrives on its ability to accommodate variable data printing, such as barcodes and individualized addresses. Its edge lies in producing small quantities of custom boxes with intricate designs or requiring frequent updates—circumstances where traditional methods may not be cost-effective.

What is Offset Lithography?

Offset lithography is a popular print method where the image is first put on a flat plate, then a rubber blanket, and finally, the print surface. It might remind you of flexography, but offset uses metal plates (often aluminum) and a clever mix of oil and water. Parts of the plate that hold the image soak up ink and push away water, while the rest do the opposite. This tight grip on where the ink goes means offset can give you really detailed, smooth pictures – it often looks better than what you get with flexo. So, for swanky product boxes or sturdy kraft boxes with crisp, complex designs, offset’s your guy.

But, lithographic printing usually sticks to printing on litho label, not straight onto bumpy corrugated cardboard. Those labels are then glued onto the box. Offset’s top-notch for smaller labels too, though it might cost a bit more. Setting up those plates can be pricey, but print a lot, and the price per piece gets way better. Great for pumping out big orders, offset might not be your pick for projects that keep changing looks or don’t need tons made.

What is Screen Printing?

Screen Printing stands unique in the realm of corrugated box printing processes. It involves pushing ink through a mesh stencil onto the box surface, which can be a viable method for printing on corrugated cardboard involving the use of fewer colors but thicker layers of ink, resulting in a textured feel. This leads to bold, vibrant artworks that have texture and are tactile to the touch.

This printing technique is best suited for designs that demand high visual impact and durability. While not the fastest technique, screen printing offers the advantage of robust prints that can withstand handling and can be cost-effective for specific needs in low volumes.

corrugated box printing

Which Technology is Best for Corrugated Box Printing?

Each printing technology has its unique characteristics. Determining the best corrugated carton printing method depends on several factors: the budget, the need for detail in the graphics, the volume of the print job, and the turnaround time.

For businesses with large-scale printing needs that value speed and cost-effectiveness, direct flexographic printing may emerge as the best option.

For businesses prioritizing print quality and also looking to achieve high-volume and fast production, pre-printing on reel paper with subsequent lamination onto corrugated paper through flexography offers an excellent solution.

Those who seek the highest quality of image, particularly for high-end products, may lean toward pre-printing options like offset lithography or digital printing. These methods provide the flexibility to produce crisp, intricate graphics, even for smaller batches.

Maintaining a balance between cost-effectiveness and print quality requires a deep dive into the specifics of each project. Customization, durability, sustainability, and the impression created in the customer’s hands all play pivotal roles in the final selection.

KETE GROUP LIMITED Flexographic Printing Machine Helps Corrugated Packing Printing

The KETE GROUP LIMITED wide-format Flexographic Printing Machine represents a leap in technology for corrugated box printing. With its adaptability to an array of inks and its ability to manage different materials, this machine is the go-to for those needing versatility. It can print anywhere between 600-2400 mm in width and can embellish materials with 2-8 distinct color options. Sporting a ceramic anilox roller with a range of 200 to 800LPI, it guarantees top-tier multicolored designs printed straight onto the reel paper. After being printed, this attractive reel paper merges with corrugated material via a laminating machine, resulting in superior quality printed boxes.

Built to support heavy-duty, high volume printing, the KETE GROUP LIMITED machine offers efficiency without sacrificing flexibility for companies. KETE GROUP LIMITED’s cutting-edge features ensure a swift setup and quick job transitions, reducing idle time and maintaining a steady pace of production. Focusing on sharpness and uniformity, the KETE GROUP LIMITED Flexographic Printing Machine stands out as a robust asset for enterprises aiming to enhance their corrugated box printing operations and expand production to fulfill increasing market demands.

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