April 18, 2024

What is Narrow Web Printing?


Through the wide palette of printing techniques and methods, it is possible to produce a wide variety of items. A method that has become increasingly prevalent in recent years is narrow web printing. This specialized printing method is, in particular, very good at handling short runs with precision, so it is a perfect choice for brand owners and small manufacturers. This article will uncover the complexities of narrow web printing, looking at its definition, advantages, working mechanism, materials and applications.

What is the Narrow Web Printing?

Narrow web printing is a particular type of printing which is carried out using a narrow web flexo press or a narrow web flexo printing machine. These presses are designed to handle substrates that have a width ranging from 10 inches to 20 inches or 250mm to 500mm. This is opposed to wide web printing, which is designed for wider materials, those greater than 20 inches, and is often used in bulk packaging.

Related Post: Flexo Press Demystified: A Beginner’s Guide to the Printing Process

How Narrow Web Printing Function?

narrow web printing

The narrow web printing is usually related to flexographic printing which is also called flexo printing. Flexography is a rotary printing process that uses flexible relief plates to get the ink on the substrate. The plates are mounted on a cylinder, and as the substrate moves through the press, the inked plates transfer the intended image or text onto the material. Narrow web flexo presses very often have multiple printing units that enable printing of different colors or coatings in a single pass. The substrate is printed and then goes through different finishing processes including laminating, die-cutting, and slitting to get the final product form.

Advantages of Narrow Web Printing

Narrow web printing stands out with its inherent benefits that make it the most suitable option for many printing applications.

One of the main advantages of this is the fact that it is suitable for production of short to medium print runs at a low cost. Different from other printing methods that need long setup times and large production volumes to be economically efficient, narrow web printing provides this kind of efficiency for printing small quantities without sacrificing the quality or profitability, which makes it a perfect solution for projects requiring quick production turnaround.

Another important benefit of narrow web printing is the fact that it can manage substrates with more flexibility. Narrow web flexo presses are capable of printing on a broad range of materials like self-adhesive labels, shrink sleeves, flexible packaging films, and cardboard. This feature allows printers to meet varied customer requirements and produce a wide variety of products from a single machine.

Additionally, the environmental footprint of narrow web printing is also smaller, with lower VOC emissions than traditional printing methods, making it a better choice for companies seeking eco-friendliness in their packaging and labeling.

Materials Used in Narrow Web Printing

Some of the most commonly used substrates in narrow web flexo printing include:

  • Paper: Various types of paper, such as coated, uncoated, and metalized paper, are used for labels, tags, and certain packaging applications.
  • Film: Plastic films, including polyethylene (PE), polypropylene (PP), and polyester (PET), are widely used in flexible packaging and label printing.
  • Foil: Metallic foils, such as aluminum and gold, are used to create high-end labels and packaging with a premium look and feel.
  • Laminates: Multi-layer laminates, combining different materials like paper and film, are used to enhance the functionality and durability of packaging and labels.

Along with substrates, narrow web printing also includes inks and coatings in various forms. Flexo inks are particularly designed to provide great adhesion, durability and color intensity on different materials. UV-curable inks are among the preferred inks for narrow web flexo printing due to their short drying time and resistance to abrasion and chemicals.

Coatings, e.g. varnishes and laminates are used to make the printed product more attractive and protective. Such coatings may be glossy or matte, enhance scratch or moisture resistance and add functionalities like easy-peel or resealable features.

Applications of Narrow Web Printing

narrow web printing

Labels and Stickers

Among the numerous areas of narrow web printing, the creation of labels and stickers is probably the most well-known. Narrow web flexographic printing presses are the best option for printing self-adhesive labels of high quality for the food and beverage sector, personal care, and household products. These labels can be printed on a number of substrates including paper, film, and foil, and they can be equipped with features like variable data printing, sequential numbering, and special finishes.

Flexible Packaging

Narrow web printing is becoming a popular method for producing different kinds of flexible packaging materials. Flexible packaging includes such products as pouches, sachets, and bags used for food, drinks, and other consumer items. Narrow web flexo printing is a great method to produce attractive, high quality graphics on these packaging materials while still ensuring the barrier properties and durability are being met.

Pharmaceuticals and Cosmetics

The pharmaceutical and cosmetics sectors are the two main industries that utilize narrow web printing extensively for label and packaging production. These industries need to be precise, legible and traceable which a narrow web flexo printing can meet. Drug labels usually contain attributes such as tamper-evident seals, barcodes and comprehensive product information which can all be printed on narrow web presses.

Comparison of Narrow Web with Wide Web Printing

One of the main differences between narrow web and wide web printing lies in the equipment used. Narrow web flexo printing presses are designed to handle smaller substrates and offer quick changeovers, making them a better solution for shorter print runs and frequent job changes. On the other hand, wide web presses are built for high-volume production and longer print runs, offering greater efficiency and cost-effectiveness for larger orders. Here is a detailed comparison between narrow web and wide web printing:

FeatureNarrow Web PrintingWide Web Printing
Material Width10-20 inches (25-50 cm)Up to 60 inches (150 cm) or more
Printing Speed150-500 feet/min (45-150 meters/min)500-2000 feet/min (150-600 meters/min)
Ink Drying SpeedInstant for UV inks; a few seconds for solvent-based inksInstant for UV inks; longer for solvent-based due to volume
Ink Viscosity1000 to 5000 cP (Centipoise), depending on ink formulation500 to 2500 cP, adjusted for high-speed application
Doctor BladePrecision blades for fine detail, requiring regular adjustmentHeavy-duty blades, less frequent adjustments needed
Anilox RollHigher line screens (e.g., 800-1200 LPI) for fine detailLower line screens (e.g., 250-500 LPI) for broader coverage
Setup and Changeover Time15-30 minutes for job changes, faster due to less complexity1-2 hours for job changes, due to scale and complexity
Application ScopeIdeal for labels, stickers, flexible packaging requiring high detailBest for bulk packaging, wallpaper, where high speed and volume are critical
Cost EfficiencyMore cost-effective for short to medium runs due to minimal waste and setup costsMore efficient for long runs, where the high setup time is offset by continuous high-speed production

However, it’s important to note that the boundaries between narrow web and wide web printing are becoming increasingly blurred. Many modern narrow web flexo presses are capable of handling substrates up to 26 inches (660mm) wide, bridging the gap between traditional narrow web and wide web flexo printing. This development has expanded the capabilities of narrow web printing and enabled printers to take on a wider range of jobs and applications.

Interested in wide web printing?

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Narrow Web Printing Equipment and Machinery

narrow web printing

To achieve high-quality results and efficient production, narrow web printing needs advanced equipment. The narrow web flexo press is the most crucial part, and it comes in different setups to match various printing requirements. When choosing a press, you’ll want to look at key features like print width, speed, color stations, drying systems, and automation.

Besides the press itself, narrow web printing setups usually have extra gear like web cleaning systems, corona treatment, web guides, tension control, inspection systems, and finishing equipment such as laminators, die-cutters, and slitters.

If you want to get the best possible results and stay ahead of the competition, it’s super important to invest in top-notch, dependable narrow web printing equipment. These machines help the ink stick better, keep the web tension steady, watch over the print quality, and turn the printed web into the finished product you need.


Narrow web printing stands as a testament to the power of specialized, efficient printing solutions in today’s diverse and dynamic market. Its blend of quickness, flexibility, and high quality turns it into a crucial asset for companies striving to stand out with top-notch packaging and labels. As consumer demands evolve and the push for sustainability grows stronger, narrow web printing will continue to innovate, providing brands with the means to create impactful, responsible packaging that resonates with consumers.

Get A Free Quote With KETE

If you’re interested in exploring the possibilities of narrow web printing for your business, I encourage you to reach out to KETE for a free quote. With our extensive experience and state-of-the-art narrow web flexo printing machines, KETE can provide you with customized solutions that meet your specific requirements and exceed your expectations.

Don’t hesitate to take advantage of this opportunity to discover how narrow web printing can transform your packaging and labeling projects. Contact KETE today and embark on a journey towards printing excellence.

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