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Printing-Flexography: Background and Overview
Table of Contents
Background and Overview
Reasons for Change
P2 Opportunities
Key Contacts
Complete List of Links

Essential Links:

Flexible Packaging Industry Facts & Figures
A list of flexible packaging industry statistics for the United States of America.

Flexographic Printing Processes
Process flow diagrams, process descriptions, and material balance diagrams for each printing unit op...

Printers' National Environmental Assistance Center
Compliance assistance center, current trends, news, tools

Printing is one of the largest manufacturing industries in the United States - employing over 1,200,000 people in almost 46,000 establishments (down from 50,0000 according to 1999 data) and selling over $160 billion of products in 2001 (up from $155.7 billion according to 1999 data). The industry is dominated by small and medium sided businesses, most employing fewer than 20 employees.

All process flow diagrams courtesy of Institute of Advanced Manufacturing Sciences

Flexographic presses are capable of producing good quality impressions on many different substrates, and flexography is the least expensive and simplest of the printing processes used for decorating and packaging printing. The use of flexographic printing presses is on the rise. There are two primary reasons for this: 1) it is relatively simple operation; and 2) it is easily adapted to the use of water-based inks. The widespread use of water-based inks in flexographic printing means a large reduction in VOC emissions compared to the heatset web, offset lithographic or gravure printing processes.

According to PIA, in 2000 (EPA Regions):

  EPA Geographic
  No. of Printing
  No. of Employees
1   2,823 82,618
  2   5,860   156,459
3 4,481 131,537
  4   6,583   166,550
5 10,566 309,073
  6   4,522   88,770
7 2,626 65,736
  8   1,568    33,082
9  6,847  135,844
  10   1,791    44,011

The Standard Industry Classification (SIC) Codes often associated with flexographic printing operations are: 


  SIC Code Operation / Product
2677 Envelopes
  2672 Tape & Pressure Sensitive Labels
2711 Newspapers
  274* Miscellaneous Publishing
275* Commercial Printing
  2759 Flexographic Printing
276* Manifold Business Forms
  3069 Tape, Pressure Sensitive
3081 Film, Plastics
  3089 Plastic Products
3842 Tape, Adhesive
  5113 Corrugated and Solid Fiber Boxes

The North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) Codes often associated with flexographic printing operations are: 


  NAICS Code Operation/Product
322211 Corrugated & Solid Fiber Box Manufacturing
  322212 Folding Paperboard Box Manufacturing
322213 Set-up Paperboard Box Manufacturing
  322215 Non-folding Sanitary Food Container Manufacturing
322221 Coated/Laminated Packaging (Paper & Plastic Film)
  322226 Surface Coated Paperboard
322232 Envelope Manufacturing
  323112 Commercial Flexographic Printing
511110 Newspaper Publishers

Did You Know?

  • Approximately 87,800 people are employed at flexible printing facilities in the U.S.
  • The typical flexographic packaging print shop runs 6 jobs daily, nearly 160 monthly, and 1,850 annually.
  • An average flexographic packaging print shop will consume 9700 gallons of ink and 273,750 linear feet of film on every print job.
  • Out of a population of 2500 flexographic printing plants running solvent based inks, 400 of them will need an add-on pollution control device.
  • The annual shipments generated by printers were estimated by PIA at $1.37 billion according to PIA=s 2002 Annual Report to Congress.


Flexographic printing is well suited for printing packaging, corrugated containers (boxes), envelopes, labels, and tapes. A major portion of flexographic printing is housed within flexible packaging manufacturing facilities.

Flexographic printing is characterized by relief type plates (raised image areas) comprised of flexible material such as rubber or nitrile. Flexographic printing is used for longer print runs, unlike offset printing which may run short runs of just a few thousand impressions (i.e. brochure) or similarly long print runs of up to 1,000,000 impressions. Typical products printed with flexographic printing processes include: 

  1. Food Packaging
  2. Medical Packaging
  3. Newspapers
  4. Business Forms
  5. Envelopes
  6. Tapes (adhesive backed and non-adhesive backed)
  7. Labels
  8. Corrugated Containers
  9. Multiwall Sacks and Paper Sacks
  10. Plastic Bags
  11. Milk and Beverage Cartons
  12. Disposable Cups
  13. Film


The Topic Hub™ is a product of the Pollution Prevention Resource Exchange (P2Rx)

The Printing-Flexography Topic Hub™ was developed by:

Great Lakes Regional Pollution Prevention Roundtable
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Hub Last Updated: 9/4/2008