CCL Industries Corp., 161 Worcester Road, Suite 603, Framingham, MA 01701 U.S.A.

From an Idea to Finished Products. Part 2

SLEEVE PRINTING TECHNOLOGY - Perfect printing for your need. What is the best printing technique for your shrink sleeve?



Shrink sleeves enable 360º top to bottom decoration in perfect printing quality with a shrinkage ratio of up to 80 % and guarantee the highest level of attention and maximum flexibility however exceptional the shape of your product is.

But what are the differences between label printing technologies and what is the best printing technique for your shrink sleeve?

The quantity of label printing in Europe has increased over the last decade but still there are very few 100% dedicated shrink sleeve printers. The reason is quite simple, to print shrink sleeves is a highly sophisticated process especially as customer expectations regarding line speed, environmental impact, quality and commercial requirements have increased dramatically over recent years.


The most common printing technologies for shrink sleeves are:


Flexo technology is suitable for printing on almost any type of substrate, including shrinkable films. One of the main advantages is the relative high printing speed (Solvent Flexo), low-tooling costs when compared to Rotogravure, excellent print density, and good cost efficiency for small, medium and long run business. New developments are continually improving printing quality however; in some instances, it is not possible to achieve offset or Rotogravure standards. With UV Flexo, premium effects such as bright silvers or metallics can be difficult to achieve. In addition, due to the nature of the UV printing inks the technology may not be suited to very high shrink applications. .


Gravure printing is a high-speed and high-quality printing method. Ink is transferred directly from a printing cylinder to the film. Special colours and print techniques such as gold, metallics, special lacquers, matt and high opacity whites which can be required for sleeve application can be printed easily. High print speeds and colour consistency make gravure ideal for long run applications. This can sometimes result in higher initial costs for new designs in comparison with other print technologies.


Offset printing is a commonly used printing technique in which the inked image is transferred (or “offset”) from a plate to a rubber blanket, then to the printing surface. This process gives a high and consistent image quality. Offset can be used for small, medium and long runs due to its relatively fast setup as well as high running speeds.

The initial costs are lower when compared to the other technologies making Offset feasible for projects where there is a high proliferation of SKU. The main disadvantages of offset are the high investment cost for the purchase of the printing machines and due to the low ink laydown, effect colours like gold and opaque whites cannot be printed to meet the clients’ expectations. In addition, it may not always be possible to offer the client the exact finishing height without a significant additional investment


There are various digital printing methods, one of the fastest growing one in commercial printing is the HP Indigo using Electo inks. The quality obtainable is comparable to offset without having any initial costs.

However, due to its relative slow speed Digital is generally only used for very small runs or promotions with individual artworks or variable data.


It is possible to combine certain kind of printing techniques within a single machine. CCL for example offers with its unique Offset/Gravure machines the advantages of both offset and gravure printing. Using EB curing even makes it a food grade machine with no concerns in regards to ink migration.