How Can the Cobb Rating Affect Flexo Printing?

Kim asks,

What effect does the Cobb rating of paper have on printing with flexographic inks?

Cobb determines the paper’s ability to absorb water. The higher the Cobb reading, the more water is absorbed into the paper.

Since flexographic inks are predominately water, the Cobb reading has a great affect on how the ink interacts with the paper. Color, drying and coverage are all affected by the Cobb rating of the paper.

A lower Cobb rating will absorb less liquid into the paper and therefore more ink will stay on the surface of the sheet. If the ink is formulated to match the paper the results can be superior coverage, deep bold colors and remarkable surface effects. If the ink is formulated for a higher Cobb rating it may dry slower, offset from one print station to the next down and color and coverage may suffer.

A higher Cobb rating will draw more liquid into the paper, usually faster, leaving less ink on the surface of the sheet. This has its advantages and disadvantages too. The ink may dry faster minimizing offsetting, but coverage and richness of color may be sacrificed as the inks and solids are drawn into the paper and less stays on the surface.

So, it is very important that the paper, inks and printing plates are closely matched for each job. If you were to run a job on a high Cobb rated kraft and then simply switched to a low Cobb rated high hold-out paper without switching inks and plates, the results would most likely be far from favorable.

Now there is a little leeway and ink viscosity and pH can be adjusted to a certain extent to control drying, transfer and coverage. But it’s always best if the ink is formulated to match the desired results to the characteristics of the paper.

This is a very simple explanation of how Cobb can affect flexographic printing, but it could be a complete seminar on its own. If you have a question about a specific job your ink supplier is a great resource.

— Ralph

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