Gravure learns to support the short-run market

Gravure learns to support the short-run market

Dunnington, Richard H

Richard H. Dunnington

Executive Vice President, Gravure Association of America

Phone: 716-436-3250; email:


As the new century approaches, we see many reasons to be positive about the future of gravure, Gravure has the capability to respond quickly to changing market demands-and we know from our experience of the last decade that those demands shift frequently, often in unexpected ways. Even without factoring in what technological advances will be introduced at Drupa 2000, we are certain that gravure can keep up with these changes.

We predict that as the worldwide economy becomes more integrated, the growth of the free market will create a large-scale demand for consumer goods. This growth will result in an increased need for printed packaging and decorative items for the home, as current poverty-stricken areas begin moving to middle-class status. Also, since most of these areas will have limited Internet access, catalogs will become an important marketing tool. This expected increase and demand for printed packaging, decorative items for the home, and catalogs will be in markets so large that gravure will be the only option to meet the need. Only gravure can provide quality reproduction for such huge volume. Although this growing demand will spill over to the other print processes, gravure will get a large share of this growth worldwide in unit volume.

On the technological side, gravure has learned how to support short-run needs for smaller markets. At the same time, new technology for color management and press design are making the process more efficient, more effective, more responsive, and better able to compete on virtually the same price level for short-run markets as other processes.

Examples of this capability are packaging printers whose average pressrun is 3,000 to 5,000 yards. No, that is not a misprint. It is being done on a daily basis-profitably! Both of these printers have their engraving done in-house and guarantee 24- to 48-hour art-to-engraving turnarounds. This short lead time on engravings can also be found in special working relationships with trade shops. Lead time is no longer an issue for gravure.

New gravure presses are available with quick changeover capabilities. In production, some of these new presses have done three 8-station changeovers in an 8-hour shift with a total downtime of 35 minutes. There is also positive news regarding capital costs. The new designs are allowing basic gravure presses to compete for capital investment with equivalent flexo technology.

Improvement continues on the cylinder front, with resin-based cylinder bases under development. Quoting an industry representative, they might become “a possibility within the next two to three years.” Adapting automotive industry micro-finishing technology to both copper and chrome polishing has resulted in improved life of not only the engraving stylus but also the gravure doctor blade and cylinder in the press. Although it is in the early stage of testing, there appears to be a promising replacement for the outer chrome layer currently used to protect the gravure image. The replacement is said to have superior abrasion characteristics with fewer environmental concerns than-chrome.

Two separate reports on color space given at recent ink and substrates conference confirm the long-standing belief that the gravure process can print an expanded color space when compared to current industry standards. The reports, by both publication and packaging professionals, may lead to increased options for consumer packaging and print media buyers.

Given gravure’s basic simplicity of operation, the improvement in technology, and a better understanding of process control, we see gravure continuing as the benchmark for other print processes throughout the new century.

Copyright Graphic Arts Technical Foundation Jan/Feb 2000

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