The future of gravure and its various markets from flexible packaging, tobacco, decorative and publication holds many possibilities, but also many challenges. Whilst there has been a decline in gravure publication printing, other markets such as flexible packaging have strengthend and new innovations, technical advances and cost reductions have been instrumental to this.

As press speeds become even faster; print tolerances move to microns and changeover times continue to decrease gravure cylinder preparation has always been seen as the Achilles heel of gravure, but it doesn’t have to be this way.

For the past three years the focus of the GAA (Gravure Association of the Americas) spring and autumn conferences has been to look at the macroeconimc case for gravure and what gravure can do to ensure its continued relevance on the global stage.

Led by Professor Robert Eller from the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) the study has outlined that whilst gravure is the superior process in terms of image quality and its repeatability, the speed of flexo, particularly for short run has been a considerable threat to gravure with some putting speed and cost as higher priorities then print quality. The key to gravure retaining market share has been suggested as being through the introduction of new technology and new business practices.

With this in mind the Hybrid Cylinder and subsequently the RotoHybrid Process was born. It seems counterproductive that as an industry gravure as a whole and particularly flexible packaging strives to shave hours, minutes and seconds off the end to end process, with attention paid to job changeovers, press downtime and maintenance, substrate and ink supply and just in time production yet when it comes to gravure cylinders it can take days, weeks and several weeks depending on where the cylinders are being sourced from.

The state-of-the-art Roto-Hybrid Process combines two novel pre-press gravure printing cylinder process technologies; namely the Hybrid Cylinder technology to enable size variable printing cylinder production and an innovative cylinder coating process to replace chrome plating and other electrolytic processes like copper or nickel plating. The Roto-Hybrid Process provides a unique solution to help address key challenges facing the global gravure printing industry, enabling faster, more cost effective, technically superior and environmentally friendly cylinder production and processing to help strengthen the competitiveness and sustainability of the gravure printing industry.

Using the Roto-Hybrid Process a gravure cylinder can now be machined to its correct size (determined by the repeat), engraved and coated in hours end to end, saving valuable time and cost in cylinder preparation, thus truly rivalling flexo in terms of speed and cost, but with the print quality advantages that gravure offers, allowing printers more flexibility in responding to the demands of brand owners.

Technology Trials

In early 2018 RotoHybrid will be conducting a series of technology trials with a wider group of parties interested in using the RotoHybrid process, namely a system whereby a polymer based build up gravure cylinder and a chrome free cylinder coating are combined in a streamlined, cost effective process that is both technically and environmentally superior to existing gravure cylinder processes.

To participate in a technology trial please email technology@rotohybrid.com for more details