Gravure: an ancient print process enjoys a small revival among high end narrow web converters.

Author:Kenny, Jack

Rotogravure printing has been around for over a hundred years. It is said to have been developed in 1878 by a Czech by the name of Karl Klic (also spelled Klietsch), who kept his idea secret until it was stolen and brought to the United States in 1903. In the narrow web industry, gravure has remained something of a secret, and for several reasons: Few companies have manufactured narrow web gravure equipment, some misconceptions exist among printers about the process, and those who do use gravure would rather not discuss it.

For years gravure has been looked at askance by some flexo printers and others in the narrow web field as too expensive, too dangerous (considering the prominence of solvent based inks used in the process), and good only for long runs.

But gravure is run by some of the more well known narrow web printers--among them Sancoa, National Label, CCL, Seal-It, Spear--and is being discussed more often at conferences and exhibitions. What is it about Klic's little secret?

For years, the familiar name in narrow web gravure is Chesnut Engineering, which makes presses. Richard Chesnut, founder and president, is still at it in Fairfield, NJ, and is enjoying the newfound interest in his favorite print process. "It's the next step," he says. "Every 10 years the industry would jump into something new. In the 1960s it was flexo, and in the '70s it was rotary letterpress. Then came UV flexo, then rotary screen. Now gravure is the thing people are talking about.

"You can argue that the gravure dot is timer than a flexo dot, but I say yes, you can get quality with all the print processes. But with gravure you're talking shiny metallics and four color process, and it gets a lot easier at a lower cost. That's why there is an interest in it."

Metallics, indeed. The talk on the street is that the big product marketers, everyone's favorite label end users, want shiny, want metallic, and want it now. "The push for gravure is very much driven by the high end label market, the Procter & Gambles, the Palmolives, the blue chip companies. Their objective is to get gold or silver effect on their labels without paying so much for it." That's Jakob Landberg, sales director for Nilpeter, in Slagelse, Denmark. Nilpeter started making gravure cassettes for certain of its narrow web presses in 2001.

Dense metallics

Rotogravure is perhaps the simplest of all rotary printing processes, requiring the least number of elements to transfer ink to the substrate. A...

To continue reading