Real Potential, or Not?
Lightweight gravure printing sleeves are trying to make headway in a market of printers leery of abandoning large inventories of traditional gravure cylinder bases.
WHEN IT COMES to what real potential lightweight printing sleeves have in the gravure process, Randy Ferguson, director of sales at CNW Inc., sums up the general industry feeling in one sentence. "Sleeves will be an amazing thing for gravure, after a few minor speed bumps are smoothed out," he said.
Save for a few printshops that have successfully transitioned to sleeves from cylinder bases in their gravure operations, most North American printers today are apprehensive about the technology and its implications on an age-old printing process. While some of this foreboding is warranted—considering the on-going development of the technology—there is evidence that sleeves can be a profitable venture for gravure printers.
At the Packaging and Label Gravure Association Global (PLGA) conference, held in Miami at the beginning of March, a panel consisting of printers, an engraver, and suppliers presented their experiences with, and cases for, the use of sleeves in gravure. The session addressed many issues including costs, dependability of the technology, and transitioning to sleeves—all which have kept many gravure printers away from sleeves.
Pete Byam, technical sales representative for Stork Prints America, Inc.—a manufacturer of lightweight gravure printing sleeves—was part of that panel at the PLGA conference. During his presentation, Byam dispelled several myths that continue to plague the technology, including:
• Sleeves creep at high speeds and high pressures. Byam says sleeves have been run at 1,200 fpm and 110 psi with no slippage.
• Payback with sleeves is not fast enough. ROI is generally less than four months, Byam said.
Sleeve technology is evolving so quickly that today's sleeves are much more advanced forms of the sleeves from only three years ago. However, in spite of first-hand testimonials that sleeves offer several advantages over cylinder bases, including monetarily, printers are still leery of the transition to sleeves.