Developments in presses and ancillary equipment have made gravure's consistency and vibrancy viable for short runs.
by Jessica Millward, Associate Editor
Call it the "me" generation of packaging. Individualized, shorter runs are on the it-list of customers across the gamut of package printing processes. Fifteen years ago, this wasn't particularly good news for gravure, the king of long-runs. The larger set-up costs and longer pre-production time involved in printing with cylinders rendered "short-run gravure" a near-oxymoron.
The evolution of quicker-change presses and innovative ways of engraving, however, has introduced gravure into the shorter-run arena. And with set-up costs on a steady decline, gravure's long-term future in short run looks better and better.
Hot on the press
"Early acceptance of short run was slow to come because the market of the day did not require the fine line vignette capability and process work gravure is capable of," explains Dick Chesnut, president of Chesnut Engineering. As printing on all packaging came to necessitate better quality graphics, he says, gravure short-run began to make a name for itself. Another factor in its rise was the shift to films, rather than paper, as the substrate of choice. In response to that trend, Chesnut developed the SUPRA 1600 narrow-web press, featuring an on-press system which matches the set-up speed of a trolley-based press without off-press makeready.
Michael D'Angelo, vice president/sales & marketing for Bobst Group, affirms that approach to press development. The Idea press from Schiavi, a Bobst Group company, reduces changeover time to less than 20 minutes by washing every print unit's inking group and cylinder, and by changing all cylinders, simultaneously. Start-up and run waste has been drastically reduced through a compact press design that shortens the distance between printing nips.
The DRUPA premier of the ECOPLUS® wash-up and cylinder changeover mechanism was Windmoeller & Hoelscher's answer to the short-run challenge. With considerably reduced makeready involved, Senior Vice President Hans Deamer asserts, it is especially suited for short-run orders.